Tact is the art of making a point without making an enemy. ~ Sir Isaac Newton
We find ourselves in all kinds of situations in which we must assert what we know is the right course of action against the “better judgement” of others. These “others” are just as sure that their ideas are correct. Communication situations are unique, but developing effective tact and diplomacy skills require practice and good judgement.
Tact and diplomacy are important to developing and maintaining friendships, romantic relationships and relationships in the family. The workplace, especially, has need of these skills. Your team does not have to love you, but you must maintain their respect if you want them to be effective. In order to get respect you have to give respect.
An election year always brings about heated discussions between proponents of this or that policy who seem bent on seeing themselves as polar opposites of some imagined opponent. In order to win, many are bent on totally demonizing those they must beat. After the election, whatever the results, we have to build a consensus to effectively move forward or do we?
History has taught us that fighting without seeing the end game of winning can have devastating effects.
In order to be an effective leader or team member on any level, you must weigh the costs of winning. Those who don’t agree with your course of action are not to be beat, but rather they are to be persuaded. Unfortunately, these days bullying seems to be held at high esteem while tact and diplomacy seemed to have lost value. However, this is true only for those who cannot see the long view. Winning is not everything. Winning with grace will bring people together and create a more productive team and therefore greater success for everyone.
There can be serious consequences with an attitude of winning at all costs…failure for a whole enterprise.
As a leader, you must set the tone for how decisions are made and like the art of war, you must set the rules for engagement. All members of your team must be left with their dignity intact and still motivated to share their ideas for the next project. If not, you will be surrounded by a bunch of zombies, taking up space, and just waiting for a paycheck. Knowing how to win is a skill based on understanding other people and being sensitive to their opinions, beliefs, ideas and feelings.
While it seems to come naturally to some, these skills can be developed if you follow some simple rules…
1. Be polite: Ignite your empathy by putting yourself in other people’s shoes.
Say something positive (and true) about how they contributed to the discussion leading to the decision. Do Not Patronize!
2. Be a good winner. Reflect on the ideas that led to the final decision in a non-confrontational manner. No braggadocious behavior!
3. Be Assertive: Yes, that’s right. It is not an ugly word. You must clearly assert that your decision is final (if it is) to allow people to move on. But if it’s not, I suggest that you say that you will revisit it based on specific outcomes.
Remember as a leader or a leader-in-training, others are looking to you as a coach, sponsor, and mentor who will champion the right decisions (yours or theirs) to make the organization a success.