How to communicate tactfully

April 01, 1999

In a communication-saturated world, there are several ways of conveying messages, many of which require tact.

Uncomfortable situations arise frequently at work, in the public arena and even at home. Some communication experts say timing, location and the words you choose make all the difference.

"It's not what you say but how you say it," says Siri Young, prevention specialist for Washington County Health Department.

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She believes in win-win communication, which provides meaningful contact for all parties involved. Strive for that middle ground, between "bull in a china shop" aggression and "doormat" passiveness, Young says.

If your physical or emotional boundaries are crossed without invitation, Young says it's time to be assertive.

When a sticky situation arises with a co-worker, deal with it at the proper time and in the proper place, says Jim Cannon, business and industry training coordinator at Hagerstown Community College. Where and when that is will vary on the situation, he says.


If, for instance, you are angry about something, don't confront your co-worker in the break room in front of other co-workers, where he or she will not want to back down for fear of looking weak, Cannon says. Set up a time to talk about the issue privately during a break or if it's business-related, make an appointment to talk during working hours, he advises.

Another major factor in communication is listening.

Young says it's no mistake most of us were given two ears and only one mouth.

- Meg H. Partington, Staff Writer

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