Tact: The Foundation of Effective Communication

Tact: The art of selecting words carefully, delicately and in a way not to offend or alienate others. Tact is a sense of what to do or say to maintain good relationships with others. Tact is the opposite of “foot in mouth disease.”

I must say that one of the most tactful article rejections I ever received came from ADDitude’s editors, Ellen Kingsley and Pat Wycliff. Rather than say they didn’t like what I had written, they suggested that the emphasis was not quite what they were looking for. Would I be willing to go a different way? Even more tactful, they began their rejection by telling me how much they appreciated all my contributions to ADDitude over the years and how much they generally love what I write.

Very tactful!

Tact is sometimes in short supply for those who are inattentive or impulsive — qualities not limited to those with AD/HD. Errors in tact can be avoided by:

Choosing Words Carefully

If someone asks you for an opinion about how they look, for goodness sake don’t respond by saying, “You don’t look so fat in that outfit,” as one of my clients once did. The same thought can be conveyed through a variety of words, such as “I love it, but I still think black is a more slimming color for you.”

The impact of words varies based on the tactfulness of your choice.

Tact Deficient: “I totally disagree.”

Tact: “I’m having a difficult time grasping what you mean. Help me better understand your thinking on this matter.”

Focus On the Positive

Focus on positive aspects in conversations. Look for responses that indicate a half-full glass worldview rather than a half empty glass. A positive perspective on things makes a difference in relationships. Research has shown that people like to be with people who are positive rather than critical.

Avoid All or Nothing Thinking

Many folks make the mistake of seeing the world in only two camps — right or wrong, good or bad. This worldview creates serious social problems since it does not allow for differences of opinion, a spectrum of ideas and diverse thoughts. Some people will throw away an apple if it has a bruise, others will cut away the bruise and use the rest of the apple. I am suggesting that you consider what is good about what someone has just said and be open to thoughts that differ from yours. Take a rainbow view of the world, realizing that there are a number of colors and blends in colors.

Say Less

Tact requires that you say what you need to say and not much more. For example, “Hi! How are you doing?” Really just means “Hi.” An extended answer about how you are really doing is considered socially inappropriate. If someone really wants to know, they will ask again. Also be careful not to say too much to people you just met on airplanes or at restaurants. And be careful not to bring up too many personal issues at work. People appreciate healthy boundaries.

Hot Potatoes

Tact requires avoiding topics such as money, religion and politics except with people you know extremely well. Such topics need to be approached with the utmost of care and with sensitivity to the differences that are often strongly felt regarding these topics. Statements like “It’s definitely…” or, “Any idiot knows that…” are guaranteed to offend. To be socially safe and tactful, avoid “hot potato” topics whenever possible.

Observe Body Language Cues

Watch other people’s body language (or changes in their voice) to indicate pleasure or displeasure with your comments. Both can be very accurate tact gauges. When people start looking away from you, tap their feet, or provide monosyllabic answers, take those cues as a sign that it’s time to stop talking, change the subject, or excuse yourself.

This article is published by permission from ADDitude Magazine ©2004. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part is prohibited.

Subscribe to ADDitude online or via toll-free phone 888-762-8475.

Improving Parent-Teacher Communication

As a teacher, you can defuse tensions, maximize the benefits and minimize stress at parent meetings by being flexible, empathetic, and up-to-date on AD/HD.

As a parent of a child with AD/HD, educational consultant, former school psychologist and teacher, I have sat on many sides of the educational planning table. I frequently attend IEP or 504 meetings on behalf of parents to help facilitate the process and have a great deal of experience as to what goes on behind the scenes for parents. Many parents of children with AD/HD approach IEP meetings with fear, frustration, and confusion. With each new school year often comes a new teacher – and with each new teacher, the same fears arise:

  1. You don’t really know and understand their child.
  2. You won’t select the most appropriate accommodation for their child.
  3. They will look stupid.
  4. You will think they are inadequate parents.

