Traits of a Great Conversation

Social Skills: Learning to be Tactful

Honesty is not necessarily opposed to education. Knowing how to send clear and friendly but assertive messages do not require dishonesty, which is what tactful people do.

What is the Meaning of Being Tactful?

Being tactful allows us to be both honest and respect the sensitivity of the other. Tact is a way of saying things, respecting the feelings of others, their sensitivity, and their reaction. 

Tact requires emotional intelligence, respect, discretion, some form of intellectual vigilance, conscience, compassion, subtlety, honesty, diplomacy, and courtesy.

Someone who is tactless is a source of annoyance and conflict. Indeed, expressing an unfavorable opinion frankly is to take the risk of offending the other person’s sensitivity. 

It doesn’t get any nicer to hear a coworker point out a clumsiness in public or blame a mistake in front of other coworkers. 

As for the blunt refusals, it often triggers misunderstanding or amazement. 

Generally speaking, what is said abruptly harms the other person. The art of diplomacy is aimed at preserving the esteem of its interlocutor. It is the perfect expression of specific know-how to social life and work!

Learning to be Tactful – 9 Tips to Stop Being Tactless

1. Lots of Active Listening 

To speak tactfully is also, and paradoxically, to know how to be silent. The opposite of monopolizing speech. To listen to the person you are talking to is a form of elegance. In doing so, we show him respect and consideration.

 However, just listening is not always that easy. Putting yourself in listening mode means, in particular, preferring questions to affirmations. Most of all, it’s paying real attention to what’s being said. 

Silence sets in? We use the reformulation to restart the conversation on a fascinating point. Above all, we avoid seizing the slightest blank to draw the discussion to ourselves. 

You do not interrupt your interlocutor to speak again, and you do not show signs of impatience to talk in turn.

 Highlighting interesting information and supplementing it with your knowledge enriches the dialogue and establishes a relationship.

2. Negotiate

If what you seek conflicts with the other person’s ideas, you may need to discuss how sacrifices can be made to provide a better long-term outcome for both of you.

 Mutual sacrifice is usually viewed more favorably than one-sided sacrifice. Aim for a compromise that results in a win-win situation.

Understanding Others

3. Reinforce your arguments

Be precise when giving figures and dates. Favor logic and facts over personal opinion. Have something written or drawn beforehand, if it helps

If possible, turn statements into questions. Rather than directly expressing your opinion, turn your idea into a question to get the other person to think.

This not only leads someone to think along the same lines as you but also leaves room for discussion of what interests you and what can potentially benefit both parties. 

This is particularly useful if you are not entirely sure what can be accomplished or needed to overcome a problem. This strategy often allows for more exploration of options, a more open approach than simply stating your opinion.

4. Don’t give your answers right away.

If the conversation heats up, try to give yourself space to respond in a way that helps rather than inflames the situation.

If you can, go for it the moment your knee jerk wants to take control: take a breath and give yourself time. Tell the other person that you need to think about what they just said rather than feeling compelled to respond immediately.

Take control of the situation instead of losing control and risking saying or doing something that you may later regret. Taking control of social problems so that both parties feel comfortable with the outcome is essential for tact and diplomacy.

5. Learn to communicate 

With the ability to communicate, you learn to influence people and let them know what is on your mind, and understand others.

When communication is done well, double interpretation is avoided. Knowing the different personal profiles is an important point when communicating with people.

The big challenge is knowing how to deal with and communicate with opposite styles; understanding the other’s profile is part of being tactful.

For example, if you are a more affectionate person, find out how best to deal with someone who is more rational, and anchored in facts and data.

6. Knowing how to find the right time

Tactful people have a knack for spotting the perfect time to present their case.

You have to make sure that your interlocutors are receptive. This can help you achieve your goals if they are more open to your ideas.

Become a pro at decoding other body languages.

7. I ”or“ we ”?

Speak on your behalf. Don’t assume that other people share the same point of view as you, even if you have an affectionate relationship.

The use of “we” awaken a sense of camaraderie and solidarity. It gives more weight to your arguments. However, you should only use it if more than one person agrees with your ideas.

The overly inclusive “we” might irritate some of your colleagues. So be careful when using it.

8. Precision and Consistency 

Finding the right word to express yourself is an essential card in your game. It shows that you are prepared for the discussion and familiar with the subject.

When you speak, make your main point right away instead of wandering off and doing it last.

9. Keep an eye on the prize!

Remember your preferred outcome; try not to get distracted, go off on a tangent, or get bogged down in irrelevant details.

 Remember to be assertive – being tactful and diplomatic does not mean giving in to pressure or giving up what you want.

Always strive for a win-win result, thereby increasing your chances of successfully negotiating problem situations. At the same time, all parties can feel more satisfied with whatever compromises are made in the process.

  • An example of being tactful would be when someone is asking for your advice, or you disagree with it, and you would carefully listen, especially the parts you think you had before ;
  • After you listen, you will say what you need to say, but only if you gave it a thought and feel ready to share your statement with that person ;
  • Often we end up in conflicts and uncomfortable situations because we rush to say anything; that is why learning to be tactful is crucial for anyone.


For some, this is easier than for others. As with any skill set, tact and diplomacy can be learned through practice and experience of weighing and balancing different people’s positions.

Reference and Further Reading 

How to Be Tactful. MindTools. 

How to Be Tactful – The Art of Tact and Diplomacy. The Black Sheep Community 

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