Tact has always eluded me, until I began researching and practicing the virtues. I saved this virtue for discussion until now, because I had much work to do in this area, myself, before I could write about it.
Bluntness, or lack of tact, can diminish the quality of relationships. It is confession time for me. I have a classic example of how the lack of tact can destroy relationships. Here goes:
While I was still working as a technology audit manager, I was attending one of those “off-site” kumbaya type meetings, where I thought complete truth would be openly accepted. Well, the head of the department asked a question that had openly been asked before; but no one on the team had the guts to tell her the truth. I answered her question with truth that she did not want to hear, let alone publicly. I laid out the answer, which ultimately made her look bad. The tone of my voice did nothing to soothe the situation; it only exasperated it. Could I, and better yet, should I have handled that situation differently? You bet!!! It cost me my relationship with this person, who had been, up to that point, a trusted confidante, friend, and boss.
Talk about life’s lessons! Man, did I learn one that day! It is one thing to mean what you say, and say what you mean. It is another thing to find it within you to say it in such a manner that you preserve the dignity of another person and give that person the respect due to him/her; always remembering that this person is also a child of God. What you say and HOW you say it is important. For some, like me, it takes a LOT of practice. I’ve been practicing tact for about four years now, and still trying to perfect it; but at least I am trying.
Ever hear the phrase, “You get more with honey than with vinegar?” Well, there is much wisdom behind that phrase. We’ll discuss more about that in our next reflection. Don’t miss it!