- Being Tactful: Having or showing skill and sensitivity in dealing with others or with difficult issues.
- Being Blunt: uncompromisingly forthright
Mostly your bluntness just gets you into more trouble. But, at times, your tactfulness doesn’t seem to convey the magnitude of the situation or of your feelings. So when should you do either? Let’s find out.
Proposition FOR TACTFULNESS
There are several propositions that ought to be followed in regards to knowing when a tactful or diplomatic response is better than a blunt one.
1. In all personal relationships
Treat your relationships like you would a fragile and expensive piece of China. Unless you have a relationship that is flat out wrong or destructive, treat each one as very special and extremely important. The strength of these relationships is often determined on the strength of your communication. Being blunt and forceful in your relationships will bring more conflict than joy.
2. When you must correct someone
The manner in which you correct someone often determines how they receive it. I understand that there will always be some that take correction badly, no matter how it comes, but even so, your words ought to demonstrate how much you care. It is important to be tactful when you correct someone.
3. When you must talk about other people’s relationships
Nothing will make you an enemy faster than appearing to intrude into someone else’s business. Telling others how to run their relationships is sure to send the wrong message and to be counterproductive. Learning to be tactful in these situations will help prevent you from making unnecessary enemies.
4. When you are trying to help
Most of us like to help, but how we come across will determine if someone will accept our help or not. People will reject your assistance if they misunderstand your intentions. Even when you aren’t trying to correct someone-just want to help-your words may come across as condemning and people don’t take to that very well.
5. When someone is hurting
Don’t be cruel to the grieving. Even if what you say is the truth, a little bit of tactfulness will go a long way in helping someone. When people are hurting, particularly if they went ahead and did something stupid against the advice of others, an ‘I told you so’ is grievous to that person. It doesn’t help. Learn to be tactful around those that are hurt-even if they deserve what they got. They still don’t deserve you adding to their pain.
Proposition FOR BLUNTNESS
There are times when being blunt is necessary. Although, in my opinion, it is more important to know when you need to be tactful and gracious. These will get you much further in life than being blunt. Still, bluntness does have its place.
When it is vital to get someone’s attention
If your child is playing in the middle of the street and a car is approaching, you’re not going to be diplomatic about trying to get him to move. You’ll start yelling, bluntly, at both your child and the driver hoping to get either or both of their attention to protect your child. Sometimes, it is essential that we get someone’s attention. This is usually to keep them from hurting themselves or hurting others.
2. When speaking in crowds or in general terms
It is when you are singling someone out that you ought to be tactful. But telling the truth about, say, political corruption may offend some, but is appreciated by the majority. As a pastor, I often speak bluntly about the social woes that plague our society. Some may not like it. But the majority will appreciate someone who is not going to beat around the bush. Even in casual conversation with only one person, you can be blunt when speaking in general terms.
3. When you must protect someone
People are worth protecting. A good relationship is worth salvaging. If someone comes to you to tear down the reputation of another, send him on a way with a blunt, “I don’t listen to trash.” If someone tries to seduce my children to try drugs and I catch him, I’ll have plenty of blunt words to say. I’m not seeking to change the dealer, but rather to protect my own children. If both are friends, I would revert back to tactfulness. Paul had to protect all the Gentiles from the corruptive thinking that Peter had fallen prey to. This wasn’t about Peter as much as it was about thousands and thousands of other people.
4. When you must protect a value
Morals and values are the ties that bind relationships. When two people share the same values and morals they invariably have a closer relationship than those that do not. These values need protecting. If it’s just you under attack, you can ignore it. But when it involves others, you may need to go to bat for them. Sometimes bluntness is the best action.
After all tactfulness has failed and it’s still necessary to say it. There will be times when you try to be tactful and the person you’re talking to either just doesn’t get it or refuses to hear it. Be sure that it is indeed one of those times before deciding to be blunt. The desire to say something can be stronger than the need to say something. If you still feel that you must be blunt, then this is the time to do it. Be warned, you’ll probably cause hurt feelings. So if it comes to this point, be prepared to help heal any injured feelings that you might cause.