It cannot be denied that tact is a virtue. The sort of person who always manages to blurt out the tactless thing, apparently by accident, is a person full of dislike of his or her fellow creatures. But although tact is a virtue, it is very closely allied to certain vices; the line between tact and hypocrisy is a very narrow one. I think the distinction comes in the motive: when it is kindliness that makes us wish to please, our tact is the right sort; when it is fear of offending, or desire to obtain some advantage by flattery, our tact is apt to be of a less amiable kind. Men accustomed to difficult negotiations learn a kind of tenderness towards the vanity of others and indeed towards all their prejudices, which is infinitely shocking to those who make a cult of sincerity.
Source: Mortals and Others, v.1, 1975
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