E

ver wish that you could wave a magic wand and everyone would be respectful, civil, and accommodating? Unfortunately, uncertain times brings discontent and confusion. It is more important than ever to manage your interactions with people and your behavior with diplomacy, dignity, finesse, tact, and civility. These are powerful concepts and will serve you well if you have them in your toolkit.

Why? A basic business need is to be respected, validated, and liked. However, life happens, and things can get out of control. You can be reactive (out of control) or use a tried and true response (in control) to a variety of situations. You are responsible for you!

How? Take the first step in managing any situation or individual by employing the appropriate tools: diplomacy, finesse, tact, dignity, and civility. We hear these words, but do we know what they mean and how to use them effectively? Keep them in your “interaction toolbox” and engage them as preventive measures for diffusing situations that could easily get out of control. This is especially true during these times of political uncertainty and change. 

How a situation is handled, not the incident itself,
 is the key to a successful result.

Diplomacy is the skill of managing people, and the ability to communicate in a non-offensive manner. This is how potential conflict is resolved. It is the conduct government officials use to secure safe relations between nations, and businesses use to gain loyalty and support. There are numerous ways to diffuse a situation diplomatically; all of which involve one’s mannerisms, demeanor, attitude, and timing. It begins with listening carefully and thinking through what you need to say so you can get your point across without appearing pushy or dictatorial.

For example: The agent handled a group of investors diplomatically to keep everyone calm.

Dignity is an individual’s self-respect. It is something that should be given not taken. People need to have a sense of pride about themselves regardless of what economic background from whence they come. Kindness and empathy, coupled with patience, is contagious. Maintain dignity (keep your head high) when things go wrong. 

For example: A real estate agent takes a client to the wrong address for an open house; the agent apologized for the misstep, gently humored the situation, and proceeded to the correct address.

Finesse is the skillful way you handle a difficult or highly sensitive situation. A person who has finesse says the right thing at the right time or knows when to say nothing at all. 

For example: His intellectual finesse kept the meeting on track during a heated exchange.

Tact reduces friction and helps people interact more collectively. It is the act of using gentle (non-offensive) language when dealing with controversial issues and knowing what to say to avoid giving offense. Tact is not just saying what the other party wants to hear, but it is choosing words that are not emotionally charged or confrontational and are truthful. Tact also respects the other person’s rank, position, stature, gender, age, nationality, ethnicity, whatever the case may be. Tact is a social skill, which requires practice to become proficient. Sometimes tact will mean not saying anything at all. 

For example: The agent was tactful as he solicited feedback on a controversial property.

Civility is the politeness of using good manners. A realtor who has mastered civility can maintain balance in a stressful environment. Civility creates a common bond and a more harmonious work environment. When you do not like someone, yet manage to treat him politely, you are being civil.

For example: The replacement agent was received with politeness by the agency’s disgruntled team.

Granted, these words are often used interchangeably: “The government official used diplomatic finesse in his speech to avoid offending the opposition. He communicated with tact and dignity.” If any of these words are not your strong suit, always preface a “pre-framing” opening. For example (and with a slight edge of humor): “I’ve been told that I’m not very tactful so please cut me some slack and go easy on me.” This works when soliciting feedback; and needs the right situation. It is probably not a good way to start an important meeting with a developer but can work in a more casual encounter with colleagues. 

Consider the following scenarios:

You will come across people who are unchangeable, stubborn, and a challenge. Inflexible people use communication to get their way. They also find it hard to adapt to another person’s way of doing things or point of view. The true professional does not react with the same behavior. It is hard to be difficult with someone who is respectful and in control. Keep the lines of communication open until agreements have been made or a situation has been remedied.  

Situation:  You are asked in a meeting to give your opinion about someone else’s idea – an idea you do not feel is in the best interest of the agency, and you do not want to endorse it.  

Response: “I appreciate Jim’s idea, but let’s consider a strategy that involves …”  (The answer should be the same whether this person is present or not.)

Situation/Question:  You are caught in a political conversation with a prospective buyer in which they have strong opinions, and do not want to lose the opportunity.

Response: “Everyone has strong feelings in this environment, so let’s focus on our goals of finding a great home for you.” (You are admitting you have strong feelings; however, you select to demonstrate respect.)

Situation/Question: How do you avoid political conversations when diverse political decisions are creating new challenges and affecting your effectiveness?

Response: Listen and respect other points of view! This is not easy! If you can’t change the subject, then suggest a time after business is conducted for a friendly get together.

Situation/Question: The topics of racism, sexism, or otherwise offensive terms always seem to come up. How do you avoid crossing the line which could damage an opportunity? 

Response: Stay neutral! Realize that comments have a lot to do with how someone was raised or chooses to be. Counter with a positive comment or carefully change the subject. If you do not plug-in, the comment will lose its momentum.

Situation/Question: How to you handle people who continuously find fault?

Response: Start by avoiding the use of blaming words. Blaming or accusing words cause an individual to become emotionally involved because they feel attacked. For example: Instead of using the phrase “you made an error,” replace it with “there seems to be a discrepancy.” It is less emotionally damaging. Focus on being helpful with a positive expression and tone of voice. And be careful not to misinterpret a well-intentioned remark. 

The ability to change the subject and redirect a “charged” extraction will serve you and your clients well.