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Conduct Of Life:
Manners When Travelling
How To Dress
Of A Happy Life And Wherein It Consists
Man The Maker Of Happiness
Happiness Through The Pursuit And Use Of Money
The Art Of Having Time
The Miracle Of Tact
Frienship - Part 1
Friendship - Part 2
Friendship - Part 3
The Simple Life
The Essence Of Simplicity
Right Living As A Fine Art
( Originally Published 1913 )
Tact is an extremely delicate quality, difficult to define, hard to cultivate, but absolutely indispensable to one who wishes to get on in the world rapidly and smoothly.
Some people possess this exquisite sense in such a degree that they never offend, and yet they say everything that they wish to. They apparently do not restrain themselves, and say things with impunity which, if said by many others, would give mortal offense.
On the other hand, certain people, no matter what they say, cannot seem to avoid irritating the sensitiveness of others, although they mean well. Such people go through life misun derstood, for they cannot quite adjust themselves to circumstances. The way is never quite clear. They are continually running against something. They are always causing offense without meaning to, uncovering blemishes or sore spots. They invariably appear at the wrong time and do the wrong thing. They never get hold of the right end of the thread, so that the skein does not unravel, but the more they pull, the worse they tangle the threads.
Who can estimate the loss to the world which results from the lack of tact,-the blundering, the stumbling, the slips, the falls, the fatal mistakes which come to people because they do not know how to do the right thing at the right time! How often we see splendid ability wasted, or not used effectively, because people lack this indefinable, exquisite duality which we call "tact."
You may have a college education; you may have a rare training in your specialty; you may be a genius in certain lines, and yet not get on in the world; but if you have tact and one talent combined with stick-to-it-ive-ness, you will be promoted, you will surely climb.
No matter how much ability a man may have, if he lacks the tact to direct it effectively, to say the right thing and to do the right thing at just the right time, he cannot make it effective.
Thousands of people accomplish more with small ability and great tact than those with great ability and little tact. Everywhere we see people tripping themselves up, making breaks which cost friendship, customers, money, simply because they have never developed this faculty. Merchants are losing customers; lawyers, influential clients; physicians, patients, editors sacrificing subscribers; clergymen losing their power in the pulpit and their hold upon the public; teachers losing their situations; politicians losing their hold upon the people, because of the lack of tact.
Tact is a great asset in business, especially for a merchant. In a large city where hundreds of concerns are trying to attract the customer's attention, tact plays a very important part.
One prominent business man puts tact at the head of the list in his success recipe, the other three things being: Enthusiasm; knowledge of business; dress.
The following paragraph, in a letter which a merchant sent out to his customers, is an example of shrewd business tact: "We should be thankful for any information of any dissatisfaction with any former transactions with us, and we will take immediate steps to remedy it."
Think of the wealthy customers that have been driven away from banks by the lack of tact on the part of a cashier or teller!
A man must possess the happy faculty of winning the confidence of his fellow-beings and making steadfast friends, if he would be successful in his business or profession. Good friends praise our books at every opportunity, "talk up" our wares; expatiate at length on our last case in court, or on our efficiency in treating some patient; they protect our name when slandered, and rebuke our maligners. Without tact, the gaining of friends who will render such services is impossible.
A young man with very ordinary ability gained a seat in the United States senate largely because of his wonderful tact. A great many men are held down, kept back, because they cannot get along well with others. They are so constituted that they nettle others, run against their prejudices. They cannot seem to cooperate with other people. The result is they have to work alone, and they lose the strength which comes from solidarity.
I know a man whose success during a very strenuous life has been almost ruined by the lack of tact. He can never get along with people. He seems to have every other quality necessary to make a large sum, a leader of men, but his faculty for antagonizing others has crippled his life. He is always doing the wrong thing, saying the wrong thing, hurting people's feelings without meaning to, counteracting the effectiveness of his own work, because he has not the slightest appreciation of what the word tact means. He is constantly giving offense.
We all know men who pride themselves on saying what they think, on being blunt. They think it is honest, a sign of strength of character; and that it is weak to "beat about the bush" and to resort to diplomacy in dealing with people. They believe in "striking right out from the shoulder," "calling things by their right names." -
These men have never been much of a success. People believe them to be honest, but their lack of tact, good judgment, and good sense is all the time queering their proposi tions. They do not know how to manage people,-cannot get along with them, and are always "in hot water."
The truth is, we all like to be treated with consideration, with tact, and to deal with people who use diplomacy. Diplomacy is common sense reduced to a fine art.
Bluntness is a quality which people do not like or appreciate. People who pride themselves on saying just what they think, do not usually have a great many friends, nor a very large business, or successful profession. Often truths which will hurt are better unsaid:
Mark Twain says: "Truth is so very precious that we should use it sparingly."
"A man may not have much learning nor wit," says Addison, "but if he has common sense and something friendly in his behaviour, it will conciliate men's minds more than the brightest thoughts without this disposition."
"A little management may often have resistance which a vast force may vainly strive to overcome," says another writer. To quote again:
"A tactful man will not only make the most of everything he does know, but also of many things he does not know, and will gain more credit by his adroit mode of hiding his ignorance than a pedant by his attempt to exhibit his erudition."
When the French revolution was at its height and the exciting mob was surging through the Paris streets, a detachment of soldiers filled one of the streets and a commanding officer was about to order his men to fire, when a young lieutenant asked permission to appeal to the people. Riding out in front of the soldiers, he doffed his hat and said: "Gentlemen will have the kindness to retire, for I am ordered to shoot down the rabble." The mob at once dispersed as if by magic, and the street was cleared without bloodshed.
Tact enabled Lincoln to extricate himself from a thousand unfortunate and painful situations with politicians during the Civil War. In fact, without it, the result of the war might have been entirely changed.
"The kindly element of humor almost always enters into the use of tact, and sweetens its mild coercion. We cannot help smiling, oftentimes, at the deft way in which we have been induced to do what we afterwards recognize as altogether right and best. There need be no deception in this use of tact, only such a presentation of rightful inducements as shall most effectively appeal to a hesitating mind. It is the fine art of getting the right thing done in the nick of time."...
There is no better discipline in the world than to force ourselves to be sociable and interesting to those for whom we do not care. It is really surprising how much one can find of in terest, even in those who at first repel us. It is not difficult for an intelligent, cultivated person to find something of real interest in every one.
The fact is, our prejudices are often very superficial, based frequently upon an unfortunate first impression, so that we often find that people who repelled us at first, who seemed very unattractive, and not likely to have anything in common with us, finally become our best friends. Knowing this, we ought at least to give another the advantage of a fair trial before we jump to the conclusion that we are not going to like him or her.
We are creatures of prejudice, and we know from experience that even people towards whom we feel kindly often misjudge and do not like us simply because they do not know us. They are prejudiced by some false impression or hasty opinion of us; but when they are better acquainted the prejudice wears off and they can appreciate our good points.
Some writer has thus described the qualities which enter into tact:
"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 unnecessarily offend another.
"The ability to perceive quickly what is the expedient thing, and the willingness to make the 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 innate good will.
"A recognition of what is customary under the circumstances and a gracious acceptance of the situation. "Gentleness, cheerfulness, and sincerity."