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Diplomatic of Dishonest

“What do you think of my management style?”
“Do you think I’m ready for that promotion?”
“Do these pants make my butt look fat?”

In an effort to avoid being considered impolite or rude, you may be trying to avoid embarrassment or awkwardness on the part of the other person. That can result in your being less than honest. If you soften the truth by omitting key information, offering misdirection or providing what is known as ‘little white lies’ on a regular basis, you are being deceitful.

Deception is commonplace and can be standard operating procedure when trying to be polite. Who hasn’t offered the response “fine” when asked how they are doing? If someone shared their actual status every time you asked how they were doing and frequently shared their problems and worries with you, you’d either start avoiding them, or stop greeting them that way.

Balancing Act
The truth is that it’s a balancing act between honesty and tact and we have to work to get it right. If you are only honest, you risk offending others and if you are only polite, you are often lying. And women are often encouraged to avoid being too direct because it can be received as strident, forthright and apparently, not appealing behavior for a female.
Employing honest AND tact allows for an understanding of how to be aware of the others opinions, ideas, beliefs, and feelings of others. A good response finds a way to deal with the awkwardness and bad feelings that can occur when being frank and at the same time sanding up clearly for your own ideas and feelings.
Knowing what to say and how to say it without damaging your relationship is a critical interpersonal skill.

While common sense and good judgement are the underpinning of being diplomatic and honest, some people lack common sense and their judgement is suspect. I find that people get better at being honest and diplomatic is they practice those skills, and not everyone has the courage or professional discipline needed to practice as often as it might take to get good at this stuff. Patience AND perseverance are required.

Human relations is a tricky business which is why it can be so challenging to figure out the best strategy, behavior, and wording to use in any given situation. While lots of people like flashcards and scripts, the problem with them is that the person you are interacting with hasn’t learned their lines and may go off in a direction you aren’t prepared for.

People are Messy –
Which means that they can be unpredictable. Sometimes the best and most difficult thing is to say nothing. There are times when taking some time to reflect and think make the best sense. Every now and then it’s better to take a definite position, stating exactly what you want and how you want to go about getting it. In order to deal with the capricious nature of human interaction you will need to develop a strong set of communication skills, the ability to thoughtfully plan, the discipline of self-control, and some confidence. A little emotional intelligence (self-awareness) and some social intelligence (a heightened sense of what’s going on with others) are good assets as well.



Diplomacy and tact often depend on others skill sets. People who can be both honest and considerate are also good at:


  • Active Listening – the ability to hear not just the words being said, but how things are being said so that they can understand and react appropriately.
  • Empathy – the ability to see the world from another’s point of view. You share their perspective, suspend your own judgement, recognize the emotion they are feeling, and communicate that recognition to them.
  • Assertiveness – the ability to stand up for yourself without stepping on someone else, this skill set allows you to influence others to think or behave is a specific way.
  • Rapport – the ability to connect with someone else and create a common ground that is appealing.
  • Politeness – the ability to be courteous, showing respect and reducing friction, making another comfortable.

Now About Those Pants
Wouldn’t it be an interesting world if you could avoid all loaded questions? That’s not likely. There are plenty of people who recognize a no-win situation when they see it, so when you are asked:
“What do you think of my management style?”
“Do you think I’m ready for that promotion?”
“Do these pants make my butt look fat?”

You could lie:
-“It’s great!”
-“Not at all.”

You could be candid:
-“You micromanage and care more about your own career than developing us.”
-“You need much more seasoning and more operational knowledge.”
-“Yes. Wear something else.”

Or you could develop the powerful combination of honesty and tactfulness:
-“I’ve observed that there are many people you manage well and some people that you seem to find challenging.
-“If you have gotten feedback that you meet all the qualifications, then you should go for it.”
-“I am your biggest fan so I think you always look great.”

This entry was posted on Friday, May 6th, 2016 at 1:46 pm. Both comments and pings are currently closed.