Grace – Elegance or beauty of form, manner, motion or action.

A pleasing or attractive quality or attribute.

Today was a rough day.  It started out with the alarm going off far too early and far too loudly and is ending with this blog entry.  I took a long hard look at my demeanor today after the fact and realized although I thought I was doing fine my actions were actually showing something completely different.  I was irritable, short and abrasive for a good part of the day.

Once, years ago I had a boss named Harvey who was always in a good mood.  I remember one day he walked by my office and stuck his head in.  “How’s it going today Mary?” cheerful Harvey asked.  “Harvey, everyone is in such a bad mood today I don’t get it!” I exclaimed vehemently, my face red with frustration and my phone ringing yet again with another upset customer.  He smiled at me for a second and said “If everyone you talk to today is in a bad mood what is the common denominator?”  I shrugged and rolled my eyes as I turned back to my monitor.  Harvey, never one to be deterred by a stiff back, called out as he walked out the door “maybe, just maybe it’s not them.”  Hmm

So today I was not very nice to a co-worker who is a very nice young man who just had a simple question.  I was running late and I wasn’t prepared to answer his question but this was certainly not his fault.  In my defense I had already answered the question the day before via email and had he looked he would have found the answer but that doesn’t matter.  It did not warrant the irritable response he received.  Besides he was having email trouble.

I was cranky and over-tired but that’s no excuse.  I chose to stay up late and stay out late and it was worth it because I had a very nice time.  I definitely woke up on the wrong side of the proverbial bed.  Sometime during the day I snapped at a customer saying “look Sir I’m just doing my job”.  Yes, I actually used that ridiculously combative phrase instead of patiently listening while the guy lied his ass off about why he hadn’t paid the $8 invoice that I had called him about on June 1.  Amateur hour!  I could have just sat there and let him dig himself into a corner instead I gave him the power when I got snippy and he ended the call by saying “Send me the invoice and I’ll get back to you.”  Argh!  I’m better than that!

I try to live my life with grace, both personally and professionally.  I work at it every day, with what I do for a living it’s not always easy, but when I conduct myself that way it pays off.  Don’t get me wrong, sometimes I have to get pretty aggressive; if it’s not a calculated approach but instead a knee jerk reaction because I need a caffeine injection it does not always net the result I need.

I see people with grace all around me.  Recently an officer of my company left for a new opportunity.  She had grace.  I’m an Irish redhead and tend to sometimes lose my temper and my perspective (waiting for the gasps of shock from friends and family).  She was so good at pulling me out of that and making me look at things from a better perspective.  Her grace has taken her far and will continue.  I’m proud to say that I learned something from her and became a better manager.

I remember another person I worked with who had grace.  I don’t remember what his title was but he was in charge of Sales and Marketing at a flooring company I worked for.  I had gone to him with a concern, some of his salespeople had gone renegade and were marking down invoices verbally to below margin.  This was, of course, absolutely not company policy and as such I had two choices.  I could call each one of them and read them the riot act or I could go to their boss and ask him to handle it.  I chose option two as was appropriate.

I sat in his office while he conferenced in the first offender via speaker phone.  I listened while he walked through the process with the rep, first explaining the situation, then asking for his side of things and finally ending by asking the rep to stop doing what he was doing immediately providing him with a clear picture of how his actions were causing a problem for the company both from a financial perspective and from a time perspective.  I never said a word but instead just  listened as he did the same thing with the other two offenders. 

I was in awe of this man.  Not because of his ability to communicate clearly but at his absolute stillness.  While he had these reps on the speaker phone listening to their long winded excuses and justifications for their actions I was wandering around the office, flipping through my planner, doodling pictures of Credit Managers shooting Sales Representatives in the margins of my notes, shifting in my chair, crossing and uncrossing my legs etc.  This man never moved a muscle.  He sat leaning slightly forward with a look of concentration on his face, never once glancing at his monitor to check if he had a new email, picking up the pen he had laying on his pristine blotter or fooling with the cord on his phone.  This was grace.

When I grow up I want to learn grace.  I want to have a bad day and have no one ever notice.  I want to live my life never having to circle back and apologize for an action or a word that I might have said.  Most days I do okay but not every day.  Today was not a good day.  I was never outright mean and I didn’t yell at anyone but I was not who I strive to be.  Tomorrow I owe that young man an apology and a smile.

Tomorrow is another day and it will be a better one.  I’m going to print that word out “GRACE” in big capital letters and hang it on my office wall in an inconspicuous place so that I can be reminded of my goal.  I’m going to be better tomorrow than I was today and each day I’m going to wake up and remind myself of this.  I won’t always succeed because I’m human but I will know that I am making the effort.

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3 Responses to Grace – Elegance or beauty of form, manner, motion or action.

  1. Rhonda Lakin says:

    Boy, Mary, did you make me pause and think. I am going through a situation (not a crisis, just part of life) and I never stopped to wonder of I was handling it with grace. Needless to say, I have not been. You have motivated me to try to stop thinking about how this is affecting me and instead think of how I can handle it better because I know it’s just temporary. Thank you for that. So see, your day wasn’t all bad!

  2. Melia says:

    I know exactly who you are talking about… the man who can relate to anyone; have anyone walk away from a conversation feeling great (they could get corrected by him and someone how walk away happier than before); the man who everyone, and I literally mean everyone, likes. It took me a while to really understand just how graceful he is. Thank you for the story about him. I can visualize that moment completely – I saw the same behavior many times.

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