Call a jack a jack. Call a spade a spade. But always call a whore a lady. Their lives are hard enough, and it never hurts to be polite.
― Patrick Rothfuss, The Name of the Wind
There is no denying the existence of facts; both the pleasant (your social advantage as a reader of this blog, for example, lol) and the unpleasant (your high reading scale). It is easy to deal with the pleasant ones; the unpleasant ones are the worrisome ones.
Tact, on the other hand, as someone has rightly defined, is the art of making a point without making an enemy. Whilst tact can coexist with fact, as in complimenting a good-looking person (they really are good looking= fact=tact) the two can also be mutually exclusive. Or do you admit that the food is tasteless to your host? When faced with a fact, tact states that you deal with it in any of the following ways.
Ignore It: The fact that your new neighbours are a multi racial couple is the type of fact to be ignored. Facts that make others uncomfortable should not be honoured with recognition. Otherwise, it will seem as a form of mockery.
Declare It: Do you have a good looking spouse? Does your friend have exceptional culinary skills? Does your colleague have a heartwarming smile? Then by all means, tell them! You cannot go wrong with compliments. You will rather, have that girl blushing from ear to ear like a flattered village girl.
Employ Euphemism: In former times, a lady would leave a dining occasion or gathering by politely giving the excuse of going to ‘powder her nose’ before going into the bathroom. Even though this was and is sometimes true (we ladies are known for dashing into the bathroom to have an emergency adjustment to our makeup) it was/is usually for other reasons too vivid to mention as social grace does not encourage one to state the exact mission. Hence, the euphemism, ‘powder my nose’. However, contemporary etiquette teaches that a simple ‘excuse me’ will do.
Replace it with Another Topic: If you happen to be in a gathering where your friends, Tom and his ex, Paula are present, you just might want to be on guard in case your not-too-tactful colleague announces the uncomfortable situation. It will be the perfect time to change the topic.
Don’t make it a joke: I think a truly funny joke is one that is not only funny to the teller and listener but also harmless and spiteless to present company. If your friend appears to be ‘rolling’ rather than walking due to her recent weight gain, don’t make it a joke because you just might be laughing to her hurt.
Hint It: A profound Yoruba proverb says, ‘we should not speak with the whole mouth’ because a word is sufficient for the wise to decipher. Rather than saying, ‘your legs are now so big!’ or the more offensive orobo, why not try a diplomatic, ‘you are filling out very nicely’ or ‘your figure is fuller’. Any informed person can read between the lines. Your closeness with the person in question is however of vital importance and must be considered before such a statement is made.
Sandwich It Tactfully: If you have ever received disappointing news, then you may be familiar with the line.
Dear candidate, thank you for your attendance at the exams. After thorough evaluation of the results, we regret to inform you that you have not been shortlisted. We wish you best of luck in further pursuits. Thank you.
The polite words are at the beginning and end whilst the unpleasant fact is cushioned in between. This is also a mature approach to correction and has been proven to be effective time and again.
Facts are like people; they can be good or bad. Tact is the rewarder: it honours the good with recognition and the bad with obscurity. Just when the fact seems valid, tact reviews its position.