tactless people

Dealing with tactless people takes a little insight into their behaviour. Instead of personalising their tactless remarks or behaviour, see it as an issue with them, not you.

The truth about tactless people

Some people really have no sense of what is/isn’t appropriate to discuss. There are a few reasons for this. Either they lack empathy and do not consider that their comments will be hurtful or their ‘tact filter’ is damaged in some way – perhaps due to past experiences or learned behaviour.
Whatever the reason, it can be upsetting being at the receiving end of another’s tactless comments. Often the person being tactless will mean no intentional harm and will have no idea of the damage they have caused.

Despite the fact that what they have said will have hurt or offended you, imagine this person going through life constantly uttering verbal “faux pas'” and creating unease wherever they go – that’s much more of a burden to live with.

Nurture self-belief

That is why it is so important to have a strong sense of self. This way, when others try to ruin your confidence or have a go at you, you can listen intently, take on board what they are saying but ultimately not let it destroy your confidence. Your opinion of you should always outweigh other people’s opinions of you – you make the ultimate decision as to how you wish to see yourself and define yourself.

Constructive advice/criticism (although I don’t really like the word “criticism” as it conjures up negative connotations) is always useful and can be a valuable tool in self-improvement but it is necessary to filter other people’s comments in a balanced way in order that you may benefit from an alternative perspective and use it in a positive rather than a negative way.

Don’t take the bait

When a tactless person gets a rise out of you, they have all the power. Whether they meant to press your buttons is irrelevant – they are creating an intense emotion within you. Emotional distancing is a great tactic when faced with someone who is unable to be diplomatic and/or empathetic. While emotional distancing would not be ideal in a romantic relationship, indifference where tactless people are concerned is an optimal strategy.

When we step back and disconnect, we are able to be more objective about our experience and analyse the ‘source’ in a practical and impartial manner. If you are facing regular abuse, say in the workplace, not allowing this toxic behaviour to touch you on an emotional level is a brilliant survival mechanism to get you though the day. Tactless people are merely projecting their inner chaos (and possibly their anger and frustration) on to you as they don’t have the skills to dissipate their stress pro-actively. This shows their weaknesses and flaws. Instead of taking the bait and getting upset, emotional distancing will keep you calm and in control.

The balcony or helicopter method

Another clever way to deal with tactless people is a method that therapists use called the helicopter method or the balcony method. They are similar in their approach. The ‘balcony’ is a metaphor for detaching oneself from a difficult situation. Imagine yourself on a balcony, viewing the experience from above. Putting yourself into this third-person perspective can inject some distance and help you to remain calm and more objective. The helicopter method is similar. Imagine yourself in a helicopter hovering above, looking down on the scene. This visualization technique is useful when dealing with tactless people and can help remove some of the emotion from the conflict. Seeing the bigger picture helps retain perspective and helps to create a barrier from getting ‘sucked’ into the conflict.

Tactless individuals ultimately have much more difficulty in maintaining relationships, the issue is theirs and you can take comfort from this.
Head up, maintain dignity, and do not let their thoughtless comments get to you.


Mandy X

Photo by garryknight

Mandy Kloppers
Author: Mandy Kloppers

Mandy is a qualified therapist who treats depression, anxiety, OCD, PTSD, trauma, and many other types of mental health issues. She provides online therapy around the world for those needing support and also provides relationship counselling.

1 Comment

  1. I find this a bit hurtful as I am a person who was frequently told that I was tactless in my childhood. (it’s gotten better now, though, since I don’t talk all that much to people anymore)

    I didn’t realize this, however, and while people have tried to talk to me about it, I didn’t realize what I was doing wrong. It may be that I have a lack of understanding of societal norms, but I can’t correct this problem if I don’t know what to correct.

    Can people be held responsible for something they don’t understand? I get hurt too. I don’t go out to hurt someone intentionally. I never have.

    These days I keep everything to myself. I don’t say anything unless it needs saying. I’ve been afraid of approaching people because of the fear of saying something wrong. I carefully go over what I have to say.

    Many times I’ve refrained from saying things I was supposed to say for fear of hurting them. Even if it was for their own good.

    But I sometimes get impulsive. Something slips. I’m “that tactless person” again.

    We’re not trying to actively hurt you. You were hurt by what we did, but we did not hurt you.

    So please consider that even if tactless people may or may not have understood your feelings correctly, it does not mean that their feelings are any less valid than yours.

Comments are closed.

Mandy Kloppers

Mandy is a qualified therapist who treats depression, anxiety, OCD, PTSD, trauma, and many other types of mental health issues. She provides online therapy around the world for those needing support and also provides relationship counselling.

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