As a teacher, you can defuse tensions, maximize the benefits and minimize stress at parent meetings by being flexible, empathetic, and up-to-date on AD/HD and learning disabilities. Most of all, you need to assure them that you all have the same goal – to help their child have a successful year.

Set the Stage for Success

Begin the meeting by welcoming the parents and introducing the meeting participants along with their roles. Offer them something to drink. Use comfortable, adult-sized chairs. Preview the meeting for them so they know what to expect. Share an interesting story about their child so they know that you really do know their child. Help them feel part of the team by asking, “What can you share with us to help us be more effective teachers for your child in the classroom?”

Parents May Also Have AD/HD

Given the strong genetic link for AD/HD, it is likely that one of the parents you are dealing with may also have AD/HD. In many cases it may be very minor, but you may notice the behaviors such as not completing papers in a timely manner, needing reminders and/or an extra set of paperwork, missing pieces of information or getting distracted. You may need to gently bring them back to the topic at hand.

Watch Out for House Talk

Refrain from the use of educational jargon. Explain terminology. Even though this may be your 1,000th meeting for the year, this may be the first or one of only a handful of such meetings for the parents. Be patient. Parents become confused, and intimidated when you use common educational terms like 504 vs. IEP plans, resource room vs. instructional support and wraparound services. Make a guide to understanding special education terms to give to parents, or identify one person at the meeting to decipher educational jargon and explain the terms to parents. Even when the school has gone above and beyond expectations, some very intelligent parents leave meetings angry because they didn’t understand what was said.

Avoid discussing other school-related issues at these meeting amongst other teachers and co-workers. Parents often feel excluded, uncomfortable and less a part of the team as educators discuss other school-related issues.

A Little Knowledge…

Many parents are aware of their rights and accommodations to some extent. They often receive information through support groups, friends or neighbors, websites and sometimes books. Unfortunately, their information is not always entirely accurate or complete.

Allow adequate time for explanations and questions. Many schools have to schedule brief, back-to-back meetings due to time constraints, which hurries the process. In this case, contact the parents to check to see if they have any questions both prior to and subsequent to the meeting. This is often much less intimidating for them, and assures them that their concerns will be addressed.

This article is published by permission from ADDitude Magazine All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part is prohibited. Subscribe to ADDitude online or via toll-free phone 888-762-8475.

Seeing Potential and Possibilities

My husband and I have been in a year long process of renovating our home. The experience was a disaster in many ways — at least partly due to contractor difficulties — but that’s another story. But this whole process has given me the opportunity to grow in understanding for people who have difficulty seeing potential and possibilities.

I’ll confess. I was decoration phobic. Decorating or anything associated with decorating has always been overwhelming for me due to DDD– Decorating Deficiency Disorder.

I have a great deal of difficulty “seeing” what a different color would do for a room, or “seeing” the possibilities for an old chair. When it comes to decorating I only knew if I liked something or didn’t when I actually had it physically in front of me.

As I worked with others who had the gift of “seeing” potential and possibilities when it came to decorating, I was amazed. How did they know that the furniture would good arranged in this way? How could they “see” the potential for an old chair? We were both looking at the same item and I was embarrassed by my lack of decorating sense.

However, I’ve gotten some guidance and support from others who have talent in this area, experience, practice and studying.  I’ve actually started looking at decorating magazines from Real Simple to Architectural Digest and watching decorating television shows like Design on a Dime and Designed to Sell. I have become much better at the decorating process. I can now pick up an item and often see possibilities. I have even painted three pictures for our home! Sometimes I even enjoy the decorating experience now. I never thought that would happen.

This experience gave me a better understanding of how I could “see” potential in people that they were unable to “see” for themselves. To me the strengths and gifts stand out and are visible just as color schemes and furniture placement are evident for the talented decorators.

Most of the folks I work with don’t “see” their strengths and gifts. They see their failures, struggles and difficulties. Overcoming DDD has given me a better understanding of the people I work with as I strive to help them “see” their potential too.

What has helped you “see” your potential and possibilities? Please share your thoughts. I look forward to getting a dialog started here.

I wish you well.


« Prev