How A Little Graciousness Can Do Wonders For Your Career

In business, as in life, graciousness can get you anywhere. Here are a few quick tips to remember.

Tom Chiarella recently wrote an ode to graciousness for Esquire. Any aspiring lady or gentleman would do well to take it to heart:

Do not mistake mere manners for graciousness. Manners are rules. Helpful, yes. But graciousness reflects a state of being; it emanates from your inventory of self. Start with what you already possess. You, for instance, have a job. Live up to that.

And then what? Chiarella holds court on gracious conduct--let's go over a few of his main points.

What it's like to be gracious

You can forget the business cards. Don't spend your time hunting out contacts--humans can sense a predator. Instead, Chiarella says be interested in the world around you and the people there. His advice is gorgeous in its simplicity: "Look around. Remember names. Remember where people were born."

When you meet someone, meet them: Give a proper handshakes with these five qualities. Square your shoulders, make eye contact, use a proper grip, leave your elbow at a right angle, and smile.

Present yourself with more than your clothes. Remember to stand when someone enters or leaves the room; when they do, you look them in the eye. You're mindful of any introductions that need to be made. If there are any, you make them warmly.

And truly hold a conversation. The German word for conversation is Unterhaltung, which directly translates as holding-under: a fine image for thoughtful exchange. A conversationalist shows appreciative, career-launching kindness. Chiarella traces the subtleties:

Be attentive to what people say. Respond, without interruption. You always have time. You own the time in which you live. You grant it to others without obligation. That is the gift of being gracious.

What are the rewards for graciousness? There are many. Let us know yours in the comments.

How to Be Gracious, and Why

[Image: Flickr user John Bell]

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8 Comments

  • Christy

    Very insightful, many people do not know how to shake hands, or make someone feel welcome - they would do well to learn how to do the things they discuss in this article

  • RobGreg

    attentiveness and being in the moment with the person in front of you nowadays often takes a back seat to the ringtone or vibration of a smartphone. One immediately senses the effect of the Quality of time that an attentive person gives you, vs the cheapened time-sliced Quantity given to you by a smartphone-wielding multitasker.

  • Ian Malcolm

    Is graciousness, at heart, based on an interest in others, such that we can search for others' strengths, by observing, asking meaningful questions, and listening with our entire attention to the answers?  Other peoples' strengths are learning discoveries for us, and it seems to me that we can only learn when we step outside our own frame of reference to learn - in this case, from other people to whom we truly pay attention.  

  • Cecilia Harry

    Yes, this seems like an obvious post, but knowing that many professional people have a problem with this shows that we all need the reminder every now and then. The doctor I just visited for the first time needs to read this!

  • Fwarihay

    True graciousness builds relationship muscle because it requires us to reach down inside ourselves to lift up another. 

  • Kathe Stanton

    Being "mindful of any introductions that need to be made" hits home. I used to specialize in architectural PR (back when that was a good idea). Early on, I was alerted by a thoughtful colleague not to expect to be introduced. Sure enough, that happened a lot, even as clients or construction execs were obviously expecting an intro. I'd introduce myself without embarrassing anyone, but I never did figure out why it's a very common omission among architects.

  • Chris Reich

    It takes a bit of processing to reach value in this post. The headline says what you need to know.

    Oddly, graciousness in business is often not respected. I do it anyway because that's who I am. But standing when people leave a room is seen as quaint.

    I do agree with the business card thing. The age of the business card is over—at least in the traditional format.

    The handshake thing is ripe for parody. You can't fake real sincerity and you can't learn it in a blog post.

    Chris Reich, TeachU