The two virtues of assertiveness and tact complement one another and, when practiced, can make your personal life much easier. Assertiveness means saying what you think and how you feel, and tact means saying these things in a gentle, nonoffensive way. People usually get into more trouble in relationships by not being direct or by being tactless and hurting other people’s feelings.
Sometimes, we attempt to control other people to give us what we want through criticism or verbal assault. Instead of trying to control the other person to meet our needs, we should just make a simple, positive request, that’s how we do it if we call on the virtues of assertiveness and tact. For example, if your partner is away from you more than you’d like, you could say, “I need to have regular time with you to just be together.” This delivers a much more effective message than “You don’t care about me,” or “Obviously I don’t mean anything to you…”
When we are tactless, we embroil ourselves in angry or unfulfilled relationships. We often express ourselves without stopping to think about how our words will affect other people. We can hardly simplify our lives when we are not getting along with the people who are important to us. And when we are not assertive, nobody knows what we want or need, so we go around with long faces wondering why people are not cooperating. During my first few years with Tim (we’ve been in a relationship for almost 9 years now), if I was angry at him, and he would ask me what was wrong, I would just snort, turn my back, or hang my head low and say, “Oh nothing. Just please go away and let me be.” Then, of course, I would just be upset that he did not do whatever I thought he ought to be doing. I did not have the nerve to tell him what I really wanted or how I really feel . And it does take nerve to tell people how we’re feeling. We’re always afraid we will hurt their feelings, or that they won’t understand, or they’ll be angry, whatever.
Over the years I have learned that it is worth it to get past my fear and say how I am really feeling. If I do so in a tactful way, I can expect a tactful response and we can begin the process of solving whatever issue we have. There is no hope of solving issues without tact and assertiveness. When little problems lay unresolved, they ultimately erupt like volcanoes and the relationship suffers enormously. An embroiled life is hardly a simpe one.
When we are not in the habit of being honest and real about who we are, it is difficult to be assertive. For example, if we constantly project ourselves to the world as either the cheerleader or strong, has-it-all-together type, it is much more difficult to be assertive when we need help or comfort. Projecting our real image to the world takes confidence. We need to feel like our ideas and opinions are valuable. It also takes confidence to be tactful. When we are buried in our mundance problems or our lives are chaotic, then we don’t have the time, energy, or awareness to stop and think about how the other person may be feeling before we open our mouths.
Tactful assertiveness is a valuable behavior. Without assertiveness then we won’t have the nerve to stand up and tell our peers that something is not right or something does not feel right. We can just look at other people picking on someone and say nothing. Some people might encourage us to smoke or drink and then not have the nerve to say no. We need to remember that we have to learn to practice tactful assertiveness instead of constant rudeness. Always remember that tactful assertiveness always wins over aggresiveness.