Friday, May 7, 2010

In Tact...

By Heather

Do you always know the right thing to say in every circumstance? Or often speak without thinking? Never know quite what to say?

I’m in awe of people who have the natural ability to diffuse a confrontation with just a few well-chosen words, those who instinctively know the right words to calm, sympathize, celebrate.

Because I’m not one of those people. Sure, I have a way with words—fictional words. But when it comes to trying to find the right thing to say to someone real, I struggle to truly express how I feel. 

I suppose I’m always afraid of saying the wrong thing. Or afraid of saying too much. Or not enough. But I’m learning, and taking notes from others who do it so well (JB, Leann, Wendy Lyn Watson, Jessica Park are just a few). And I have to remember that it’s always the thought that counts—especially when it comes from the heart.

But if anyone has book recommendations or websites that focus on this kind of thing, I’d love to pick up as many tips as possible...

How about you? Do you have natural tact?

23 comments:

tonya kappes said...

I'm pretty good with converstaion. I think it's because I was a teacher and had to deal with parents, who are sometimes more immature than their kids *wink*. Now I am a child therapist and have to give parent's some really hard news...'your child had cerebal palsy', 'your child is on the spectrum'. BUT I follow it up with a lot of information and a positive spin on it and the diagnosis isn't a death sentence. I never lie, but definitely choose my words carefully!

Heather Webber said...

I think teachers come by tact naturally--every teacher I know has this ability. Oh, Denise Swanson, too! She was a school psychologist and just has a way with speaking to people... Really, I think I just need to hang out with my friends more.

signlady217 said...

Natural tact doesn't come with the territory for me, but I am getting better. I am actually better when it is a sad or depressing type situation. The other kind, well, I just want to get away as quickly as possible so that I don't say something I'll regret. My biggest problem: I don't like to deal with "STUPID"!

Heather Webber said...

Signlady, I have more trouble with the sad and depressing because I don't want to say the wrong thing! Or say something that's going to make the situation worse. So many times I think, "Why did I say that?" LOL.

Rural View said...

Sorry, no help here. I never know what to say so I end up babbling and not making any sense at all. Later, of course, I know just what I should have said but it's too late. My foot spends an inordinate amount of time in my mouth. :)

Dru said...

I'm a listener and most times I know what needs to be said in as little words as possible.

Sheila Connolly said...

I seem to have a natural tendency to be sarcastic, or maybe everything just comes out that way. Sad to say, a lot of people I talk to don't get it, and end up either confused or hurt. Maybe I should wear a sign with a disclaimer? "I have incurable sarcasm. Anything that comes out of my mouth is not intended to belittle you in any way."

Lover of Books said...

I listen fairly well as well. But there are times I end up with my foot in my mouth no matter what. lol
Krista

Heather Webber said...

Rural View, I know just how you feel.

Dru, you are a good listener. Hmm. Now I'm wondering just how much I told you. LOL.

Sheila, I'm very sarcastic, too--maybe it's a NE thing. I'm always trying to be careful, especially on the phone and email.


Krista, we should start a support group!

jbstanley said...

I don't know how I made your list of tactful people because I wish I were a better listener, but I try to have empathy - in other words, I try to pause and put myself in another's shoes. This does not work when I'm dealing with a bad driver! In that case, only the presence of my kids in the back seat keeps me from name calling!

Kate Collins said...

I also learned tact as an elementary teacher, but there are times when I wished I had spoken up. I tend to empathize too much. My husband says I would make cocoa for Stalin. With that said, I've stuck my foot pretty far down my throat, too.

Debra said...

You mean like last month when I was at my pool and asked a woman when her baby was due? She answered he is 17years old. Did I mention she is much slimmer than myself. I guess the fact I did not have my glasses is an excuse.
Or when I was a kid,asking my Nana's friend why her house was so dirty? She told me to get out.
I too have been a teacher,but I think that is contradicted by my law degree. Do you mean when I was a new lawyer and asked a judge to consider notifying the authorites to deport the defendant? The judge had to tell me that we don't deport folks from Brooklyn to Puerto Rico. Did I tell you PR is the birthplace of the judge? Oy!

Shel said...

LOL!! Obviously you're not paying attention to Jess's Facebook posts. *grin*.
I've got Kate's problem. If I don't think I'd want to hear it, I won't say it. It's gotten me into trouble lots of times, I'll have people tell me "Well, if you'd said something, we'd have fixed that for you months ago!"

Hannah Dennison said...

My most embarrassing and tactless moment that still makes me burn with shame ... at a funeral, I asked Mr. X if his mother would be coming to the service ... do I need to put the answer in writing? Clue: coffin.

Wendy Lyn Watson said...

Heather, my dear, you may be the only person in the whole world who thinks I have tact. But that's why I love you!

Lisa D said...

I'm what you would call a "babbler". I know what I want to say in my mind but when it actually comes out of my mouth...it something quite different. Then in comes the nerves...which leads to my mind going blank...followed by babbling.

Vickie said...

Hello, my name is Vickie and I belong to Babblers Anonymous.... It sounds good in my cranium and out comes babble. I always think of the 'quick' comeback much later or what I could have said in sympathy afterwards.
I can come up with quips that make people laugh, so that helps. I try to think before I speak and that definitely helps, but I have been caught out in conversations by people who don't need to know my thoughts on nekkididity or idiots at work or...you know...well...

Jan said...

I have natural tact only with those people I like. Otherwise, lookout. I am an Italian from NY after all.

Mare F said...

Not only do I not have an abundance of tact my face clearly says things that haven't yet reached my mouth. This is why I have jobs where I can hide in a workroom or work behind a bar. LOL

Vicki said...

I too am an elementary teacher, so I usually do well with conversation. However, I do have a sarcastic edge which I have to force myself to swallow because I will regret it as soon as I say it.

Anonymous said...

Ask anyone and they will tell you I"m not known for my tact... I'll wander into a situation where people are having a loud discourse, get a rough idea of that they are braying about, and with one (to my mind) witty, and pithy statement will leave them scratching their heads and walking away. Thus ending their argument without bloodshed, but leaving them to wonder (quite rightly) as to my state of mind. LOL

Helen Kiker said...

Oh boy, think before you talk - that has been a big problem for me.
Just this past week I opened my mouth when I should have kept quiet - and also just kept on talking. This week I have some apologies to make - yikes, that is harder to do.

Andrea C. said...

I love words! I know that sounds so dumb but I like to read, write, and talk. I am usually pretty good at knowing the right thing to say or how to say it, but every once in a while I am unsure and don't think of the perfect come back until hours later - then I wish I could rewind time! :)