Social Grace. I’ve been using this phrase a lot lately in a variety of conversations and have come to realize that it has become my standard of evaluation for worthiness for an individual. It’s simple now for me. Whenever someone asks me, now, what I’m looking for in a spouse, friend, colleague, I can state this: He/she must possess “social grace.”
The problem here is defining social grace in a simple definition. I’m not sure you can. Do you know what a “mensch” is? Mensch’s possess social grace. Don’t know what the heck I’m talking about?
Here are some general, non-specific examples of social grace (some loosely based on people I know with “social grace” galore!)
- You’re in the middle of chemotherapy for breast cancer. You’re feeling ok – could be better – but in decent spirits, considering. Suddenly, your dear friend has emergency surgery and is stuck at home while she recuperates. While you know you are immune compromised and shouldn’t be near her cat litter box, you still go over her house for a visit because you know it’ll mean a lot to your friend (and frankly, to you). Since you can’t clean out her cat’s litter box, you send your husband over to do it!
- You are sick and you have plans with someone. You unfortunately have to cancel them, you apologize and ask to reschedule at a later date. The person responds about the inconvenience to their day and doesn’t consider your illness. Their first thought is about the inconvenience to them versus your most-likely shitty day ahead. If this person had social grace, they might wish you well and even offer to bring you chicken soup to make you feel better!
- A member of your religious organization’s husband is very ill. You and your husband start visiting the woman and her husband regularly, including taking him to doctor’s appointments. Sadly, the man passes away, but you continue to invite her to events. It’s been six months and you still invite her to events. She is not forgotten. Social grace in a nutshell.
- You walk into a building and notice, casually, that there are people behind you. As you open the door, you glance behind you to make sure that you’re not smacking the door closed in someone’s face. Oh, wow, someone is coming in right behind you! You hold the door open for him. Then, you both walk into the elevator. You press 4, which is your floor. You ask him, “What floor?” He responds and you press the “3” button. Just as the elevator is about to close, you notice someone racing to get in. You quickly stumble for the “door open” button and the doors open to a very grateful person. Ok, so you’re – what? – about 30 seconds behind schedule now? No biggie, and you’ve made things just a little bit easier for 2 other people.
When you start noticing individuals with social grace in your life, you sadly also start to notice those who don’t possess it. The people who make empty promises, the narcissists who don’t care about you, and the self-absorbed who are only out for themselves. You see it with dating all the time. People who aren’t invested in you as an individual, but rather see you as a conquest or another notch in their belt. The noncommittal individuals who don’t want to take the time to get to know you. Or, even worse, those who are quick to judge based on what they think they know about you. They may think they know you, but they are just seeing a tiny sliver. They’re the person who presses the “door close” button when they see you running for the elevator.
I’m so disappointed when I encounter individuals who are missing the social grace gene. They only see life through their “black and white” lens, and sadly, don’t take the time to grace others with charm.
People with bad manners, to me, lack social grace. The other night I was getting some yummy frozen yogurt with a friend and encountered a family lacking the social grace gene. It was one of those frozen yogurt places where you can serve yourself 10 different flavors, pour on oodles of toppings, and then weigh it for your price. I was literally in the middle of pouring out some cake batter flavorered froyo when this little kiddo – not more than 4 years old – shoved himself in front of me and attempted to push me away from the spout. Granted, he was a little one, but it IS possible to have learned some manners by the age of 4! Then I witnessed his father – certainly around my age – do nearly the same thing to someone else, and I saw where his lack of manners came from. He wasn’t at fault. No one taught him the skills to be a good little boy. Instead, he was a pushy little brat. And so was his older brother. I wanted to send him a link to this.
But, I think social grace isn’t something that can be taught. You either have it or you don’t. But if you don’t have it, you can probably at least fake having it.
If you’re reading this and you’re scratching your head, thinking, what’s this crazy bitch talking about? Then, I’m afraid, you ain’t got it.
If you’re nodding along, then well done!