Home Culture & Etiquette General Culture & Etiquette How to be Tactful and Discreet
How to be Tactful and Discreet
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Written by Tom Fowler   


Have you ever spoken out of turn, said something you wished you could take back, or commenced gossiping over something you promised to keep secret? If you have, welcome to the human race, for most of us have been guilty of these things at one time or another. But, if you wish to be a trustworthy person worthy of respect, below are some suggestions to help you become that man or woman.

Things You Will Need:

Ability to keep a confidence

Even temperament



Step 1.  What is tact?

This writer’s unofficial definition is this: Tact is the handling of any kind of situation in a quiet, low key and subdued manner. To be tactful is to avoid causing embarrassment to yourself or anyone else and drawing undue attention.

Step 2.  What is discretion?

Another unofficial description: It is about the same thing as tact. It is the handling of a problem or situation carefully and very quietly; usually behind the scene of public display or attention. You may say that discretion is the practice of diplomacy and, make no mistake about it; it is as important for individuals to practice diplomacy as it is government sponsored foreign or state departments

Step 3:  Ability to keep a confidence

You will not have many friends or command much respect if you cannot keep to yourself the deep concerns of those close to you. You will not be of much value to anyone if you cannot be trusted. “Confidentiality” is something you will have to develop if you have trouble in this area. Start by realizing that family and friends are precious and their needs are at least as great as your own. As a person of character, this will help you see that keeping confidential information private (discretion on your part) is essential to your relationships.

Step 4:  Even temperament

If you are emotional, excitable and talkative, this works against you when tact and discretion are needed. Tact and discretion are qualities that are achieved easiest by being quiet and patient. If lack of discretion describes you, then practice being patient and cultivate an introspective attitude. You do not have to change who you are to be a person who thinks before he speaks, but you will have to work at it. Do this and your friends and acquaintances will recognize and appreciate it.

Step 5:  Maturity

An immature person will not see the need to practice anything discussed in this article. Immaturity does not make a person bad or evil; immaturity is simply what it is. An immature person does not yet have the depth of understanding needed to determine that he/she needs to make some positive changes. Time and the experiences of life put a measure of maturity into most of us. Sadly, there are some who never change. A Methodist minister this writer knows once said that he was amazed at how long into life many people cling to immaturity. Amen to that.

Step 6:  Thoughtfulness

This is quite possibly the most important quality a person of discretion needs. If you are thoughtful, then you are probably an even-tempered person of at least some emotional maturity. You have the capacity to keep confidences even if you have had a little trouble in this area. The realization that tact and the ability to be discreet are much needed, highly valued qualities of persons who wish to maintain rich friend and family relationships are all that is needed to push this person in the right direction.


People who are tactful, discreet and thoughtful are also defined as Ladies and Gentlemen.


A minor slip is one thing, but a serious indiscretion of any kind can damage a reputation which you have worked long and hard to obtain. 


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