March 15, 2015   by

Use tact when communicating in the Chama

We all have to communicate painful or sensitive information at some point.  And, while it’s important to tell the truth, we need to think about how we do it. Tact allows us to be honest while respecting a person’s feelings.

Touchy feely
Touchy feely! Tact is the word when communicating difficult information

Why is Tact Important in the Chama?  The ability to communicate with sensitivity offers many benefits. First, tact is important when you have to deliver bad news or provide critical feedback. Tact also demonstrates good manners. If you can communicate with grace and consideration, it can help you to avoid conflict, find common ground, and allow others in the Chama to save face. It can therefore be an important asset in Chama communication.

Here’s an example of how to use tact in the Chama.   One of your Chama members is regularly late for meetings. After another late arrival, you’re tempted to call her out at the Chama meeting. Although this might make you feel better in the short term, it’s insensitive – a more tactful approach would be to speak with her privately about her tardiness.  You could even start with a really gentle approach – for example, “I’ve noticed you’ve had trouble getting to the meeting on time. What can I do to help?” Tact reflects emotional sensitivity and increases the likelihood of a positive outcome.

Below find more ways to use tact as you interact with your Chama members.

 Choose Words Carefully

Your choice of words can influence how others perceive your message.  Avoid starting sentences with the word “you.” For example, saying, “You need to be punctual next time” will make the other person feel defensive. Instead, consider using softer, more indirect language, like, “Next time, I will be delighted if you make it on time for the meeting.” It’s especially important to use “I” statements during the conflict. When you do this, you take ownership of your feelings instead of placing blame.

 Letting Chama Members Go

It’s never easy to let people go. These situations are often emotional and tense, which is why tact is important. Start by explaining clearly what is happening. This is a difficult and unpleasant message to communicate, but you owe it to your Chama member, to be honest. If you allow emotion to dictate how you deliver your message, you risk “sugarcoating” facts and not getting your point across.  Next, explain why you’ve made your decision, and offer emotional support. It’s important, to be honest in this situation, but you can also be kind and supportive.

 Deflecting Gossip

One of the Chama members is known as the office gossip, and she’s spreading rumors about another member when you’re in the room. You can tactfully deflect and neutralize the gossip in several ways.  For instance, say something positive: “Jane might be quiet and not contribute much in meetings, but she’s a hard worker.” Or, ask them to stop: “I don’t want to talk about this, especially since we don’t know the facts. You can also say, “I don’t want to talk about people behind their backs,” or, “Let’s talk about this when Jane is here so that she can address these issues.”

 Handling Disagreements

Tact is particularly useful in conflict resolution because it can relieve tension, remove blame, and allow both sides to save face.

Eggshell personalities
Do not Crush Sensitive personalities by failing to be tactful

For example, imagine that Chama members have argued over whom gets to manage the next Chama project. One of them has run the last two projects, and she wants to lead this one because it fits with her expertise.  Before you insist that you take over this project, think about her position. She ran the previous projects with finesse and professionalism. Also, this project is a perfect fit for her – you might struggle with it because you don’t have her experience. A tactful response to this conflict would be, “You’re right. You should run this project because it matches your skills. I need some practice in a team leadership role, too, so how do you feel about me shadowing you, and then leading the next project?”

Remember, everything rises and falls on Leadership

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