Being a credible communicator—someone who says what they mean, clearly and consistently—is crucial to gaining people’s trust and cooperation, especially in the workplace. When you fail to come across as credible, team members are likely to question your motives, meet your directives with resistance and, ultimately, give you less than their best efforts. Yet, communicating with credibility doesn’t mean being brutally honest.
Distinguishing yourself as a trustworthy professional—and the kind of leader people respect, believe in and want to give their all for—requires communicating with credibility backed by diplomacy and tact. Gaining those skills, however, first requires an understanding of how not only your choice of words but also the way you say them—which includes your tone of voice and inflection, facial expressions and body language—are perceived.
If you think being diplomatic when speaking and interacting with others is something reserved for politicians, it’s time to expand your thinking. While diplomacy is primarily defined by Merriam-Webster as “the art and practice of conducting negotiations between nations,” that dictionary definition also applies to today’s global business world and diverse workforce, where leaders routinely communicate with people from a wide range of origins, cultures and perspectives. An internationally recognized leader in professional development and success, American Management Association (AMA) defines diplomacy as “the subtle skillful handling of a situation,” which goes hand-in-hand with tact, which AMA defines as “consideration in dealing with others and avoiding giving offense.”
As a true professional, committed leader, and decent person, you most certainly want to be a diplomatic and tactful communicator—after all, you don’t speak and act with the explicit intention of provoking and offending your team members. But you’re also a human being with your own ingrained habits and unconscious biases, so sometimes you might be completely unaware of how you are seen, heard and understood when you communicate with others.
AMA recognizes the value of diplomacy and tact as key communication skills and critical components in being viewed as a credible person and excelling as a leader. From the AMA experts, here are five actions to help you become a more diplomatic, tactful and credible communicator:
- Take time to organize your message and carefully think through its meaning and objective. Know exactly what you want to convey. Starting with clear, direct communication opens the door to a positive interaction.
- Repeat your message. This helps to affirm and clarify what you’re communicating. Often, saying something twice, with careful attention to your tone and pacing, is enough to clear up any confusion in the minds of listeners.
- Welcome two-way communication. Ask and allow for questions in a way that’s genuinely encouraging. Then, really listen to each question, without sighing or rolling your eyes, and respond thoughtfully, thoroughly and respectfully.
- Be open to different perspectives and respect others’ rights to their own opinions. Let people know that they can challenge or disagree with what you’re saying without having the interaction escalate into conflict. When you respect others’ need to be heard, they’re more likely to respect you and listen in return.
- Know your audience, including any potentially sensitive language or topics to avoid. Be mindful of their expectations of you. Then, applying diplomacy and tact, adjust your message in a way that makes you seem most credible.
Developing the hallmarks of a diplomatic and tactful communicator takes dedication and practice. Consider seeking out a few people you trust, such as colleagues or mentors, and asking them for specific, honest feedback on your communication style, body language and habitual behaviors. With some investment of effort, you’ll come across as credible and be a more successful and appreciated communicator.
American Management Association (AMA) is globally recognized as a leader in professional development. For nearly 100 years, it has helped millions of people bring about positive change in their performance in order to improve results. AMA’s learn-by-doing instructor-led methods, extensive content, and flexible learning formats are proven effective—and constantly evolve to meet the changing needs of individuals and organizations. To learn more, visit www.amanet.org