Perhaps you have heard of someone who was not very “tactful” in dealing with a touchy situation. In other words, they made things worse instead of better. Psychologists tell us that tact is said to “make contact with” those around us and refers to behavior under the control of primary reinforcement. For instance, food is a primary reinforcement for humans and animals because it removes hunger. But how can money, which cannot directly remove a deprivation condition, be reinforcing? The answer is that money is a secondary reinforcer, while hunger is a primary reinforcer. The primary controlling stimulus is nonverbal and affects some portion of “our whole physical environment.”

Psychologist Jeremy E. Sherman thinks we should all know how good it is to be tactful, but rarely do we wonder how to motivate tact. Instead, we treat tactfulness as a goal and say, “Just do it.” But a goal is not a plan. Nor is “Just do it.” Instead, we consider tact to be aspect of politeness, best cultivated through self-censorship: Always appear authentically tactful whether you mean it or not. Here, instead, is an approach to achieving authentic tact naturally, not as strategic maneuvering but as a representation of a heartfelt realism about ourselves and others. Tact can be cultivated in three kinds of realistic balance. (1) culpability (I’m capable of such an act), (2) unclear value (One person’s trash is another person’s treasure): and (3) self-tact (Embrace someone else’s lack of self-confidence through self-examination).

Psychologist have also described tact as a term used to designate a verbal characteristic in which a response of a given form is aroused (or at least strengthened) by a particular object or event. That’s why we must examine the question, “What is this?” Thus, tact is the property of the subject to adhere to a certain measure in conversation, in committing acts, as well as the ability to assess the situation in advance and find an effective way to resolve conflicts without causing moral damage. A person who can act in accordance with the established norm of etiquette, regardless of the situation, is called tactful. Tact is the secret to personal success in all areas of life. In particular, one should not forget that tact, as part of an individual’s character, is formed on the basis of natural qualities, in the process of hard work on oneself, during the period of upbringing and training.

The word tact (dexteritas) in the Latin language is to touch or touch. It follows from this that tactfulness makes it possible to “understand” the current situation, behavior, feelings, and subject of interaction. One who has a sense of proportion and knows how to understand the speaker’s needs, desires, and experiences, will always be a welcome person in society. Therefore, tact allows a person to behave culturally among people, to take into account all the specifics of the situation, which is indicated by a kind of behavior. Tactfulness is the ability, if necessary, to talk about a mistake, make comments so as not to belittle a person’s dignity, not hurt their feelings, spare their pride, and despite everything, point out their merits.

A tactful person knows not to utter a false impression or offend an opponent. You should not speak sarcastically, under conditions do not mention errors or non-standard appearance. Such an individual, on the contrary, will be able to pick up good words to praise or cheer up the speaker. They will find a way to suspend the conversation in time, which can contribute to the beginning of the development of the conflict or caution others who are not correctly speaking to their circumstance.

Psychologists also tell us that an effective apology involves a delicate balance between tact, tone, and timing. It can be even more challenging when jobs and reputations are on the line in tense settings. The significance of an apology can vary in different settings and professions. For instance, Dr. Guy Winch, a leading advocate for integrating the science of emotional health into our daily lives, workplaces, and education systems, says that what he found when potential plaintiffs, someone who is injured, get apologies from the people who hurt them, are more optimistic about the encounter, they’re less likely to blame the person who wounded them with hatred. So, tactics are a verbal method where the speaker labels things in the environment.  Tact is used when a non-verbal stimulus is presented, which becomes a discriminative stimulus through discernment training.  When tact produces secondary conditioned reinforcement, it becomes controlled by a primary nonverbal stimulus.

Furthermore, Dr. Lance Sobel, a Seattle psychologist specializing in adolescent and family therapy, says that if my daughter’s 16-year-old boyfriend comes to the door with alcohol on his breath, I will let him know that’s the last time he will drive my daughter anywhere. That’s where I care more about her life than her feelings. If the disapproval is based on a general dislike of the person, then “say what you feel, but say it with respect, both for the family member and the date. Go soft on judgments or ‘I know better’ statements. Remember, your goal is to be heard, so you won’t have to say, ‘I told you so’ later.”

Sobel also suggests parents tactfully voice their concerns about the date. Not doing so is where parents go wrong, he says. The psychologist says problems can arise when children of single mother’s date. Single parents have been known to rebel against their kids the same way teenagers’ rebel against parents. But ultimately, parents need to understand they don’t get to pick their children’s spouses. However, they can tactfully let them know how they feel about their child’s feelings and future.

Nonetheless, what does God’s Word say about tact?

Wise King Solomon tells us that when speaking to someone who has offended you, we must remember that a tactful answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.[1] Later Solomon would advise that “By being tactful, you can make anyone change their thinking, even a ruler. Therefore, tactful speech is very compelling.”[2]

Then the Apostle Paul remarked that even though “I am a free man with no master, I have become a servant to all people to bring many to the Anointed One. When I was with the Jews, I tactfully lived like a Jew to bring the Jews to the Messiah. When I was with those who follow the Jewish law, I, too, lived under that law. Even though I am not subject to the law, I did this to bring those who are under the law to the Anointed One. When I am with the Gentiles who do not follow the Jewish law, I tactfully live apart from that law so I can bring them to the Anointed One. But I do not ignore the law of God; I obey the law of the Anointed One. When I am with those who are weak, I tactfully share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to the Anointed One. Yes, I try to be tactful with everyone, doing everything I can to save as many as possible. If I wanted to boast, I would be no fool because I would be telling the truth. But I won’t be that untactful because I don’t want anyone to give me credit beyond what they can see in my life or hear in my message, even though I have received such wonderful revelations from God.”[3] Paul tells the Ephesians, “Instead, we will speak the truth tactfully, growing more and more like the Anointed One, who is the head of His body, the Church.”[4]

[1] Proverbs 15:1

[2] Ibid. 25:15

[3] 1 Corinthians 9:19-22; 2 Corinthians 12:6-7a

[4] Ephesians 4:15

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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