The Self-Awareness Guy

It’s Not What You Say

A lot of smart, accomplished individuals and leaders spend a lot of time cleaning up messes because they say things bluntly. A major sign of self-awareness is being able to communicate in a way that takes both your and the other person's needs into account. It's really easy to be blunt and say whatever is on your mind but it takes conscious effort to be tactful. Here's how the two styles differ:

  • Blunt: Get me that.
  • Tactful: Could you please find that thing for me.
  • Blunt: You did that wrong.
  • Tactful: How might we improve this.
  • Blunt: Get out of my face.
  • Tactful: I need some time to think about this.
  • Blunt: You really blew it on that project.
  • Tactful: We have an opportunity to learn and adjust things.
  • Blunt: If you don't like it leave.
  • Tactful: Let's work together to find a solution.

People in my workshops often comment that it takes longer to be tactful or that it's not direct. I ask them to think about how much time and effort they'll save by not having people being angry at them or missing the message because they're more focused on having been insulted.

Speaking bluntly and tactfully both convey information but one has the tendency to hurt people. The idea in effective communication is to get the message across directly and respectfully. Communicating tactfully saves time and gets you better results because it's clear and kind. What will you do to be careful about how you say things to others?