“To bear defeat with dignity, to accept criticism with poise, to receive honors with humility — these are marks of maturity and graciousness.” -William Arthur Ward
This post is in response to the overwhelming feedback to my previous post in regards to graciousness in competition. The objective was not to project anyone in a negative light but to shed light on the importance of knowing how to deal with people graciously in competition and uncomfortable situations. The responses that followed expressed a myriad of personal thoughts and feelings on the matter but with the exception of a few, the majority of commenters various responses focused on three areas (as one commenter pointed out) and I find that if we defend these stances they will do us more harm than good.
1. “We are only human.”
While this statement is true for all of us not just people in the public spotlight, being human does not excuse us from acting responsibly and it does not protect us from the backlash of words and actions that we choose to use. When you are a public figure and/or you represent your country, your company, and/or culture you no longer represent just yourself. Declaring that we are only human does not make the mess we create with our words and actions disappear. I am sure there are things we have all said and done that we wish could be unsaid or undone but when you are in the public spotlight with millions of people watching you, your words and deeds are going to carry alot more weight like it or not, it comes with the territory. That is why it is important to surround ourselves with life coaches and mentors who can help us avoid the pitfalls if we choose to draw from their wisdom and life experience.
2. “We have a right to feel what we feel, there was nothing wrong with being direct, keeping it real, or some justification of why the censoring of our responses is not necessary.”
Let’s be honest, if we said or acted on what we truly felt all the time, we would lose jobs, opportunities, and/or relationships for the sake of keeping it real. Telling someone off with a tone, attitude, or catty response may feel good and liberating at the moment, our friends may back up up with a “tell it girl!” but what is the expense in the long run? Will it cost you a friendship? a job or a promotion? Maybe you are at that breaking point where you have had enough and telling the person which bridge to jump off is the last resort, only you can decide, but if you take that route you cannot get upset at the backlash that may follow and it will be you left with the mess not your “tell it girl cheerleaders”. Being gracious does not mean you have to be overly polite or take on a passive aggressive stance to keep the peace, but this is where the discipline of self control must take over and you have to ask yourself, is the instant gratification worth it? We can clearly decide to not respond or react in ways that will hurt us later, but that is up to us not the person or situation provoking us.
3. “The media, the other person, etc. is to blame, they should not bait, stir up problems for people, and they should have be fair and respectful.”
The world is anything but fair and it will never will be, that is why we must use our head not our emotions (I admit it is not always easy) in these situations to avoid the land mines and booby traps people and situations leave for their advantage. We cannot control what other people say and do, we only have control over our reaction to it and they cannot “make” us respond in any way other than the way we choose.
It seems that it is easier to shift the blame away from personal responsibility in dealing with people and unpleasant situations than to deal with the situation at head on and take responsibility for our reaction to the situation. Responding graciously in a situation simply means you have counted the cost and decided a better outcome for yourself was of higher value than the temporary gratification that comes with a raw unrehearsed response. I recall in my own life situation where I had a misunderstanding with a former friend. I tried to reconcile the relationship, but she refused. In the following months when mutual friends would ask about her I kept it brief but did not disclose what had transpired. I would say, “I have not heard from her, I know she is busy these days.” Then one day one of our mutual friends mentioned to me that the woman had told her what happened but told the story by reflecting me in a negative light. The end result was the mutual friend actually expressed more respect towards me for being gracious and not using the opportunity to gossip or put the other person down. I discovered that she and another friend actually distanced themselves from her for her behavior.
Some call graciousness “taking the high road”, but however you identify it, the end result should put you at a place of advantage and not the other way around. The Godfather said it best, “keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” and that cannot be done without being gracious. Close friends of Jackie Kennedy often knew of the people she could not stand and because of her huge social circle she could not always dismiss them from her life. However, she had a way of making them feel like they were the most important people in her life when they left her presence. Some may retort that they don’t have time for that, but those who are wise will understand the godfather’s advice and see the advantage. They understand strategy will leave their enemies unaware of what is going on and will always in one form or another, leave themselves coming out on top. Being gracious is not weakness nor is it being passive, it is simply grace under fire and wisdom in the midst of challenge.