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:
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.
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.
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.
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!!
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.
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.
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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