The same food can taste quite different, depending on how it is prepared. There are hundreds of ways to prepare potatoes, for example. Some foods I like when served one way, but I absolutely dislike them when served another way. Eating a raw vegetable or piece of fruit is a totally different experience than eating it cooked.
Different presentations affect our reactions. That’s true of food, and it’s also true of our communications and interactions with others. It’s our presentation that counts. Two people may be trying to get across the same idea, but they may do it in completely different ways. One presentation may have negative overtones, carry with it a whole range of negative emotions, and incite negative reactions, whereas the other may be just the opposite. Almost without exception, the one who does it in a loving, considerate way will have the greater success. Loving presentation makes people feel good, it makes them feel loved, it makes them feel that you like and respect and have confidence in them, and that nearly always wins their cooperation.
Actually, the words we say are not always as important as how we say them. Sometimes we do need to point out problems or say things that we know will be difficult for the other person to accept, and even be direct in doing so. But people can overlook our being frank if they see that we sincerely care about them. Even if we fail to say exactly the right thing in exactly the right way, if people feel that you care, that’s what will matter most to them and go the farthest in strengthening your relationship. Let love and trust come through.
Try a Little Tact
A word that seems out of place or is said at the wrong time or to the wrong person is often thought of as a lack of tact. The dictionary defines tact as “the ability to say and do the right things; skill in handling difficult situations or dealing with difficult people without giving offense; delicacy; diplomacy.” Delicacy means “fineness of feeling for small differences.” The word “tact” is taken from the Latin tactus, which means “touching.”
So the art of having tact and saying the right things to people at the right time is really just to be sensitive to the way they feel, to have that personal touch that helps us to be aware of what might hurt their feelings and to avoid doing so.
How do we learn to be more tactful? By praying for it, first of all. Pray to be more sensitive to people’s feelings, and cultivate the habit of being more prayerful before you speak.