At its heart, tact and diplomacy is the skill of being sensitive to the feelings and opinions of other people. Those who possess it in great quantity are naturally able to sense what is really going on in the minds of others, and then respond with a certain delicacy of feeling that influences many people extremely well. The downside is that too much tact and diplomacy can irritate rather than influence other people.
Tact and diplomacy is one of four dimensions of influence we identified when creating the Gautrey Influence Profile a few years back. Each of these is important to overall influencing capability. When we are using the profile to coach individuals to become more effective, we aim to help them to be able to balance the dimensions and to flex their style according to the situation. The decision you make about the level of tact and diplomacy to use should be based on the person you are seeking to influence. Your capability to respond accordingly requires not only awareness, but also the skill to be able to adapt your behaviour.
High Levels of Tact and Diplomacy
People in this category are usually polite and courteous. They choose their words carefully to avoid upsetting people. Listening is a key competence and they take careful note of what people mean, as well as what they say. What they may lack is the ability to risk upsetting people. They tend towards subtle communication rather than being direct and to the point. If you think you would score high on tact and diplomacy, consider the following suggestions to develop greater flexibility…
- Learn to resist personal appeals — look instead for facts, evidence and rationale..
- Practise becoming more direct in your communication — it is possible to be sensitive and direct!
- Get used to the idea that sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind.
- Learn to share your own opinions more proactively.
- Try to guess what level of tact and diplomacy other people have.
- Begin using these ideas in low-risk situations — maybe surprise your friends a little!
Low Levels of Tact and Diplomacy
The great thing about low levels of tact and diplomacy is that these people generally move quickly, don’t shy away from saying what they think and often accomplish tasks with little resistance. However, if their score is extreme on this dimension, they may have a reputation for being blunt or even rude and aggressive. This can often get the job done, particularly with people of a similar disposition. Others may find this approach very intimidating and while they may still comply, the emotional cost could be high. If you think you may score low on tact and diplomacy dimension of the profile, consider the following suggestions…
- Start to consider the feelings of the other person more actively.
- Learn more about emotional intelligence.
- Cultivate an interest in the views and opinions of others.
- Try holding back your own opinions until you understand the other person.
- Identify those around you who have high tact and diplomacy — they are the ones you need to practise with!
One of the most critical elements in the skill of influence is being able to diagnose the preferences of other people on each of the dimensions in the Influence Profile. Greater awareness of your own natural preference will help you to gain more understanding of the behaviours you need to use to influence effectively. With some, high tact and diplomacy will work best. Others may require a far more direct approach. Your success depends on deploying the most effective behaviours in any situation.
More about tact and diplomacy…
Colin Gautrey is becoming the most sought-after expert in power and influence by ambitious and talented professionals who are serious about accelerating their careers and their results. But, Colin is certainly not for the faint-hearted.
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