Think of a person who embodies graciousness. What personal characteristics come to mind? How do you experience that person?
On the other hand, think of the polar opposite of graciousness. A person with such a disposition typically is self-centered, brusque, irritable, and shows very little gratitude. He/she expects loyalty from others but does not give it in return. After you have had an encounter this person you feel empty, rejected, isolated, and ignored.
I recently asked a friend to describe the essence of a leader he deeply admired. The answer was that this person showed unconditional acceptance towards others and consistently sought to contribute to the common good. He also did not use people, rip them off financially, and use them for his own ego and selfish needs. In other words, he is gracious.
Here are some behaviors I have seen in gracious people.
- A prominent politician who took time at a public function to focus on what I was telling her despite the fact that everyone also was clamoring for her attention. She also offered encouragement for my comparatively meager political activism.
- A very busy CEO who responded immediately to my email requesting information about his key leadership best practices
- A stranger from Mexico who greeted us at a restaurant table with a “buen provecho”. (By the way, this is typical social protocol in Mexico)
- A friend who noticed that a stranger was feeling “down” and offered a word of encouragement
In all cases, the gracious person responded with generosity, consideration, and courtesy. They gave of themselves and their time.
Many of us, distracted by busyness and self-preoccupation, forget to be gracious. But such consideration for others can be a choice. Of course, the bigger the differences between ourselves and others (political and cultural), the more challenging graciousness becomes.
But eventually habits can become engrained in our character.
How have you chosen to be gracious?
Where have you observed graciousness in others?