Using Tact When Giving Design Advice

Using Tact When Giving Design Advice

Marcia Prentice
Mar 18, 2010

As an interior design student, we often get cornered with the dangerous question, "What do you think about the way I decorated my home? Be honest!" Unfortunately, usually when someone asks the question, the real answer they are fishing for is not an honest assessment, but praise. How to answer this question while still being tactful and maintaining friendships can be a fine line to walk.

Yesterday, we wrote a controversial post about our personal opinion about paint color preferences...which was a glaring example of what can and will go wrong when tact is ignored. Have you ever been in a similar situation, where you realized you said too much and wish there was an "undo" button? It can be an embarrassing and humbling experience, as it was for us.

We noted all the readers' valid comments and feedback and realized we had offended someone's personal style of decor, which defeated the purpose of the post because it put readers on the defense instead of offering usable and helpful information. As many noted, interior design is so subjective and personal, so it can be tricky to navigate while giving straightforward and personalized advice. However, we do realize how important it is to express a personal opinion or suggestion in a matter that is not overly judgmental and non-offensive, whether we are communicating with a friend, a client, or even a reader on this site.

What are your great tips for telling a close friend an honest opinion about the style of their personal space? When do you tell the real truth and when do you restrain from speaking with complete honesty?

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