Let’s face it, sometimes people need shaking up a little. Everyone gets stuck in a rut and needs to be helped out with a little shock treatment. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating you running around creating enemies. What I am saying is that sometimes too many people are too cautious about sharing what they really think. Being too tactful risks the accusation that you are not moving fast enough, are hedging your bets or being too timid. In which case, use the list below to find ways to appear slightly less tactful and diplomatic — while avoiding taking it too far and upsetting people!
On the other hand, if you are already rather good at upsetting people (perhaps you’ve been told to learn how to be more tactful), use the list as a self-assessment to heighten your awareness and eradicate some of these behaviours!
Whichever hand you hold, think these things through carefully and make your own decisions about how far you can or should push it with particular individuals without causing offense. And remember, other people have different preferences and tolerances, and adapting to suit them can dramatically improve your communication and make it more effective (see The Gautrey Influence Profile and other resources below).
- Shorten your message delivery to the bare minimum. Tactful people add lots of padding to reduce the risk of offense.
- Harden and deepen your voice when saying what you think. Deeper voices have been proven to be more commanding and authoritative.
- Deliver your sentences with an abrupt, decisive end. Trailing off in volume and speed at the end often conveys uncertainty.
- Turn your attention to something else as soon as you have delivered your message. The conversation is over and you’re not looking to see how they are responding (careful with this one!).
- Don’t just make eye contact; make it an intense, direct stare with limited additional expression. Just an instant, as taking this too far or for too long could mark you out as callous.
- Use your face to display your contempt. Add a frown but stop short of a scowl.
- Repeatedly talk over them, finish their sentences and dismiss their contribution.
- Make it personal. Lots of people recommend targeting criticism at the behaviour rather than the individual. If you think they have erred, tell them they were wrong.
- Be very demanding. They have a job to do and you have high expectations. Make it crystal clear what you are expecting from them — you could even add in a few consequences attached to failure (on their part of course!).
Okay, fun over. Getting serious, the things above can all present a less tactful style. Taken too far, they can be very damaging to relationships. Avoiding them completely can also lead to problems. Your job is to figure out a way that you can use the ideas above to become more adaptable to suit the target of your communication.
Colin Gautrey is an author, coach, and trainer who specialises in the practical use of power and influence in large organisations. He has 25 years’ experience helping middle/senior professionals to survive, thrive and enjoy their work.
If you are ready to develop your influencing capability, become a member of Breakthrough Influence. If you are serious about becoming highly influential, fast, engage with Colin and he will help you get there in the most effective way possible.
Other articles by Colin:
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