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Inspirational and Insightful Quotations #57 --- Tact

Updated on April 30, 2011

Quotations on Tact, Frankness, Candidness

There is a laxity of real candidness–I do not say sincerity, but candidness–than ever before.

We are too prone to overlook doing what we should for fear of being criticized or found fault with. We are only too often afraid to have our real ideas brought to the fore, because we are NOT sure that we will have our real worth taken as it should be. We do not think as we should, and whilst we have splendid ideas and opinions, we are nevertheless dubious about having them taken at their real value.

It pays to be candid, even if it costs us friends, and perhaps our work. Candidness and frankness always pay in the end. Hypocrisy and sham cannot exist under the same roof, and surely, under the same conditions, we cannot expect to be sincere and candid and at the same time be hypocritical and lying in the same breath.

Candidness will be considered by many as a vice. Is it a crime to tell the facts as they ARE? Is it wrong to tell a person he is doing something not correct and have him believe he is doing the right thing? Can we condone with error? Then, if we KNOW we won't do it, then why should we not have the courage of our convictions, even though it may cost us for a time our friendship with someone, in the long run our candidness will be appreciated, and we will be the victor by having had the frankness and the honesty of knowing that in spite of what others might think, we felt our duty to be CANDID--and were not afraid to stand by our rights and inner conclusions.

—L. Sumpter Augustin, The Bogalusa Enterprise and American, Bogalusa, La., Oct. 23, 1931.

Tactfulness is the art of overcoming opposition.

Through it, you can turn obstacles into stepping stones to success.

Tact requires thoughtfulness, good judgment and the ability to think your way to swift decisions "on your feet," so to speak.

With its help, you can say things the way other people want them said and do things the way they want them done.

Notice, please, this doesn't mean that you say what others want to hear or do the things they want you to do. There's a considerable difference.

Tactfulness and sincerity of purpose are inseparable twins--virtually Siamese twins, for one is seldom found without the other.

Almost all of life is a matter of give and take. And you'll find that you can make a better bargain for yourself if you develop your powers of tactfulness as the most effective means of negotiating your way through life.

Anyone can become a tactful person. It's simply a matter of restraint and discretion, of putting reason and logic ahead of emotion, of trying to foresee the impact your words and deeds will have on others.

You'll find tactfulness comes easier if you learn to ask yourself these questions before speaking in important situations:

"Suppose I were the other person--how would I want to hear what I am about to say--what words would I want to hear to soften the meaning? How can I turn the meaning into something he will want to hear?"

In every situation, the most variable factor will be the other person. You must be able to judge his or her character and personality quickly and accurately before deciding on a course of words or action. The same situation, involving different persons, might require entirely different solutions. ...

You can also use tactfulness to give others a burning desire to help you achieve your goal.

—Napoleon Hill, Houston Post, Houston, Texas, July 12, 1956.

The other day I came across a most suggestive definition of tact. "Tact," I read, "is little more than sympathetically applied knowledge."

Knowledge is admittedly one of the absolute essentials to success in life. The ignoramus cannot win success in any calling. Even the most unskilled labor presupposes some degree of knowledge.

But if knowledge is to help to success it must be applied. A man may be as wise as Solomon, but unless he turns his wisdom to practical account it will not be of much value to him or to anybody.

A man must have knowledge of people as well as of things. Else he will not be able to teach people, heal people, save people and sell to people.

He must know how men's minds work in order to be able to influence their actions. He must learn how various types of men react in various situations, and he must also learn the principles that govern thinking and reacting.

But again, having acquired this fund of knowledge, he must apply it. And he must apply it sympathetically.

That is to say, in dealing with men he must always try to imagine himself in their place. He must ask himself how he would react to certain conditions.

Doing this faithfully, he will be a tactful man. He will no longer repel others through ignorance, indifference or crabbedness. For, the more he pictures himself as "the other fellow," the more genuinely sympathetic he will become.

He will recognize that what would give offense to him is likely to give offense to others; that what would provoke distrust in him is likely to provoke distrust in others; that what would appeal to him is likely to appeal to them.

In proportion as he does this–in proportion as he governs his words and acts by sympathetic knowledge–he will derive from tact the advantages it always brings in the mastery of success. These advantages are tremendous, as many men have discovered.

If you are not tactful now, try to become tactful. Study men as you meet them, study the principles of thinking and feeling as set forth in psychological writings. And apply sympathetically this knowledge you thus gain.

—H. Addington Bruce, The Chicago Daily News, Chicago, Ill., Jan. 20, 1917.

"Talent is power, tact is skill. Talent is weight, tact is momentum. Talent knows what to do, tact knows how to do it. Talent makes a man respectable; tact will make him respected. Talent is wealth; tact is ready money. For all the practical purposes, tact carries it against talent ten to one."

