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Tact (also for short, tact , out of date Zartsinn ) is the colloquial term for the ability to be in contact with other people without snubbering or embarrassing them or getting too close to them inappropriately. It can also solidify into a character trait . Helmuth Plessner described the rhythm as the "eternally awake (n) respect for the other soul and thus the first and last virtue of the human heart".

Sociologically, Takt is summarized in a “set of forms of behavior for communication partners” who do not want to break through the self-portrayal of the other “and also spare them where they become unbelievable”. Part of tactful action is that it remains inconspicuous. Niklas Luhmann pointed out in his social theory “that tact is only possible through the expectation of expectations”, and that “it is not simply the fulfillment of other people's expectations”, “but rather a behavior with which A presents himself as the one that B needs as a partner in order to be able to be who he would like to present himself to A ”.

Tact, because of the necessary sensitivity in a metaphorical way, tact called, is expressed in concrete terms, both in from what is said in demand or done as well is how and when this happens, and it also plays a role, the relationship between the respective people.

Tactical behavior towards people

Sensitivity presupposes the ability to sense a measure and to respect it as a limit that cannot be crossed. This measure is different for every person and therefore cannot be determined objectively. It is acquired or strengthened by example and knowledge of the world and presupposes tolerance . It is therefore not common practice.

In 1788 Adolph Freiherr Knigge wrote in the first chapter of his book On Dealing with People :

“Never reveal the weaknesses of your neighbors in a ignoble way in order to lift yourself up! Do not draw your mistakes and aberrations to the light of day to shimmer at your expense! "

- Adolph Freiherr Knigge

and pointed out that "the art of dealing with people" can be learned:

"Those who have not been born with this happy disposition by nature, acquire a degree of suppleness, sociability, indulgence, tolerance, at the right time denial, violence over violent passions, vigilance for oneself and cheerfulness always in the same mood; and he will make that art his own; but be careful not to confuse it with the shameful, lowly courtesy of the rejected slave, who allows himself to be abused by everyone, who surrenders himself to everyone; to win a meal, to pay homage to the villain, and to receive a waitress who keeps silent about the wrong, offers his hands to cheat and adores stupidity! "

- Adolph Freiherr Knigge

Closely linked to tact is also mindfulness to avoid loss of face , which is of great importance, for example, in social interaction in Japan , China and other Asian countries.

Sense of tact in professional life

The tact is not to be confused with professional caution, empathy or restraint, although it can express itself in it. For professionals who have been trained to proceed gently , such as priests or psychoanalysts , are expected to strive to influence others.

Sense of tact in business and politics

People in managerial positions are accused of lack of tact when they exploit a position of economic or political power in a way that is considered inappropriate or that is of personal benefit to them.

In 2007, for example, Federal Economics Minister Michael Glos accused the CEO of Deutsche Post, Klaus Zumwinkel , of lack of tact with regard to the timing of the sale of shares in Post-AG.

The increase in MPs' diets planned for 2008 also aroused displeasure over a lack of tact.


Tact is used as a method of manipulating people and is based on skewing and withholding statements, while a plan of the situation must be kept secret. It is in contrast to honesty . In addition, tact undermines the trust in the other person to deal appropriately with the (subjective) truth .

Another problem with tact is that it isn't a physiological sense . Rather, tact is based on intuition and knowledge of cultural and personal relationships. Tactitude is therefore prone to cognitive distortions .

The charge of "lack of tact" is also analogous to the "lack of common sense ," as a rhetorical used tool to devalue the behavior of another person when there is a lack of objective arguments.

Individual evidence

  1. Helmuth Plessner: Limits of the community. In: Helmuth Plessner: Collected writings  V. Frankfurt / M. 1981, p. 107.
  2. ^ Hubert Driver, Rüdiger Lautmann : Beat. In: Werner Fuchs-Heinritz u. a. (Ed.): Lexicon of Sociology. 4th edition. VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, Wiesbaden 2007, p. 655.
  3. ^ Niklas Luhmann: Legal Sociology. 3. Edition. Opladen 1987, p. 36.
  4. Gerhard Strauss, Gisela Harras, Ulrike Haß: Controversial words from agitation to Zeitgeist: A lexicon for public use of language. Walter de Gruyter, 1989, p. 713.
  5. ^ Adolph Freiherr Knigge: About dealing with people in the Gutenberg-DE project
  6. Glos attacks the Post boss for selling shares , accessed on March 16, 2013
  7. Impossible Tact , Retrieved March 16, 2013
  8. ^ Brad Blanton , Radical Honesty: How to Transform Your Life by Telling the Truth . Sparrowhawk, 2005, ISBN 978-0-9706938-4-6 .
  9. John O. Stevens : The Art of Perception: Exercises in Gestalt Therapy . Kaiser, 2002, ISBN 978-3-579-02278-9 , pp. 268 (English: Awareness: Exploring, Experimenting, Experiencing .).


Web links

Wiktionary: Tactical sense  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: sensitivity  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations