As a product manager or product owner responsible for software-based solutions, one of the critical challenges you face is managing stakeholder requests and prioritizing features or enhancements. Saying “no” to customer wishes, user requests, or any other stakeholder demands requires finesse and tact. While the attribution of the following quote is uncertain, its essence captures the art of tactful prioritization:

Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip.

Winston Churchill

Let’s explore how this concept of tact applies to the realm of product management and handling stakeholder expectations.

Balancing stakeholder needs

As a product manager, you encounter various stakeholders with different priorities, ranging from customers to internal teams. Tactful prioritization involves skillfully evaluating and considering the impact of each request while understanding the broader vision and goals of the product. Communicating the reasons behind prioritization decisions in a tactful manner helps stakeholders recognize the value of the product’s direction and fosters trust in your decision-making process.

Nurturing customer relationships

Customers often express their desires for additional features or modifications that align with their immediate needs. However, it is crucial to balance these requests against the overall product strategy and roadmap. By using tactful communication, product managers can empathize with customer wishes, explain the prioritization rationale, and propose alternative solutions or future considerations. This approach preserves positive customer relationships while maintaining the product’s long-term vision and value.

Collaborating with development teams

Development teams play a crucial role in implementing product features and enhancements. When it comes to prioritization decisions, it is essential to engage in open and respectful dialogue with the development team members. Tactfully communicating the reasoning behind prioritization helps align their efforts with the product strategy, manage expectations, and foster a collaborative environment focused on delivering the most impactful solutions.

Managing user requests

User feedback and feature requests provide valuable insights for product improvement. However, not all requests can be accommodated due to resource constraints or misalignment with the product’s vision. Tactful handling of user requests involves active listening, acknowledging their input, and transparently explaining the prioritization process. By providing clear explanations and potential alternatives, product managers can maintain user engagement, manage expectations, and nurture a sense of partnership in the product’s evolution.

Stakeholder communication

Effectively communicating prioritization decisions to stakeholders requires finesse. Tactful messaging emphasizes the strategic direction of the product, the value it brings, and the rationale behind specific prioritization choices. By fostering a culture of transparency and understanding, product managers can gain stakeholder support and ensure a shared vision of success.


In the realm of product management, tactful prioritization is an essential skill. Saying “no” to stakeholder requests while preserving relationships and trust is a delicate balancing act. By employing tactful communication, product managers can navigate the landscape of competing demands, align stakeholders with the product’s strategic vision, and foster collaboration among teams. Through this approach, stakeholders can appreciate the journey of decision-making, enabling them to see the value in the prioritization choices and fostering a productive partnership for the success of the software-based solution.