How to be more gracious

I’ve been thinking about graciousness lately. A characteristic that I think is so important in our dealings with others – whether it’s coworkers, friends or family. Being gracious was not something I was taught growing up. My dad role modeled some aspects of graciousness but it wasn’t until I became an adult that I started to notice the importance and impact of grace.

What exactly is graciousness? There are many aspects to the word. I asked my Facebook friends what the word means to them and I received several different responses. When you are gracious you have these traits:

Consideration

You consider the feelings of others and avoid being hurtful or making someone uncomfortable. You think about someone’s needs and how you can make others feel at ease. Here’s an example: A friend attended an event that was very popular. There were only a few chairs available before the presentation started including one that was next to her. Since she was in the middle of the audience she knew it would be hard for someone to get through the crowd to reach the chair. When she saw an older woman come in the door she picked up the chair and brought it to the new attendee. The woman who received the chair was so touched by my friend’s thoughtfulness and effort to help her. My friend exhibited great consideration in that moment.

Humility

Being humble means you don’t brag, you don’t flout what you have or what you’ve accomplished. You value others and realize we are all equals no matter someone’s wealth, success, job, position or address. At a presentation with a panel of speakers at the World Trade Center Seattle, one of the panelists would often acknowledge what a previous panelist said before sharing his thoughts on the question. He was exhibiting humility and it showed he was a team player who saw value in the other panelist’s answers.

Empathy

The word empathy means having the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. You realize when someone is in pain, embarrassed or hurt and you are able to put yourself in their shoes. It also means you allow others to “save face.” Here’s a great example: My friend and colleague Beth Buelow was a speaker at Ignite – a curated speaking opportunity where you have five minutes to speak and show 20 slides that are automatically advanced every 15 seconds. The speaker before Beth had the misfortune of having her slides accidentally mixed up by the organizers so her whole presentation was thrown off. She seemed very flustered and uncomfortable as she tried to make sense of her slides. Beth was the next speaker and even though she had only 15 seconds before her first slide would advance to the next one she acknowledged the last speaker for hanging in there in a difficult situation and asked for a round of applause for her. It was a classic example of empathy and helping someone save face.

Thoughtful

Someone who is gracious is careful how they treat others. They are often other focused and think kindly of others. Here’s an example of thoughtfulness in action. My husband and I were sitting at the dining room table eating Good and Plenty candies (a childhood favorite). We both had a few lined up in front of us. I dropped one of mine on the floor and he picked it up, added it to his pile and gave me one of his clean ones. There’s a reason I married that thoughtful man!!

Welcoming

You put others at ease and make people feel comfortable and cared for. A welcoming person makes an effort to introduce you to the person he is talking to or smiles and acknowledges you when she sees you, whether stranger or friend.

Grateful

Another trait of graciousness is being grateful. You say thank you when others do something nice for you and you don’t take things for granted. I belong to a gratitude texting group. At the end of every day we text what we are grateful for. It helps me to reflect on my day and focus on the blessings I have rather than on what I don’t have or the difficult aspects of the day. I also try to write handwritten thank you notes to express my appreciation for gifts, favors and dinner parties we are invited to. I feel good about myself when I take a few minutes to express my thanks, even with my awful handwriting, because I know my card will bring a little lift to the person receiving it.

Poised

A person who is gracious is not easily ruffled or visibly affected by difficult situations. Poised people keep their stress to themselves and stay calm. Someone who has poise also exhibits good posture and moves fluidly.

I strive to be more gracious because I believe it’s a noble way to live your life, and I am always drawn to gracious people. Here’s one last example of graciousness in action. A friend sent me a beautiful flower arrangement when I was recovering from hip replacement surgery. Normally I am very good about sending thank you notes but I think in the fog of my recovery I forgot to do so. I did say thank you via a text with a picture of the flowers, but I’m pretty sure I neglected to send a handwritten note. When I was having lunch with my friend a few weeks later I thanked her again for the flowers and mentioned that I thought I hadn’t sent a thank you note to her. She replied that I had, but I know she was just being gracious, allowing me to save face. Grace is a beautiful trait!!

