My struggle with being gracious

LoveSelfishnessSometimes it’s hard for me to be gracious. Yes, I’m afraid it’s true. I can be selfish, and sometimes I struggle with being patient.

Recently, my book group had a scarf exchange. Most of the members of the group regularly wear scarves and they always look nice. I only had one scarf to exchange because I was not gifted with scarf wearing know how. Somehow, I always feel dorky when I wear a scarf. Like I’m a scarf savvy imposter but who looks anything but. Part of it was having the right scarf.

The scarf I had wasn’t a good fit for me, so I was happy to donate it to the cause. We all hung our scarves on a clothes drying rack and debated how to proceed with the exchanging. I thought we had a system but next thing I know people were grabbing the scarves and trying them on. Not one to lose an opportunity I did the same. I had had my eye on a couple of scarves that I thought would look good on me. One was a lovely long royal blue one that would bring out the blue in my eyes.

I thought once we laid claim on a scarf it was ours to take home unless we determined it didn’t really look good on us. I went into the bathroom to see how it looked in the mirror. Another woman who wasn’t part of the initial scarf grabbing asked if she could try the blue scarf on. I handed it to her, inside praying she didn’t want it. It did look good on her. But, instead of graciously saying the scarf suited her and that she should have it, I asked if I could have it back. She chided me in a nice way and said I asked for it in such a diplomatic way.

I wrapped it around my neck and willed her to not ask for it again. I wanted it. But, I sensed she really wanted it. Part of me felt uncomfortable with my unwillingness to part with it. Another part of me felt I had acquired it fair and square. We didn’t discuss it again and I left with the blue scarf tied around my neck.

When I got home I shared the experience with my husband. Eric is always gracious and never selfish. He said I should have encouraged her to keep it when she tried it on. Oh boy, did that make me feel bad. I had been selfish. I did know better, but I wanted that scarf.

I mulled it over for a month until our next book group meeting. I decided that it was absolutely silly for me to be so covetous with a scarf. I reminded myself that I could buy another one just as nice. So, I pulled it out of my closet and gave it to my book group friend. She seemed pleased and I felt much better.

As an etiquette consultant I talk about graciousness a lot. Being gracious is a lovely way to live. It is essentially putting others first. But, as you can see, I have my shortcomings. What helped me in this situation was remembering it was just a scarf and feeling the satisfaction of seeing someone happy. It really didn’t matter that much and was certainly not worth hurting someone’s feelings over.

How about you? How would you have handled this situation? Are there certain circumstances that make it easier or harder for you to be gracious?


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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 >>

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