In today’s edgy world of reality television, radio shock-jocks, larger-than-life athletes and attention-seeking activists, it would appear that old-fashion concepts like ‘charm’ and ‘dignity’ have become something of a lost art. While it’s no doubt true that excessiveness and outrageousness will get you attention, the fact is that nothing beats graciousness as a way to create a strong personal image and positive, long-lasting relationships.
The root of graciousness lies in an outward focus – the willingness to put the needs and desires of others ahead of your own. Graciousness is about making other people comfortable. It’s like a mirror which reflects back to other people the things which they hold most dear. It begins with your attitude and the consistent practice of a few core principles. Here are five critical rules of graciousness:
1. Listen intently to people. Engage them with your eyes. Listen much more than you talk.
2. Keep your opinions to yourself, but be eager to listen to those of others. You don’t have to agree with them, but you do have to always politely acknowledge them. When you are asked your opinion, be honest, but be sure to frame it in such a way that it doesn’t create discomfort.
3. Make a point to gently flatter people. Don’t gush; don’t go over the top – but make other people feel better about themselves. Make sure it’s genuine.
4. Be responsive. When someone tells a joke, laugh. If they are telling a sad story, be sad. If they are happy, be happy. Graciousness and stoicism are mutually exclusive.
5. Be at peace with yourself. Accept compliments humbly, and acknowledge your frailties with a smile.
Graciousness is hard to fully embrace sometimes. It can seem counterintuitive as a success strategy, particularly when others seem to have adopted an abrasive, in-your-face approach. If you’re ever uncertain, remember the lesson from the school yard: The class clown may get the attention, but it’s the class act who gets ahead.