How to Tell the Truth Tactfully
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How to Tell the Truth Tactfully

There is more than one way to impart information. Knowing the right way to tell someone an uncomfortable truth can help him or her accept what you have said without getting angry with you, or feeling upset and hurt. Delivering the truth tactfully is possible if you word sentences with care and understanding.

Telling the truth tactfully can be tough. If you do not know how to do so, you may be stumped for words and end-up telling a white lie, or accidentally insulting someone instead. In order to impart negative, sensitive information, you need to use diplomacy and subtly; here is how:

There are many different ways you can say the same thing. However, the way what you say is heard can be very different. For example:

“Your taste in clothes is unfortunate.”

“There are clothes which would look fabulous on you and help you make the more of your appearance than what you are wearing.”

As you can see, the first example could be regarded as rude and offensive. However, the second example still imparts the information that what the individual is wearing does not suit them, but is positive and polite. Instead of telling someone they look good, although you are aware they do not, or being unkind, you can always think before you speak and formulate an accurate, truthful answer that is helpful and kind.

Another example could be:

“Your children are a pain in the neck!”

“I would be so grateful if you could find a way of occupying your children so that they are quiet, as I need to relax after a hard day.”

Some parents are easily offended when it comes to their children, as they imagine that how their kids behave is a reflection on their parenting skills. If you insult their offspring, you also insult them personally.

The first example could make parents very defensive, and even angry if you said it to them. The second example could still rough some parents up the wrong way, but it gives them the opportunity to not take things personally, so they do not need to get defensive.

The best way to tell the truth tactfully is to first have in mind the raw information you want to impart, and then work on forming the information into a sentence that does not sound like a negative judgment.

Beginning a sentence with the words, “I would be grateful,” is far better than starting by saying the word “your.” If you say “your,” this implies that you are blaming what is about to follow in the sentence on someone, and their hackles will rise accordingly.

Telling people a harsh truth in a non-confrontational manner is similar to delivering any form of bad news well. The truth needs to be embedded like a sandwich filling. Thus, “It would make a huge difference to me if you could tuck your car in more when you park. This way I will not have to worry about clipping your wing-mirrors when I pull out of my drive.”

Imparting the information that you want your neighbor to park more responsibly like this may mean you have to make an effort to be nice, however, they are far more likely to pay attention to what you say in a positive way than if you just told them to become organized and learn how to park less selfishly. Telling them in a negative fashion could gain you a feuding neighbor who purposely parks badly just to annoy you in the future.

Telling the truth in a kind way that is not offensive can help you impart information that is hard for someone to hear. It can have a positive affect on them, and help them make improvements. Most importantly for you, it can help you keep friends and have good relations with your family and colleagues.

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Comments (2)

Its funny I had a dream last night about a woman making fun of what others wear.  I think it is sad that we seem to judge others on how they dress.  I think this is a problem in us and should not be something we vocalize unless asked.  Clothing is not to look good, it is to keep us warm, it is the result of the fashion industry pushing us to "buy more" that has caused people to judge each other on how they dress and is very unfortunate. 

Absolutely, often how judgemental we are is a sign we need to change, not someone else! Clothing style is very personal, and I would never comment on the way someone dressed unless they asked my opinion. Then I would answer tactfully and be helpful. Its always useful to know how to speak without offending other people.