So often we do enormous harm to our friendships and relationships simply because we don't think before we speak. It is so easy to say something when we're feeling a little tired, we're being a little careless, we're a little upset, or we're disappointed by something, that can in turn forever diminish or destroy a friendship. Sometimes it happens with one word or look, or perhaps the tone of our voice. And other times it's a gradual erosion of trust. When you think about it, how can you really trust someone who is subtly putting you down, or insulting you, or saying something that is less than kind to you?
So, what is the secret of being tactful? It is making sure that we think before we speak so that what we say won't be hurtful to others. It's that simple! Before we speak we just need to ask ourselves, "How are my words, the tone of my voice, and my "body language" going to affect the other person? What is the other person really going to hear? Is this going to hurt their feelings, or make them feel bad in some way? Is this going to diminish their trust in me?" As we can see, it's all about being sensitive and caring to how our words, our tone of voice, and our attitude is going to affect others. Since we want to spread only loving kindness in all we think, feel, say and do, it's absolutely crucial to be tactful, so that our words and tone of voice are not going to hurt someone's feelings.
Some people are extremely sensitive - especially children, as well as those people who are very kind. And someone saying something insulting or sarcastic to them, or being unnecessarily critical, can do enormous harm to them. They often will carry that hurt feeling with them for the rest of their lives. And remember, what we do to others will ultimately be done to us. So, it's a good idea to develop a caring sensitivity to others, so we don't inadvertently hurt them.
Sometimes we are in a situation where we have no choice but to say something to someone that is going to sound negative or critical. Perhaps we are in a leadership position of some sort and we need to organize and accomplish various tasks involving others. Almost invariably there will be times when we will need to give advice, or to correct another person's behavior, attitude, or suggestions. So how do we do that in the kindest possible way? Again, the first rule of being tactful and diplomatic is thinking to ourselves, "How are these words going to affect that person? Are these words going to embarrass them in front of others? Is this the kindest possible way to say what I need to say? Is it possible to talk to them later privately and share my concerns, so I don't embarrass them in public?" Well, you can see where we're going with this. The crucial thing is to remember there's almost always a kind way to say something. Sometimes it might even help to say something like, "I'm sorry, I wish I didn't have to say this, but being in this position I'm in, I have to point out (such and such)". This way the person being corrected at least knows your sincerely trying to be kind and sensitive to their feelings.
The need for diplomacy often arises when we need to accomplish some important beneficial thing involving others who may not know as much as we do about the situation, and who for one reason or another would want to oppose it. This could happen on a purely personal level, on a social level, on a business level, or even on a state, national, or international level.
Let's look at the purely personal level. Let's say we have a child who needs a medical procedure, or a particular medicine or healing herb, but they don't want to take it. They are simply too young to know any better. So we might have to be very diplomatic with how we present the idea so that they are more likely to go along with what we know is good for them.
Okay let's take another example. Let's say we're part of a spiritual organization and we're setting things up for a weekend spiritual retreat and we have many different kinds of deadlines. And let's say there's someone who means well, but who is frequently coming up with ideas that are contrary to the plans of the planning committee. And not only are they not very good ideas, but it would take so much time to implement them, that the various deadlines for the retreat could not be met. And let's say they're very insistent on having things done their way. This can be a very tricky situation. If we're not careful a lot of discord can result that could end up ruining the uplifting spiritual feeling that is so important for a successful spiritual retreat. But, by taking our time and thinking about what to say and how to say it, perhaps we can figure out some workarounds in which the insistent person can be satisfied that some of their ideas are being incorporated, and yet it doesn't delay the retreat schedule or cause a disruptive emotional scene.
As you can see the various possibilities in which diplomacy might be necessary in our lives is almost endless.
The secret of being discreet is realizing that sometimes "what we don't say", is just as important as "what we do say". It's leaving out those words, phrases, tone of voice, or body language that common sense tells us is going to hurt the other person's feelings or subtly damage our relationship with them. Discretion is also a divine protection for us, because sometimes what we share with others can be used against us later on by people who are being less than kind. So, if during a conversation we are thinking to ourselves, "I wonder if I should share this or not?", then it might be a good idea to not share it right then. That way it gives us a chance to pray about it, or meditate on it, or think it through more carefully and then decide whether or not to share it later.
It is important to remember that how we treat others, is the way we will ultimately be treated in the long run. As Jesus said, "A man reaps what he sows." (New Testament, Galatians 6:7). It's just the way karma works. So even from a selfish point of view we want to be tactful and diplomatic and speak kindly to others in a sensitive caring way, so that in the long run others will also treat us kindly.
Like anything else, we get better and better at being sensitive, caring, tactful and diplomatic as we go along. The more we practice it, the better we get at it. So, please do not be discouraged if it seems like you're just fumbling around and not being very good at being sensitive and tactful. It takes time and experience, and experience comes from trying it out.
Blessings on your journey of becoming ever more kind, caring,
sensitive, tactful and diplomatic!
To read more about loving kindness, please click on the various topics in the contextual menu on the upper left or on the links below:
May Your Life Be Filled With the Bliss of Loving Kindness and
May You Spread It Far and Wide!!!
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