How to Communicate Tactfully

by Michael Corthell

We've all had to do it―had to tell someone painful or sensitive information at some point in our lives―perhaps some constructive criticism, and knowing that truthfulness is all important, it can be difficult for us to do. What is the best way to give someone 'the news' with honesty? We learn to do it with tact.

''Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in
such a way that they look forward to the trip.''

― Winston S. Churchill

When you learn to communicate tactfully, you will strengthen your reputation and build your credibility . Being honest and tactful allows you to keep relationships and build new ones. Your tactful approach shows character, integrity, and maturity. It shows that you are a professional.

Tact will also demonstrate that you are well mannered. Communicating with grace and consideration will make you a stand out. You will then get noticed for the right reasons and this can mean more opportunity.

Finally, tact can helps you avoid unnecessary conflict, and find common ground. It allows others to save face and can therefore will be an important asset in negotiations and in all conflict resolution.

Learning the art of tact

First be 'culturally alert'. Know the morals and etiquette of the person or persons you're dealing with. What might be seen tactful feedback in some cultures might be seen as extremely insensitive and even rude in others.

Think. 'Engage brain before putting mouth in gear'. Remember to always practice active listening and mindfulness while others are speaking. Use genuine empathy and emotional intelligence and try to see things the way they see them. Practicing this will allow you to connect with them honestly.

Timing is everything. Picking the right time to speak to someone is important. Being tactful means saying the right thing at the right time. Have due regard for the situation you are in before you speak, and always be discreet. Always stay conscious of who you're with and where you are.

Proper wording. Choose your words carefully. Obviously, your choice of words will influence how others perceive your message.

When your body talks. People notice. Always be mindfully aware of your body's language. Your words can be very neutral, however your body language can make the other person question your message.

Check your emotions at the door. Be aware. It is very difficult to communicate tactfully when you are negative, upset or angry. Give yourself time to cool off before you discuss a situation.

Above all else being discreet just means having respect and common decency for those around you.


Getting to Yes
by William Ury

William Ury, author of "Getting to Yes," offers an elegant, simple (but not easy) way to create agreement in even the most difficult situations — from family conflict to, perhaps, the Middle East.