“Let your conversation be gracious and effective so that you will have the right answer for everyone.” Colossians 4:6 NLT
Tact is the ability to avoid being offensive in a negative situation. Tact is being diplomatic with your words. It is discretion, or discernment in speaking.
Tact is a learned behavior that is developed by experience and prayer – it is not our natural response.
Some of us are direct, honest communicators who want to get the truth out there so it can be seen and dealt with. However, while honesty is the best policy, it is not a license to say whatever we want. One of the most important skills we can develop is the ability to deal with others with sensitivity, and to speak inoffensively when we find ourselves in difficult or problematic situations.
Kind, gracious words – always.
Daniel provides an excellent example of tact. In Daniel 1:8 he carefully, tactfully, requests permission to not eat the king’s food but to follow his own kosher diet instead. Note that he’d already made up his mind about the food, but he used diplomacy to obtain permission… instead of making an unpleasant ruckus about it. In Daniel 2:14 he approaches the king with tact and discretion, seeking time and permission to interpret the king’s dream (and save the lives of the other wise men). Repeatedly in the first six chapters of Daniel we find him with strong convictions and truth on his tongue – but also with the favor and respect of the kings and their staff. How does he do it? TACT. Discretion. He did not avoid the truth, but he was very careful in his relationships – wise, kind, showing honor, gracious, compassionate. What a great role model!
“She opens her mouth in wisdom and words of kindness are on her tongue.” Proverbs 31:26
We can choose words that are warmhearted, understanding, and sympathetic. The grace that God has shown to us, we must extend to others. (I’ve heard this called “horizontal grace” – a rich concept!) We must also understand that extending grace and telling the truth are NOT mutually exclusive concepts.
We can speak tactfully – with grace, kindness, and diplomacy.
“If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” 1 Corinthians 13:1
30 Days to Taming Your Tongue, a Bible study by Deborah Pegues