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The thin line between truthful and tactless

Madhuri Banerjee MadhuriBanerjee

Updated: January 12, 2016, 2:14 PM IST
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Recently award winning poet Javed Akhtar was invited for a poetry discussion. When the session had completed its mandatory one hour, the young organiser from the side told him to hurry up!
The audience requested for one last poem and he obliged. He said he would make it a short one and began reciting a verse.

Just then the emcee came on stage, cut him off and said, “I’m sorry but we’re out of time and we need the podium for the next speaker who’s already waiting.”

Tactlessness is the knack of being impolite and insensitive even when you don’t need to be!
It would not have made a difference if everyone waited 5 extra minutes for the next session. It would have made Javed Akhtar feel special and the audience happy! But the emcee didn’t even know she had done something wrong.

A friend of mine who has been married for ten years with two kids has been having some problems with her marriage. She is working and is highly educated. Recently when she came to visit her in laws, who live with their divorced daughter, in a moment of exasperation she told them, “If your son doesn’t clean up his act you’re going to have two divorced children to deal with!”


There’s a thin line between truth and tactlessness, between honesty and bluntness, between diplomacy and impoliteness.

The former is something that will benefit all. The latter is something that will benefit only you.
Why are there so many people who believe it’s okay to say what they want, do as they feel and be who they are even if it means hurting other’s sentiments? Why is rudeness and honesty taken as such virtues?
“I’m just saying how I feel,” is the common thought across the world.

But what about how others feel?

We are raising a generation to ape the west and believe that it doesn’t matter what is right or wrong as long as you’re confident enough to say it!

Throughout my childhood I was told, “Aisey bolte nahin hain!” (We don’t say these things!) And I would ask, “But why? It’s the truth.” And I was told by my mother and grandmother, “Because it’s your truth. Not theirs. What you say hurts someone. And it’s never right to hurt someone, not just physically but emotionally as well.” “But what do I care? How is it going to benefit me?” And my mother would remind me, “It makes people feel bad and that energy comes back to you!”

We don’t care if we’re perceived as kind people. We care if we’re seen as successful people. We live in a time where we’re told to be blunt. To be truthful. It is the time where crass sells. Not kindness. An age where insulting people is funny. Not complimenting them. An era of careless comments, not judicious thoughts.

So we don’t care what we say or what we do as long as we’re recognised, appreciated and liked. Leaving dents on others’ hearts and damages to our souls.

Understanding how to be tactful can happen at any age. It’s a matter of holding your tongue when you’re angry or you’re upset or you feel it’s okay to be honest right now!

Tact comes when in the moment you want to say something “truthful” you think about what the other person will feel.

And if you care enough to not hurt their soul, you’ll find yourself saying something considerate, giving that person extra time to speak, knowing that what you say will bring some happiness in their life and goodness to yours.
First Published: January 12, 2016, 2:14 PM IST

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