 

 

 


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Arden

Arden Clise is founder and president of Clise Etiquette. Her love for business etiquette began in previous jobs when she was frequently asked for etiquette, public speaking and business attire advice by executives and board members. The passion for etiquette took hold and compelled Arden to start a consulting business to help others. Read more >>

10 Comments

  1. Nan on August 6, 2019 at 9:21 am

    Wonderful post. Really needed to read this. It’s beautifully written and is a nice counter to the news. Big thank you.



  2. Arden on August 11, 2019 at 8:58 pm

    Thank you for reading the post Nan. I appreciate your kind remarks.



  3. Nancy Hansen on August 19, 2019 at 4:46 am

    Kudos on another well-written article; love the use of examples. Thank you.



  4. Arden on August 26, 2019 at 9:20 pm

    Thank you Nancy. I’m glad you enjoyed the post.



  5. Stephanie on October 13, 2019 at 7:07 pm

    I really liked this post. My late aunt was a model of graciousness. She was always welcoming, kind, pleasant, and thoughtful. I always considered her the matriarch of the family. If there was anyone that I would love to strive to be like it would be her. What a great change there could be in our society if we could all could take those 7 characteristics and find ways to apply them in our lives. Thank you for a thought provoking post.



  6. Arden on October 23, 2019 at 9:55 am

    Thanks for stopping by Stephanie. How nice to have such a gracious aunt.



  7. Damian galvin on January 5, 2020 at 4:19 pm

    Excellent read. Thank you.



  8. Sarcastic Lives Matter on February 12, 2020 at 1:59 pm

    Great read…and quite accurately describes Trump – no?

    Jokes aside, I found this after a web search looking for exactly this. For something so very important in our relationships, it’s becoming increasingly rare. There is a very real “graciousness-deficit” in my marriage, and I struggle with how to convey my need for more of this – so much more of exactly this.

    Thank you for articulating it so well.



  9. Elissa J Freeman on January 1, 2021 at 4:06 pm

    Lovely article, thank you, Arden. I have a question about your last point where your friend said you’d sent her a handwritten message when you hadn’t. I must admit, I struggled with this.

    Honesty is a high value for me and if I cared about my friend I would have told the truth, If I were your friend in this situation, I would have said the handwritten message didn’t arrive however I completely understand considering you were in a fog, I didn’t expect anything and your lovely text and photo you sent was more than enough thanks.

    I have been known as a blunt person, however, my friends and family know they will always get the truth from me. I am a life coach and have had a thriving business for the past 12 years. One of the attributes my clients are grateful for is when I call it as it is. With love of course. This has created positive and significant change for them.

    My question is, where do you draw the line between honesty and lies? I’m all for growing more gracious, but not at the expense of honesty.

    I really hope you can answer this, as this question has never been clearly answered for me.

    If my friend had been “gracious” and not told me the truth about me sending a handwritten note when I hadn’t, how could I believe anything else they told me. For me, the relationship would be shallow and not have the depth that truth brings to a friendship.

    Where does graciousness end and lies begin?

    For me, your points on consideration, humility, empathy, thoughtfulness, welcoming, and gratefulness all show integrity but not your point on poise.

    I’m looking forward to hearing your opinion.

    Love
    Elissa



  10. Arden on January 5, 2021 at 9:03 am

    Hello Elissa,

    Thank you for your comments and your question. I can see where there might be confusion when it comes to being honest about something. Here’s a way to look at it. It is okay to tell a little white lie if it is to keep from hurting someone, like my friend did for me when I mentioned the handwritten note. She could have said she hadn’t received the note, but for what purpose? I would have felt badly that I had forgotten to send it and that she had noticed. I probably would have spent most of the lunch worrying and berating myself for not sending it. On the other hand, if a lie is to protect yourself (or to CYA) then it’s not appropriate. Honesty is the best policy as long as it doesn’t hurt someone else. As a coach, people pay you to be honest with them, I’m sure you do so in a kind and thoughtful way and help them to see their gifts as well, so it is appropriate. I hope that answers your question.



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