What Happened to the Wonderful World of Tact & Diplomacy?

Handshake, manners, introductions, tact, diplomacy, leadership

Youth Get a Bad Rep

Listening about a new program coming to the educational institute I work for, my attention was peaked when the coordinator said there would be a class to teach “tact and diplomacy”.   I was intrigued because I am in the business of image, etiquette and leadership in my side hustle, VNC Image and Leadership.   Tact and diplomacy are things I teach or talk about.

In my opinion, the basics of manners, protocol, image and respect (the precursors to tact and diplomacy) are in demand in this world we live in.  I noticed it when I was an employment counsellor. Clients would smell like marijuana smoke, slouch , wipe their noses on their sleeves and be not be able to get through a sentence without using curse words.  Of course, I paint a picture of the most needy clients of tact and diplomacy but there were many who just didn’t know what they didn’t know.   Simple tips for making a good impression and earning credibility were never taught, modelled or reinforced.

tact, diplomacy, respect, civility,

To me, including “tact and diplomacy” in a college degree program was a great idea to address this simple but overlooked gap in our current society. It got me to thinking, however, “why is this such an issue today”?  After some consideration, I came up with a list of what I thought could be causing the shift away from these essential life skills.  I am not an expert and have not done empirical research but based on years of observation and discussions, I came up, what I think, might be possible contributors to this phenomenon.

Busy parents

It’s a busy world with many households having 1 or 2 working parents. These parents then have to manage the household, volunteer commitments and children’s extra-curricular schedule.  With all the commitments and pressure to be all to all, the time and opportunity to teach and model tact and diplomacy is significantly less than our generational seniors.  Not-to-mention, much time is spent outside the home or with other care providers, where external influences can affect behaviour; some of which, may not be favourable.

Lack of structured religion

Typically, good things come out of regular church attendance despite one’s stance on religion or faith.  There is a common practice in most faiths to preach The Golden Rule, “do unto others as you would have done unto you”.  It fosters community, provides a spiritual connection, reinforces social and civic duty and allows for the facilitation of gratitude and respect.  With the decline in church attendance over the past several decades, this is a resource that isn’t being accessed or introduced to our young to enlighten them on such things.

Decorum or comportment aren’t taught in school todayTea time

My parents and grandparents talked about classes in decorum and/or comportment. There were regular inspections on one’s wardrobe, posture or etiquette.  They hated them but indicated they were important for how they developed as individuals.  It came down to respect.  Respect for oneself and respect for others.  Paying attention to wardrobe, posture and etiquette instills self-care skills that aid in the development of self esteem.  It also demonstrates an awareness of the impact of behaviour and/or communication on others.  Once a part of the daily school routine, now is left to parents and care providers to instill.  Those not equipped with the information or the healthy self concept,  may not be able to educate the new generation with these important attributes.

Helicopter parenting 

Many events, trends and the availability of research data, has contributed to the phenomenon known as “helicopter parenting“.  Parents feel they have to take an active role in ensuring the safety of their children. Children are never to be left alone before the age of 10.  Play grounds have guidelines so that no child shall ever be harmed lest a liability suit ensue.  All children must receive trophies at the end of a sports season so no one feels the pain of losing.  As a result, unfortunately, this “helicopter parenting” has taken away the opportunity for them to develop physical independence as well as independence of thought. They cannot learn to problem-solve or troubleshoot if they have limited failures  to teach them what-not-to-do.    They cannot explore boundaries and learn control and self-monitoring if they cannot be free to make the mistakes that lead to ultimate success.  Many youth today develop a sense of entitlement because of the overprotective nature of parenting today.  When safety, comfort and decisions and are provided unconditionally, the learned behaviour is these commodities should always be available.


As our society embraces new or varied cultures, the lines of understanding of what is respectful or civil may become blurred.  What was once considered polite and cordial to some may not be considered the same to others if they have a different understanding or perspective.  A new sensitivity and openness to these different perspectives are quickly becoming a necessity as our world becomes more globalized.


The impact of technology on our lives becomes more apparent and comes at us at a much quicker pace than ever before.  It changes the way we communicate no doubt.  A dichotomy of respect has emerged between those who are having to embrace newer and quicker technologies and those who are born into it and don’t need to embrace for it is their world.  Many adults complain that technology creates disrespect when it is used in place of face-to-face communication.  Youth today, don’t necessarily regard technology use as rude because this what they know and this is how they communicate.  Because technology has moved in (what seems) so quickly, it is changing the rules of etiquette and courtesy when it comes to communication.

Curious to learn more about Tact and Diplomacy?  Head over to The Art of Tact and Diplomacy.

Vicki Noels-Cornish

An effervescent personality with a passion for courtesy,manners and civility. Leadership Consultant specializing in image, leadership and career development

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