Tact, Tactics and Influence

For some reason I woke up in the middle of the night thinking “wow, I just realized there’s a connection between the word ‘tact’ and the idea of ‘tactics.’” So I went and looked them up this morning and here’s what I found, courtesy of Dictionary.com:

Tact = a keen sense of what to say or do in order to keep from being offensive

Tactic = a plan for promoting a desired result

I’m convinced that for long term success in the Influence Game, your tactics must be tactful.  In other words, whatever plan you come up with for moving forward, you’ll be effective only if you do your best to avoid being offensive.  Now, I know some people will disagree with that, arguing that agitation is essential to getting attention, which is essential to getting what you want.  After all, people are sometimes a little bit offensive on talk radio, right?  And some people see them as “effective influencers.”  Ergo, lack of tact must sometimes work!

But, frankly, it doesn’t over the long run.  In looking at the example of talk radio, we’re clearly witnessing a decrease in terms of its reach to new audiences.  It boosts the conservative base, but does little to influence others.  It has shock value, but without “tact” as one of its tactics, it lacks true long term success.

Perhaps most important, offending others is kind of mean.  And as Buckaroo Bonzai said (Buckaroo Bonzai in the Eighth Dimension – watch it, it’s hysterical) “Don’t be mean. You don’t have to be mean.”  Be tactful instead.


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