Thus an old time philosopher of success. And, undeniably, in the everyday affairs of life the tactful man inferior in talent has a distinct advantage over the talented man inferior in tact. When talent and tact are united in one person the combination is irresistible.

What gives tact its importance is the fact that human action is largely a matter of interaction between man and man. Only those whose callings are such that they are not necessarily brought into touch with other people can afford to go through life without the aid of tact.

All others--which means almost everybody–will be well advised to cultivate tact to the best of their ability. And, fortunately, it is a quality that can be cultivated by all.

Many there be, however, who mistakenly identify tact with things which it is not.

Some identify tact with cunning, others with subserviency. Such people think that they are eminently tactful when they fawn upon their fellows and slavishly coincide with their opinions and desires.

True tact is otherwise rooted. It has its origin not in deceit and cold calculation, not in base self-seeking, not in acquiescence born of fear, but in a heartfelt sympathy with others. It is a product of refinement of feeling. It springs from a keen perception of other people's rights and susceptibilities.

It does not bid a man yield perpetually to others or cunningly endeavor to mollify others. But it strives to attain his ends without inflicting needless pain.

It checks him from uttering, even inadvertently, words that would hurt. It guides him, in the smallest matters, to a courtesy of behavior that nips antagonisms in the bud.

Hence it unconsciously creates for its possessor an atmosphere of good will. He prospers, not alone because of his own efforts, but because others gladly help him to prosper.

The development of tact is a matter of heart growth rather than mind growth. Selfishness shrivels it, kindliness coupled with delicacy of feeling brings an abundant blossoming.

—H. Addington Bruce, The Chicago Daily News, Chicago, Ill., March 12, 1919.

This is what is meant by the word tact: keen mental perception, with an intuitive sense of what is true, right and proper, on any and all occasions. A tactful person knows how to speak without giving offense, yet will say what is best for the intended effect. Cleverness is a fine synonym for this short word. ...

Use tact. The first advice I will give is, that we carefully avoid comparisons; they are always odious. We can express ourselves at any time and avoid comparisons. A girl may not be so good looking, but we need not compare her to another very beautiful girl and cause the homely girl humiliation by making a direct comparison. In the homely girl we can easily dwell on her virtues and not refer to her looks. ...

If there is anything worthy of praise in man, woman or child, those who are neighbors and friends are fully aware of the facts and will give the deserved praise, which will be honest and sincere. But if you get the conversation lead and begin praising your handsome husband, beautiful wife, pretty daughters and smart children, they will soon see that you are your own publicity agent and will "lay off" praising you. It has been said that self-praise is half scandal and I believe it. The praise that you give yourself is spurious.

In talking to your neighbors and friends, if you are better off than they, never brag about it, but be sure to find something about them or their possessions which you can honestly praise. The fellows who are continually bragging about their honesty and truthfulness are either foolish or should not be trusted too far. Foolish to think that deserved praise should come through them, or they are just praising their virtues to make it easier to rob somebody who believes they are honest. This suggested course of conduct is what I call tact.

—J.H. Funderburg, Lake Charles American Press, Lake Charles, La., Oct. 30, 1937.

What is tact? As defined by the Standard Dictionary, it is 'the quick or intuitive appreciation of what is fit, proper, or right; fine or ready mental discernment in saying or doing the proper thing, or especially in avoiding what would offend or disturb."

In its derivation, tact means "touch" (Latin "tango"): and to have tact is to be in touch with the persons by whom we are surrounded or with whom we affiliate. It means more--a skillful or delicate touch, the touch of an oculist who would remove a speck from the eye without harming the eye. To be in touch with another is to have an understanding with him; to know him, his likes and dislikes, his temper, his susceptibilities, his foibles, his manner of thinking, and his feelings on certain subjects. Knowing these it will enable us in our dealings with them to avoid the sensitive spots in his nature. (We all have these spots) and to make contact with him at these points that are agreeable to his constitution. "As every fish has its fly," so every person, says Orison Swett Marden, "no matter how odd, peculiar, or cranky, can be reached and influenced by one who has tact enough to touch him in the right place."

Then, again, tact is but the gentle art of "rubbing people the right way." Rub them the wrong way, and you make trouble, every time. Rub them the right way, "smooth them down," as we say, and you do with them what you will. ...

Tact has its basis in unselfishness. We wish to influence a person to do or not to do a certain thing. To be successful with him we must handle him tactfully. For the time being, he must be given the first place in our thoughts and plans. His feelings and opinions must be set above ours. His prejudices must be respected. Nothing must be said or done that would offend or disturb his mental processes. His principles of action must be understood, and care must be exercised to not run counter thereto. We must find that which is responsive to our desires and touch him there.

—E.G. Littlejohn, The Texas Outlook, Fort Worth, Texas, December 1932.

