The Lost Art of Tact

This article has been a long time coming. I’ve had plenty of mini-sermons to friends about this topic because literally every day in our media-saturated worlds, somebody is asserting their free speech and crowing their opinions from the rooftops. I mean, if we are being real, what else am I doing by typing this?

Yes, I had an opinion. I didn’t share it the first, or even the fifth time I felt it. I tried to think of other sides. I talked to people on other ends of the spectrum and gathered perspective. Still, I landed on a conclusion that feels right to me, and now I am here mindfully sharing it. That is tact. Tact has all but disappeared, becoming a vague grey-area between, “I believe this but am to socially anxious to share” and “I am having a snap response to something, I am going to assert it immediately, to everyone!”

People no longer speak up when it’s time to, leaving injustice bare in the open daylight with no sense of responsibility towards the situation. In contradiction, however, you’ll find that the average person is more than comfortable making definitive statements based on pure anecdote. Not only are they fluent in turning their experience into a hard and fast rule of the workings of the Universe, they then proceed to thoughtlessly enforce this worldview in the way of judgement, preaching blanket statements (if you do this, you’re this), and enacting a sort of misguided vigilante justice by socially or indirectly punishing the person (don’t help the addicts; just let them overdose. Problem solved.)

In an increasingly bi-partisan culture with a volatile political climate, our modern era is the ideal breeding ground for black-and-white mentalities. We see this in full force in the online mommy-culture’s “Mom Wars” where women with children form and re-form the perceived standards for a “good”, or even a “good enough” parent. You find your friends, who are usually very open-minded and compassionate, grouping human beings together like they’re fruit: the bruised, the ok-to-eat, the ideal, the inedible or rotten. “Stop raising a society of {insert negative descriptor here}, start {parenting practice that worked well for me} like a real mother!!!” is a common formula in mommy-war-doctrine. Ironically these assertions are written by blogging mothers who are filled with insecurity and self doubt, thus they need to set the universal standard to right where they are personally at, as if to assert to the internet: “SEE?! I’m adequate! Look at Nancy! I’m more adequate than her which makes me adequate!!”

Nicole Arbour, a famous YouTuber who rose to internet stardom with her crass, mostly thoughtless rant about obesity titled: “Dear Fat People”, is a perfect example of how our modern sense of entitlement, specifically when it comes to sharing our thoughts and beliefs, can not only be harmful to society and the people around us but can also encourage ignorance, a lack of empathy, and an inability to see things from the perspectives of others. When asked in an interview by Time Magazine about the hurt she caused many people struggling with weight issues with her insult-laden satirical rant, she shrugged it off. “I find seeing someone’s head blown off as offensive,” she asserts. “I find children starving in a country with more than enough food offensive. I find women’s bodies being mutilated for religious purposes offensive. But words and satire I do not find offensive.”

Anyone capable of critical reading can already spot that she didn’t address the feelings of her audience whatsoever, even though that was the subject of the question asked. When it was brought to her attention that she’d indirectly harmed another human being, her first thought was, “well it wasn’t offensive to me, so it’s not offensive”.

This is a lack of tact. This is a demonstration of how our once-shared experience in this life has become a fend-for-yourself emotional free-for-all, where if you don’t grow a “thicker skin” you are somehow weak and inferior. Even our president, Donald Trump, is inciting a cultural expectation to be able to assert a very isolated personal experience as a global fact, and then enforce that standard on the rest of the world with no regard for the different perspectives that hold equal merit to ours. The insult-word “snowflake”, which once referred to a basic person who believes themselves to be very unique and extraordinary, has been adopted by political parties on both sides to describe the tactful millennial; If a young person speaks up for someone other than the aforementioned starving and mutilated that Ms. Arbour so charitably concerns herself with, they are considered over-sensitive. The plights of people of color, LGBTQ, the over-weight, the oppressed female – these are the cares of the weak-minded in our new society void of empathy.

Tact blossoms beautifully in an environment rich with self-understanding and humility. It’s the rot of arrogance and narcissism that breeds tactless, entitled behavior concerning the feelings and experiences of others. “I am entitled to speak my opinion”, these thick-skinned keyboard warriors may spout. This is true; However, a locked-up mentality of “my-view-is-the-truth” will inevitably lead to a disconnected generation of lonely, “opinionated” people who can’t get out of their own way when it comes to relating to other people, and maintaining healthy relationships with plenty of give-and-take. Essentially, we are breeding a climate of narcissists with megaphones, who are shouting down anyone who asks them to “please maybe turn the volume down”.

If we could all ask ourselves, “is this True? Is it Helpful? Is it Inspiring? Is it Necessary to say? Is it Kind?” before sharing our opinions, I think we would find that not only are our opinions just as potent and powerful as they would have been screeched from the roof tops, but people tune in more often, and they listen more closely, because you are no longer the hateful royal entity that casts judgment and fire over the little people below for arbitrary rules that don’t apply to everyone. You are now the gentle monk, offering wisdom when requested, speaking out clearly on injustice, and holding unnecessary criticism inside for retrospection because it’s old spiritual knowledge that our desire to judge and criticize others is a direct reflection of our own insecurity and inner turmoil.

Just because you have an opinion doesn’t mean you must share it. Publicly, online, to strangers, to the general public. We all have plenty left to learn, and we all must work to close the growing gap between our narrow perspectives and the experiences of others. Vulnerability is a gift but, in a “thick-skinned” world, to be vulnerable and empathetic is an unbearable, tumultuous existence. The vulnerable and the sensitive are committing suicide, escaping their “excessive emotions” through addictions, eventually to be weeded out and extinct amongst the crabs of this world, who will be pinching eternally from the safety of their isolated shells.





Author: fibbyland

I am a yoga-doing, potion-making, pep-talking henna witch who has random bits of whatever to share 🌻

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