The Importance of Being Gracious
The Importance of Being Gracious

You worked late on a project with another team, and the project manager didn’t even bother to thank you. We have all had the experience of going out of our way for someone only to have our efforts dismissed. Why does it bother us so much? This type of behavior is especially irritating because what everyone wants from other people is empathy. We all want to be recognized as unique individuals and to know that other people understand us.

Perhaps you think it’s not essential to conduct yourself with diplomacy and tact. The only thing that matters is results. But overly-demanding people tend to focus only on short-term results and fail to consider the long-term costs. Yes, you may be able to push your project through, but if you’re a jerk and you treat people as if they are disposable, your reputation will suffer, and no one will want to help you.

There are many good reasons to be gracious, some of them self-motivated, and some just because it’s the right thing to do and will make you a better human. If you’ve ever been told that you lack “people skills,” what is really being conveyed is that you lack empathy. Here are some ways you can show empathy and grace to your colleagues, peers, and clients.

Know when you’re wrong. There is nothing worse than someone who has a bad idea but insists on pursuing it simply because it’s their idea. Know when you’re wrong and own it. It will be better for everyone involved.

Validate the other person. Acknowledgment does not equal agreement. But you need to understand that people might hold beliefs different than yours and that they probably have well thought out reasons for holding them. They are likely not disagreeing with you just for fun.

Listen. Shut your mouth and absorb what the other person is saying.

Ask for input. Ask other people what they think or how to proceed. Use the vast knowledge around you to your advantage.

Mind your tone. You know that it’s often not what you say but how you say it that carries the biggest impact. Be mindful of the connotation of what you’re saying, particularly in email when tone can be difficult to read.

Stop multi-tasking. Multi-tasking is an illusion. The brain can’t focus on multiple tasks beyond walking and chewing gum So if you’re writing an email and talking to a colleague you’re not giving either effort your best attention. You are distracted. That’s bad for the email you’re writing, and it’s flat-out rude to the person to whom you are speaking.

Say thank you and mean it. I’m not talking about a terse “thanks” after someone has gone out of their way for you. I mean a genuine expression of gratitude.

The bottom line

People want to feel appreciated and understood at work. If you’re not giving them that, you are failing, regardless of your increase in sales, profitability, or revenue.