Tact is the ability to tell a man what is wrong with him without giving him offense. It is the ability to get along with many different sorts of people.

—Edwin McClung, The Normal Herald, Natchitoches, La., June 1922.

What are we to understand by tact? Traced to its etymological source, the term suggests the idea of touch. Hence, we may say that a man of tact is a man who knows what to touch, when to touch, and how to touch. The word may be more narrowly and exactly defined as skill in adapting words and actions to circumstances. Its essence is a nice discrimination, by which a person at once takes in the situation and adapts himself to it. ...

A man of tact is one who has some exalted dominant principle or object before him, and who leaves no stone unturned where he is likely to receive any encouragement or to gain any advantage. He collects and marshals even the slightest and most subordinate agencies and unites them with those that are more prominent and influential. As the various keys over which sweep the fingers of the skillful musician, give forth separate and distinct tones, all of which, however, unite in one gushing melody, so the man of tact, by his magic touch, brings into play every worthwhile force and every possible agency for the accomplishment of the one end that he has in view.

—L.W. Moore, The Baptist Chronicle, Alexandria, La., Oct. 8, 1903.

Tact is the ability to change a situation from embarrassment, annoyance, even pain, to a smooth, harmonious state, by the simple agencies of right word, the correct action or silence rightly placed.

—Edwin E. Naugle, St. Petersburg Times, St. Petersburg, Fla., Feb. 11, 1923.

Tact is not the superficial habiliments of a man or women to be assumed or discarded at will. Rather, it is a deep feeling brought about by interest and concern which guides one to select the best course of action under conditions which occur.

—Edwin E. Naugle, St. Petersburg Times, St. Petersburg, Fla., Feb. 11, 1923.

Tact is fundamental because it opens the door to more pleasant relationship. It supplies the ability for [people] to conduct themselves skillfully, saying or doing nothing which will give the slightest offense. This sympathetic power permits discussion of delicate matters with a complete understanding. Tact is a combination of virtues consisting of sound judgment, common sense, and a kindly, tolerant feeling toward others. Tact is an element of love.

—Lee A. Palmer, Improvement Era, Salt Lake City, Utah, August 1955.

The tactful person never makes fun of others, resorts to sarcasm, or speaks disparagingly of his fellowmen.

—Earl Riney, Church Management, Cleveland, Ohio, March 1948.

Tact is the essence of charm, of graciousness, of gentleness.

—Earl Riney, Church Management, Cleveland, Ohio, June 1948.

Some people think they are frank whey they are only unpleasant.

—Roy L. Smith, Christian Advocate, Chicago, Ill., Sept. 4, 1941.

A friendship that cannot stand frankness cannot endure time.

—Roy L. Smith, Christian Advocate, Chicago, Ill., Nov. 25, 1943.

Great gifts without tact lose most of their value.

—Ernest C. Wareing, Western Christian Advocate, Cincinnati, Ohio, Sept. 1, 1920.

Tact wins where big gifts fail.

—Ernest C. Wareing, Western Christian Advocate, Cincinnati, Ohio, Feb. 12, 1925.

The majority of people make their enemies by not drawing the right kind of line between frankness and thoughtlessness.

—Roberta Lyndon, The Atlanta Constitution, Atlanta, Ga., Sept. 22, 1940.

Are you a diplomat? The diplomat holds a high place in business affairs, and it is well to understand what constitutes diplomatic tact. Diplomacy is common sense reduced to a fine art. ... A diplomat speaks concisely when he is talking to a busy man. ... In dealing with human nature he makes allowances for conceit, arrogance and reserve, and does not disturb them when this would defeat a nobler purpose. Diplomacy should never be confused with mere cunning, its counterfeit. It is one thing to take an unfair advantage--another to make use of the advantage already yours--the advantage of discretion. The true diplomat is the man who has advanced more than others in the gentle art of getting along with his fellowmen.

—Waldo Pondray Warren, Dallas Morning News, Dallas, Texas, Jan. 22, 1907.

It is generally conceded that tact is a quality which serves one well at all times and under all circumstances. And while all regard it as a thing greatly to be desired, many fail to recognize that it may be consciously cultivated. If we analyze tact we find that it is made up of certain elements: A sympathetic knowledge of human nature, its fears, weaknesses, expectations, and inclinations. The ability to put yourself in the other person' s place and to consider the matter as it appears to him. The magnanimity to deny expression to such of your thoughts as might unwise offend another. The ability to perceive quickly what is the expedient thing, and the willingness to make necessary concessions. The recognition that there are millions of different human opinions of which your own is but one. A spirit of unfeigned kindness such as makes even an enemy a debtor to your inherent good will. A sense of justice that supplants accusation with the opportunity for self-discovery. A recognition of what is customary under the circumstances and a gracious acceptance of the situation. Gentleness, cheerfulness and sincerity--and such variations as the spirit of these may suggest.

