Tact is the skill of telling people the truth while being mindful of their reactions and feelings. It encompasses respect, thoughtfulness, honesty, discretion, compassion, courtesy, diplomacy and subtlety. Communicating with tact is important for several reasons:
- It shows professionalism, maturity, character and integrity
- It builds your credibility and enhances your reputation
- It enables you to stand out from the crowd, thus enhancing your prospects for career growth
- It helps avoid conflict
Here are some tips for communicating with tact:
1. Think before speaking
To communicate tactfully, you need to think before you speak. If you speak too soon, you might end up regretting it. Therefore, take time to listen carefully to people before you speak. Apply some empathy to see things from their perspective. People will trust you when they see that your intentions are sincere.
2. Choose the right time
Tact is not just about saying the right thing, but saying it at the right time. Therefore, before you speak, consider the situation. At times, it might be wiser to wait for a while before speaking to someone. In addition, you need to take note of where you are and who is around you before speaking. For instance, it wouldn’t be advisable to reprimand a team member in front of his colleagues. Negative feedback is more effective when given in a private setting.
3. Use the right words
The words you use when communicating will influence how others receive your message. For instance, you should not say ‘You did not prepare enough for your presentation’. Such a statement is likely to make the other party defensive. It would be more sensitive to say ‘I think you should spend more time preparing before your next presentation’. Using ‘I’ statements is very important especially when offering constructive criticism or during conflict.
4. Watch your body language
When it comes to being tactful, your body language is as important as your words. Make sure your gestures, posture and facial expressions match your message. Always make eye contact when communicating with others. Don’t cross your legs or arms since this shows an element of defensiveness. Avoid pointing at people when talking to them. Use a polite vocal tone which shows your sincerity and openness.
5. Don’t react emotionally
When you are upset or angry, it is not easy to be tactful. It is therefore very important to learn how to control your emotions. When faced with a stressful situation at work, you could apply deep breathing techniques or go outside for a walk to calm down. You should also be aware of the issues, situations, words or people that usually upset you. Knowing your triggers will enable you to handle your emotions better in future.
Tact is important in several situations. This includes when letting a team member go, giving feedback, delivering bad news, declining an invitation, deflecting gossip, handling disagreements and giving presentations. Such situations are usually tense and emotional. Therefore, how you communicate will determine whether it is going to be a negative or positive experience.