Today with the easy availability of television recordings of sporting events, we have the privilege of watching so many games in the privacy of our homes. Be it tennis, golf or football, it is so easy to identify the gracious loser. This is usually the person who, when defeated, does not throw a club, make a face or use bad language. Neither does the gracious loser moan or groan. Instead the loser congratulates the winner, shakes his or her hand and compliments the winner for having played well. The loser might add a word or two about the pleasure and the honour he or she has just experienced playing the game with the winner and that he or she has learned much from the winner.

Likewise, the gracious winner will thank the loser for an excellent game. It does not pay to be proud of your win and to go on and on about the quality of your game. The person speaking on behalf of the team should thank everyone in the team for a great game. People will respect you more for this.

We can be gracious in other situations as well. When we are rejected, humiliated and embarrassed, we should respond with grace and dignity. When we face defeat, lose an election or fail in a negotiation process, we should respond graciously.

What Does It Mean To Be Gracious?

Perhaps it is time that we examine the word Gracious and the characteristics associated with a gracious person. The Oxford Dictionary defines gracious as agreeable, kindly, benevolent and courteous. When one is gracious one has the quality of being pleasing and attractive. A gracious person has charm, good manners and spreads goodwill all around. The gracious person is also compassionate towards others and is elegant in appearance and character. When one is gracious one has tact and propriety and one has good taste.

Gracious people are not arrogant and offensive. Nor do they look down on others. They do not behave in an unpleasant manner. When you are with gracious people, they make you feel comfortable and at ease. Gracious people are friendly and self-sacrificing. They have dignity, charm and class.

The Rude Guest

Someone I know, called Sally told me of her experience with two people, Iris and Robert to whom she had extended an invitation to stay in her apartment. Iris arrived first and stayed for three and a half weeks but did not offer to contribute to the rent. Neither did she bring a gift for Sally or buy food or drinks. When Robert came to Singapore they celebrated his birthday at a restaurant in town. Sally and some others were invited as well. At the end of the evening Iris asked them to pay their share of the meal and for the drinks that they had consumed.

The Gracious Guest

“If a man(or woman) be gracious and courteous to strangers it shows he(or she) is a citizen of the world.”
Francis Bacon

As a guest then at someone’s home, we should arrive on time, bearing a gift for the host. We should also dress appropriately. At a Christmas party at a friend’s home I was horrified to see so many young people walk in dressed for a Beach party. These young people were in shorts and T-shirts while the rest of us were in silk, velvet and evening dress. Compliment your host on the food, the home and the measures taken to provide the wonderful hospitality.

Whether you are young or old, make it a point to introduce yourself to any one you do not know. It helps to tell them something about yourself. I have noticed how some older people prefer not to engage with others at a party and expect younger people to come to them instead.

Unless they ask you to use their first name, always call people by their formal name when meeting them for the first time. This indicates respect. To put others at ease, introduce the people around you to each other whenever the opportunity arises. Always look people in the eye and give them a good handshake. Treat everyone you meet with respect and you will earn theirs. When you converse with others listen carefully and focus your attention on what they are saying. Be friendly.

Do not stay too long as you do not wish to overtire your host. Immediately after the party, do write your host a thank-you note or card and your host will be delighted. I love writing thank-you notes to others. In my note to others I always emphasize the aspects of the party that I most enjoyed, like the food, the company and the ambience. It makes me feel very good when I do so. As William Arthur Ward said, “Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”

Accepting and Giving Compliments

Like me, you too, may have experienced some disappointment when the person we may have given a compliment to rejects it by saying, for example, “No need” or “I don’t deserve it.” Or they might say, “It was pure luck.” Many of us do not seem to be able to accept compliments. Perhaps this is due to the way we have been conditioned or to a lack of self-esteem in ourselves. When we reject a compliment we are actually insulting the person who made it. Regard a compliment as a gift given to you by the other person. Then you will not reject it. Be gracious and accept the compliment. Learn to give compliments as well. It makes others feel good.

Practice Graciousness and your interactions with others will be excellent. Graciousness makes us better people.


  1. Hi Zaibun,

    Thanks for another insightful look into the nicer human characteristics. Regrettably, I do feel that these are rapidly diminishing and there are several reasons. Primarily, I believe that markedly reduced family size has had the effect of denying children the ability to share and compete in a healthy manner. They grow up into selfish individuals and since they often just single children, they are less able to interact with the opposite sex. That’s tough enough but it gets worse when adolescents are now fully immersed in modern technology and can only demonstrate eye contact to their smart phones! Their interpersonal skills are therefore very basic if any.
    So the thought of breeding a gracious society is an uphill one but I do admire your dedicated attempts.
    I am sorry to sound like such a wet sarong but the world is changing fast and not always for the better. Perhaps we should just pass it off as a generational quirk!
    Osborn Viegas

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