—Waldo Pondray Warren, Dallas Morning News, Dallas, Texas, April 11, 1907.

Frankness is usually the best for both sides. There may be cases where a frank answer to a man's question is "none of his business," and then of course it is not one's duty to give it. But many men fail to be frank even when it would cost them nothing. They often imagine they can soften the blow of a negative answer by clouding it in words. Very often they do a man an injustice when they think they are being kind to him. A man asks a favor of you which you know you cannot grant. But you want to "let him down easy," so you tell him you will think it over. He calls the next day and you ask him a lot of questions and again take it under advisement. He is not in a position to demand an answer, as he is asking a favor. He must depend on it. He can't go forward until he settles the point. And you think you are doing him a kindness by not letting him know exactly what you are going to do about it. But it is not a kindness. It is an injustice. Tell him the truth in plain words as soon as you know it--unless there are extenuating circumstances which make it your duty to hold the answer in abeyance. Tell him as kindly as you can, but be frank with him. Nothing else you can do for him will do him as much good. Evasions merely furnish ground for building false hopes that must sooner or later come down.

—Waldo Pondray Warren, Dallas Morning News, Dallas, Texas, Dec. 5, 1907.

Can overfrankness be an unconscious desire to hurt others? Yes. It is possible to acquire a habit of telling people unpleasant facts about themselves in the belief that you are helping them, when actually you are indulging a secret desire to humiliate them. Perhaps you yourself suffered some long-forgotten humiliation in early childhood that left you with an unconscious vindictiveness. Now your obsession for frankness, for "the whole truth," is probably a type of rationalization; an unconscious pattern of revenge.

—Joseph Whitney, The Atlanta Constitution, Atlanta, Ga., June 1, 1953.

The tactful person grants a request with a graciousness that takes away all possible sting of obligation. If he must refuse it, it is done with a delicacy that makes it almost a favor. In the presence of the tactful one the most diffident man or woman forgets himself and converses with the ease of the experienced diner out. How is it done? That must depend largely on the inspirations of the moment and the instinct of the tactful, but a question or two about some matter of interest to the shy sufferer will usually draw him out. It is impossible to make rules for such conditions. The tactful person doesn't need them. But a few hints to the individual who would acquire tact might be worth considering. One of the most obvious is never to call attention to any defect or deformity, even in a general way, that may be an affliction of anyone present. ... Even though we make some outwardly polite explanation, we are thinking things. And the helpful one who always feels it his duty to correct a mispronounced word might learn a little lesson from the tactful man who mispronounced it in the same way rather than make the unlettered talker uncomfortable. The tactful individual never feels that stick to the strict truth. What is the use of telling a bold truth that will hurt someone when a harmless falsehood will make everything all right and happy? What kind human being would tell a sick person that his illness is fatal? Why make him suffer the mental torture that would follow such an admission, when a fib or a straight, genuine lie, to put it plainly, would ease the situation? Don't be afraid of the black marks on your own record. The Great Judge has a broad streak of tact and humanity, we may be sure, that will overlook any stretching or altering of the truth in our efforts to be helpful to others. And when the whole matter of tact and courtesy is boiled down it simply means kindness and an unwillingness to make others suffer, or simmered still further, it is just the golden rule applied to small matters as well as the great–"Do unto others as you would have them you;" and think about it–tact and thoughtfulness ever go hand in hand.

—Mrs. J.E. Leslie, Kansas City Post, Kansas City, Mo., Jan. 17, 1919.

The ability to do the right thing at the right time we often call tact. A good deal of the success of manner consists in tact. ... Tact is an intuitive art of manner, which carries one through a difficulty better than talent or knowledge. ... Talent knows what to do; tact does it. We can say that the summary of what to do, how to do it, and when to do it is appropriateness. This sense of property is the leaven that permeates and adjusts all our acts to insure the right result. Appropriateness of manners will govern our dress as well as our behavior. There will be a blending of all the attributes into a composite of loveliness.

—Algie Eggertsen Ballif, Young Woman’s Journal, Salt Lake City, Utah, June 1927.

The person who reveals everything within his mind may be likened to a dry leaf upon the bosom of the winds. Diplomacy calls for the habit of listening more intensely than one speaks, and of saying only that which will convey a carefully weighed purpose. Diplomacy does not volunteer information that is not designed to benefit the individual presenting it or his sponsors.

—Woodrow Wilson, quoted by Napoleon Hill, Houston Post, Houston, Texas, Aug. 23, 1956.


Submit a Comment

  • Hyphenbird profile image

    Brenda Barnes 

    7 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

    Tact, candidness and honesty are all interwoven. We can be truthful and should never lie however we can tell the truth in a gentle, kind manner.

    I hope many people find this Hub and put the insight to use in their own lives.


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