I always had problems expressing how I really felt. I often vacillated between not saying what I really meant, or being too forceful when I said it, or saying ‘yes’ to requests because I didn’t know how to say ‘no’, but all of that changed when I chose to become a ‘gracious’ person.
The dictionary defines ‘gracious’ as courteous, kind, pleasant and well mannered but some dictionaries also offer a Christian version of the value ‘gracious’ as well which is: merciful, compassionate, giving, humane. This one value can embody so much.
When I first started acting on this value I modelled my behaviour on Barbara Walter’s TV interviews. I would watch her interview people on her TV show The View and I noticed how she could ask tough questions in a respectful way. When other people got louder, when they disagreed with another person’s point of view, she would get softer. When she said something challenging but didn’t want to offend that person she often lent across and touched their arm. I started modelling her behaviour and as I developed this skill I came up with my own definition to this value.
One of my life coaching students adopted this value and shared her story with us. She was booking a weekend away for her mother, sister and herself and the booking clerk on the other end of the phone was really irritable and not at all helpful. Liz’s first reaction was to get annoyed and then she remembered that she was a ‘gracious’ person. She said to the woman, ‘You must have a really difficult job’ and sympathised with her and the clerk responded by telling Liz how tough her role was at times. Liz explained that this was the first time she had been away with her mother and sister in 20 years and she wanted to make the weekend really special and without being asked the booking clerk upgraded their accommodation at no additional charge.
To me being gracious is being kind, respectful and considerate. It means really listening to another person’s point of view, even if I know that I’m not going to agree with them, because it makes the other person feel valued. Being gracious for me means considering other people’s feelings and opinions but not necessarily being swayed by them. It’s about stating your point of view in a way that respects others who may not share the same viewpoint. It is being considerate to others who may not be acting graciously.
It’s not that we treat people graciously because we want something from them, but we often get back co-operation and respect when we treat people graciously.