Compliments of Samira Khan via Flickr

I  found the following quote in Dale Carnegie’s book, “How to Win Friends and Influence and People.”  It concerns tact: “the art of stepping on someone’s shoes without ruining their shine.”

Benjamin Franklin, tactless in his youth, became so diplomatic, so adroit at handling people, that he was made American Ambassador to France. The secret of his success? ‘I will speak ill of no man,’ he said,
‘…and speak all the good I know of everybody.’ Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain – and most fools do

In this culture workers are rewarded for speaking their minds – for telling it like it is – with no holds barred. We frown upon introverts who are reticent to speak, and who maintain a low profile. In the spirit of fostering community, managers need to find a middle ground. Communication can occur in a manner that uplifts, includes others in conversation, solicits their opinion, and assumes they’re of value. These seven steps might prove fruitful in promoting peaceful discourse:

  1. Assume you’re wrong. How often do we approach a potential conflict with our backs up, either in defensive anger, or filled with righteous indignation? What if you emptied your preconceived notions and acted as problem solver? Focus on making the situation better and satisfying all parties. Collaboration is likely to net you the most points.
  2. Interact with your coworkers as if they were customers. If you were trying to acquire/maintain someone’s business, how would you behave? What egocentric actions would you let fall by the wayside? Your demeanor should reflect that others are center stage when you’re talking.
  3. Avoid prescriptives. Telling people what they should do only serves to inflate your own self-image (while diminishing theirs). Focus on what you can do together to move forward.
  4. In the new employment model of imploded hierarchy, people want to be seen as equals. In terms of the Vroom Jago decision making tree, decisions are made as a group after problem scenarios are presented. Tasks are team efforts that require the participation of all parties.
  5. The majority of people are striving to do a good job and need reinforcement, praise, and encouragement. Evaluate your role in subpar performance before you offer suggestions. It goes without saying that reprimands are inappropriate in this new era.
  6. As much as possible be an encourager, supporter, and coconspirator in the realization of others’ dreams. So much more could be accomplished if we focused on the positive.
  7. If the situation necessitates you say something, take the Mary Kay sandwich approach: acknowledge what you like, gently make your suggestion, then end with an esteem affirming sentiment. Assume that people are earnestly trying to improve – rather than presenting you with a ploy. In doing so you make your assumptive world come true.
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All viewpoints expressed by Jackie Gilbert are her own, and not of her employer.

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