How to be Tactful

I have never been accused of being tactful

If  you want to be tactful, try using your imagination as far as other people are concerned. Observe  and study  people so that it is possible to gauge how they are feeling and thinking. This increases your  sensitivity to people, so that you treat them with consideration. Once you harness your imagination to your observation and study of people, human nature becomes an absorbing subject.

Every person is different and requires an individual approach. People change from day to day depending on the weather and the atmospheric pressure,  their  state of health, their moods and feelings, the situation and circumstances of the moment.


A tactless person  is apt to say hurtful and inappropriate things, because he is insensitive  to others, and he is insensitive  because  he is unimaginative. When you are in doubt, the best thing to do is to ask yourself: How would I like to be treated in this situation, or these circumstances?

Nobody wants to be hurt, embarrassed, ridiculed, humiliated, placed at a disadvantage or in a false position, made to feel unimportant, inferior and  inadequate, Imagination disciplined by observation and study of people will enable you to avoid these pitfalls.


1. Encouraging people   to have a good opinion of themselves by showing them through your attitude that you regard them as very interesting, and worth knowing.

2. Turning a blind eye to mistakes and clumsiness. If it is blatant that it cannot be ignored, pass it over as quickly and as lightly as possible, by playing it down and drawing people’s attention away from it.

3. Being reliable with regard to anything confidential imparted to you, including things said on impulse or in a moment of irritation.

4. Avoiding saying or doing anything to hurt, embarrass, and make life awkward for people.

Tact sometimes requires us to be silent and let other people do the talking. Suppose you are out of sympathy with somebody or in total disagreement. If you are tactless, you are likely to want to prove how right you are, and how wrong  the other person is. But how much wiser to hold  your tongue and agree to differ!

It can be tactful to pass  the initiative to the other person in the sense of getting him to lead the conversation. Many of us have experienced the awkwardness of  meeting somebody we knew a long time ago but cannot now quite place in our mind. It helps to try to get the other person talking, like saying:

“We haven’t met for such a long time. How has life been using you?” This provides a starting point and you pick up the clues as you go along.

People often have cause to be grateful to the tactful friend who holds them in conversation on some day – to – day subject when a tactless person would insist on discussing something they most desire to avoid, like the illness of a loved one or the details of a family misunderstanding.

It is possible similarly to assist people who are in highly nervous state, and therefore, emotionally upset and specially vulnerable, by letting them unburden themselves and then forgetting what was said, especially when it involves other people.

If you are tactlessly insensitive to other people’s feelings and wishes, it may never dawn on you that you have hurt someone by interrupting them in the middle of what they were saying because you had something you wanted to add.

Tactful people are always outwards – looking,  concerned about other people, and interested. They recognize the best nature in everybody. But it is easier to be tactful when you take into  account that like, the rest, you also have awkward moods and feelings.

For example, we are all at times disappointed and it is easy to get cross when somebody lets us down. If you are tactless, you may refuse to accept any excuses and explanations,  but if you are tactful, you spare your friend’s feelings by making light of it.

There are times when people do not  want us. They would prefer to confine a gathering to  the family, although it would hurt them if we did not write or phone  our congratulations or condolences. It is tactful to discover whether sick people are well enough to cope with visitors ,  to stay too long or talk to much, especially when there are other visitors.

It is tactful to make a note of birthdays and anniversaries, and to acknowledge them. A grin or a gesture at the wrong moment can be tactless or if you laugh disparagingly or show boredom and hostility that can appear tactless too.

If you want to be tactful, see that the people you meet have no cause to regret meeting you. You will not  go far wrong if you always try to make them feel better and happier and more sure of themselves.


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