I once sat in an arbitration hearing where an unrepresented party was grumpily babbling over a number of trivial irrelevancies that were wearing on my nerves. This particular instance left me wishing that there was something I could do to object but I wasn’t officially anyone’s legal counsel so all I could do was sit on my hands and bite my tongue … and wonder why someone didn’t do something about this wasted venting. Sure, everyone deserves their day in court but occasionally, people think that this means that they can download a slew of personal problems that have little or nothing to do with the dispute at hand. Then, Mary Hoagland came to my rescue. I don’t know how she did it or by what magical means she defused the situation but somehow, she turned this angry person into a completely docile puppy dog. I don’t recall exactly what she said but it was probably something like “thank you, we have enough information to make our decision” (coupled with a smile) but the essence of the comment seemed to be “we’ve heard enough; you can shut up now.” I turned my gaze to the person that had been venting his frustrations to see how he might respond. I expected him to be offended, upset, and otherwise more angry than he had been a moment before – after all, he was no longer getting his day in court. Instead, Mary’s smile completely charmed him into submission. He responded with a polite thank you and sat back in his seat.  I was floored at her talent.  Had I said what she said, he would have jumped over the table and started swinging.  Witnessing that kind of psionic mind control nearly inspired me to write a fantasy story!

It was that moment that made me realize that although I may have a number of talents in my arsenal, tact and diplomacy have not seen fit to settle into that basket of mine. Indeed, it seems that I’m quite talented with the inverse of these virtues! Surely, these are skills involved in gaining these virtues but a bit of talent doesn’t  seem to hurt. Indeed, Isaac Newton wisely noted that:

Tact is the knack of making a point without making an enemy.

By “knack,” I’m sure that he meant that it takes more talent than skill … at least, that’s my lame excuse for not being any better at diplomacy!


the image is from the Quote Factory. They have a lot of quotes and sell cool posters for their quotes – apparently, someone decided to change one word and then make the quote anonymous instead of attributing it to Isaac Newton but it looks really nice.

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