What is graciousness? Is it a physical trait? Do we look to Audrey Hepburn or Grace Kelly?
Graciousness is more than physical, it is behavioral. Graciousness is the ability to be pleasant, kind, and courteous. Recently, I experienced both sides of this coin. I had someone, whom I admire, reach out to me and share her gracious manner and heart. This left me feeling uplifted and energized. It also left me feeling more able and willing to share with others. On the other hand, I have had a few others show me their thoughtless and discourteous side. This left me feeling angry and hurt. It also left me feeling more self-focused and less likely to reach out to others.
Does it sometimes seem that we are losing a little bit of common courtesy and kindness in our everyday living? Our media seems to prize characters that are blunt, flippant, insincere and even rude. Social media seems to take the place of face-to-face interaction. Digital faces are more important than physical ones. I have found myself doing this. It is easier to shoot a text message instead of sending a thank you card. Sometimes I don’t want to talk to others (classic introvert behavior) so I ignore others’ social cues and hide out in my own little world.
But, I must admit, I love the art of graciousness. I love to be around gracious people. They make me feel uplifted. They make me feel interesting. They leave me feeling better about myself. I want to be that kind of person.
Our present media and culture is surrounded in self-centered and ungracious behavior. Go and read the comments on your local news media site and you will see. Enter Facebook, and you will surely see. It appears that we get mixed up understanding the difference between expressing an honest opinion and being rude. I don’t expect everyone to agree with me on a variety of topics, but I would hope we could disagree pleasantly. I even expect to disagree with others, but sometimes the saying, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all” truly applies.
I want to be gracious. I want to surround myself with graciousness.
After a little experience and some research, I have come up with ten tips to becoming more gracious:
1. Learn to say and accept two words: Thank you. Being gracious involves the ability to say thank you. Thank you for coming. Thank you for the compliment. Thank you for listening. Thank you for being there. This is one that I have to work on. I struggle with accepting a compliment. I am certain I have offended people because I have brushed off their graciousness. Learning to accept compliments and say “Thank you” is definitely a gracious act. Practice. Even if you think you look terrible and your hair is a mess, when someone gives you a compliment, say it: “Thank you.” You’re welcome.
2. Be on time. This is another one I have had to work on. I didn’t see it. I didn’t see how rude and inconsiderate of another being late was. I was just busy and couldn’t make it. More recently, I have learned the importance of being on time. Occasionally there is a reason and excuse for being late. We have all experienced that. But being regularly and inexcusably late is unacceptable. Change your alarm. Set a reminder. Practice being on time and make it a priority. When others are waiting for you, remember that they live very busy and full lives as well. Being on time is a gracious act.
3. Pay attention. Put your focus on the person you are speaking with in the moment. Pay attention to the details. Listen to what they are saying to you. Listening is a skill. It takes patience and understanding. But, don’t we all like to be heard? We all like to feel that people care about us and are interested in our lives. We can do this by paying attention.
4. Put away the media. If you are visiting with someone, put away your phone. Shut off the television. The emails, social media updates, and t.v. shows will wait, and they certainly aren’t more important than another person. I remember sitting at lunch with someone who I was so excited to spend time with. I had looked forward to the lunch and time together for a long time. During the entire lunch, my companion was on his phone, checking emails, responding to texts, and otherwise occupied. I felt hurt and disappointed. The lunch was wasted and time was gone. Although we need our phones for emergencies, other things will wait. Turn on the vibrate, and put it out of sight. Those things will wait. Make time for a friendship.
5. Make eye contact. Look at someone when you are speaking with them. Make eye contact. You will be surprised at how much more you remember and see when you make eye contact with another person. You will see if they are interested. You may see if they are tired or uncomfortable. When you make eye contact, you not only show interest in another person, but it also allows you to see more of them. I have learned that I remember more when I make eye contact with another person. I also feel more of their emotions when I do. Remember the phrase, “The eyes are a window to the soul”? Well, there is much truth to that.
6. Be nice. Maybe I am oversimplifying here, but being nice goes a long way towards graciousness. It means saying nice things, giving compliments, it being generally pleasant to be around. Be nice. You learned it in kindergarten. Apply now and repeat.
7. Be sincere. Being gracious doesn’t mean being fake. Being gracious means being sincerely interested in others around you. Don’t fake it or give unnecessary and insincere compliments. We all can see through those from a mile away. Be nice and be honest. There are often several nice things that go through our minds that we don’t say out loud. Practice saying those things to others. It may feel vulnerable or risky, but we all like hearing nice things about ourselves. And, this is gracious behavior!!
8. Remember the details. This goes along with paying attention. Remember little things: when they are going to the doctor for that appointment they are worried about, their birthday, their name. We all want to be remembered. Some people say they just can’t remember names or other things about people. There is some truth to that, but remembering details is also a sign of what is important to you. When you pay attention, and make an effort to make it important to you, you will be more likely to remember things about others around you.
If you don’t remember or your mind goes blank, don’t avoid the person. Approach, introduce, and kindly ask for a reminder. Say something like: “I remember you, but can’t seem to find your name. I’m Elizabeth.” Most people will kindly introduce themselves and begin a conversation.
9. Follow up. When you get down the knack for paying attention and remembering, follow up. When you see them again, ask about their birthday. Ask about their doctor’s appointment, or their kids. This is gracious and helps show others that you truly care for them.
10. “Build up” instead of “one up”. This is so important. We live in a world of tooting your own horn: Be first, be the best! Be perfect. Well, I have lived several years, and still haven’t met a perfect person. Not one. I have been in conversations where I left feeling “one-upped” by another. I left feeling down. We don’t need to see conversation as a competition.
Think about those conversations that you left feeling the best. I imagine you felt listened to, cared about, uplifted, understood, and considered in those conversations. When you are speaking with another, find a way to leave them feeling better than when you found them. Don’t leave them worried about the team that their child didn’t make or that new car that they couldn’t afford. Leave them grateful that they are your friend, and that you are lucky to have them in your life. Always leave them feeling greater, not less than.
These are things that I have to work on. Being gracious is nearing a lost art. We are becoming more self-centered, more disconnected, and more inconsiderate. I fall short all the time, but liked having a reminder that being gracious is an art.
Did you have someone show graciousness in your life this week? Feel free to share in the comments!!