Communicating in the workplace with tact and professionalism is essential to your career. Speaking with tact earns you respect from your peers because you avoid hurting other people’s feelings. Tactful communication also helps to deal with difficult or sensitive situations to preserve relationships.
Of course, it can be a challenge to get your thoughts over in a tactful way. It could be that your emotions are high and you feel frustrated by another person’s actions. You may be under pressure to get a job done on time and others have let you down. Or, the other person could be very sensitive or quick-tempered which makes honest communication difficult.
In this article, you will learn the importance of tactfulness and professionalism in communication. You will also get some great tips on how to get your message across while taking into consideration the other person’s feelings.
Speaking tactfully is the opposite of being blunt or “telling it like it is”. The dictionary defines tact as “the ability to say the right thing without causing anyone to be angry or unhappy”. (1)
Being tactful when communicating means to tell the truth in such a way that you take into consideration the feelings and reactions of the other person. To speak with tact is also connected with qualities such as respect, discretion, courtesy, and insight.
It is also good to remember that tact doesn’t mean being untruthful to the other person.
There are a number of situations in the workplace when it is essential to communicate with sensitivity.
For example, you may have to provide critical feedback to an employee, or, worse still, deliver some bad news. Even though the message you have to deliver may not be the best, you can still deliver it a way that it is easy to accept.
So, dealing with others tactfully is usually the best way to guarantee a positive outcome. Providing critical feedback in a tactful manner will usually help the employee or team member to rectify the situation.
Tactful communication will also help improve your career chances because you will earn trust and respect from others.
How can you develop the necessary communication skills to tactfully make your point and show respect to the other person?
If you have to deal with a potentially difficult situation, it is important to think about what you want to achieve. It can be difficult to speak with tact if you only focus on the reasons for the problem or situation.
For example, if an employee is constantly late for work, you may be tempted to reprimand them in front of others. However, a more tactful approach would be to speak privately to find out why this happens and if you can do anything to assist. Often, trying to see matters from the other person’s point of view helps to develop empathy and tact.
Usually, thinking about what to say will help you avoid making hasty comments that could cause offense or upset another person.
Speaking with tact may also involve making sure that the situation is right. For example, bringing up a complaint in the staff room in front of others will rarely end well. You may also decide to see how a situation develops to know if you need to speak about the matter or not.
Of course, you should always avoid speaking about a frustrating situation if your emotions are high or you feel on edge.
Choosing the right time to speak also means actively listening to the other person. This can help you understand what is really being said and will help you respond in an appropriate manner.
Communicating with tact requires choosing your words to that any negative comments are ‘cushioned’ to create the least negative impact.
For example, if you have to provide negative feedback, you could start by saying that you appreciate their hard work. You can then provide a few ideas on how they could have made the project better or work more efficiently.
It is also important to send the right signals with your body language. Your body language should compliment your message and tone of your voice so that your communication is clear. Otherwise, the other person may think that you are being insincere.
For example, if you have to let someone go, you should make sure that your body language is right. Have good eye contact, stand or sit straight, don’t fold your arms, and give the person your undivided attention. Your tone should also be kind and supportive.
In these 4 ways, you can help to develop the skills of tactful communication and be a positive influence in workplace relationships.