Perhaps if you were to think of grace, you would picture elegance at a dance or ball … something old-school that reminds you of the past. That is a form of grace, that elegance and presence that allows one to carry him or herself with dignity. No matter the circumstances.
Grace is not given. Grace is created and mastered through, sadly, missteps and mishaps, disappointments and revivals. Grace is cultivated from the sense of being humbly confident and confidently humble.
Grace often is not speaking, and sometimes, speaking up for others. Grace is saying something to ease a situation, or not saying anything, as to not hinder progress. Grace is neither weakness nor apathy. Grace is generous in thoughtfulness, and care, while knowing the why and how to allow things to move forward, all without a desire for credit or appreciation.
Grace need not be “put on” but rather it can be a cultivated characteristic you have for everyday living. And yet that grace, that part of our being that we strive to have is rarely as needed as it is in difficult situations and with challenging people.
The art of gracefulness is the ability to harness three things: awareness, agility and advancement. These can be exercised by assessing a situation for who, what and how things are moving, and then considering other options, all sides, and a way to either engage or disengage a heated disagreement. And finally, through assisting/guiding others forward without making things seem awkward or uncomfortable.
Examples of when to engage this three-step approach to not saying or doing something you might regret are:
• When you see a former client with a competitor.
• If you find yourself in a political discussion that is not going smoothly.
• In a conversation where someone is insulting something, or someone, you believe in (or even you or your company).
• Where you find yourself with someone who is down and negative or completely cocky and self-absorbed.
• At an event where someone has been overserved and may now be overstepping his/her boundaries.
How you may find it best to call on your grace muscle, so to speak, is to consider: taking a breath, appreciating who you are and all you have, deciding what this situation or conversation is worth, giving the other person your empathy and thinking where she or he may be coming from and thinking about what might happen if you don’t offer some grace.
Starting a comment with something like “Appreciating you have a lot to offer on this … ,” or “Considering there are so many wonderful ways to … ,” or “That’s something to consider, and how about XYZ?” will give someone an option to pivot themselves. Even a smile and a suggestion that you will take that person to meet someone will get him or her out of the environment and away from more confrontation.
What if the person who stumbled was you? That is the ultimate measure of grace. Say you made a mistake, misspoke or introduced someone by the wrong name or company (all of which I have done), simply own it by saying, “Please forgive me” (not “I’m sorry”), being brief, making no excuses and correcting your error for that person.
Similarly, should someone make small-minded comments, or insult you directly or passive-aggressively, that person is likely attempting to get a rise out of you. Think long term and then thank that person for letting you know where she or he stands. Defend almost nothing (unless it is horrifically wrong, datawise) and let that person stand in that statement rather than getting into a debate.
There really is no high road or bigger person to this. Having the awareness, agility and advancement of self-control ,and self-regard, will allow you to be the best you while demonstrating grace under pressure and important, grace above all else. ♦
Debbie Lundberg is a certified life coach, certified leadership coach, and certified image consultant who speaks, facilitates, trains and coaches throughout the country. She is author of Presenting Powerfully, serves as an honorary commander at MacDill Air Force Base, and is a recent member of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce board of directors. Learn more at debbielundberg.com.