The Art of Being Gracious

Here’s a subject that I am the world’s least knowledgeable person in. I have spent years doing at best a mediocre job of being gracious and yet, and yet I feel that I’ve started to understand the right thing to do at times. So much boils down to respecting people’s good intent and not having a chip on your shoulder. The recent transition has made this more challenging but not really different – it’s just that people really don’t know what’s off limits or not.

My first piece of advice is to learn to just say “thank you” and stop talking. I’m still trying to learn this. If someone is giving you a complement they don’t want an argument and they don’t want to hear about how you butchered a note you were singing or how that color blue in the robin’s wing isn’t what you really had in mind.

My second piece of advice is don’t be the angry person. It’s ok to let someone call your pretty or handsome, complement your hair, makeup, jewelry, shoes or clothing without a conversation about objectifying people. Don’t look for a fight. For the trans person people will sometime say the darndest things and they can be embarrassing, but the right answer is to accept the good intention and have a conversation later about how difficult it is to know what to say. Just don’t make what they said the centerpiece.

If you’re the host or hostess make sure your guests have something to drink, eat and a place to sit down. Introduce them and make them feel welcome. That’s the job. If you don’t want to do this, go to other people’s abodes. Feel appropriately sheepish when you mess up (for me that’s most of the time, what can I say, good intentions and all that).

Listen to people you don’t agree with. It is excellent practice. First, there is rarely a single absolutely correct opinion on anything of any complexity in this world outside of hard factual data like water freezing at 0 celsius a 1 atmosphere’s pressure. Who the best candidate, the best policies, the right way to deal with this or that crisis, are all given to substantial amounts of opinion and values based on the speaker’s views. Familiarize yourself with more than the views of those you agree with. Sun Tzu said to know thy enemy.

Assume the best intentions of people until proven otherwise, then ban them from your life. None of us live long enough to want to deal with malicious people.

Say nothing about someone  you would not say if they were standing beside you.

If you want to know how to act well you can do worse than trying to emulate someone you admire.

You will rarely regret being generous with your friends. Give of your time, your attention and your heart.


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