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How to be graceful

Elegance is not a word we often hear. Worse yet, it’s not one we often aspire to embody. We’re just trying to get the kids to school, run businesses, get to the office on time, clean the house, pay the bills, and put dinner on the table. Living elegantly? Refinement? Luxuriously? Who has time for that? Darling, I get it. Being a single mom and running a company definitely leaves me running around without makeup and my hair unkempt . . . on days. Yet, I know when I’m dressed my best, I am living my best.

I miss the days when women sauntered down the streets, dressed simply and beautifully; when tables were set with a home cooked meal, candles, and ready for a 7:00 dinner spent with the entire family; when cultural refinement was not an option and resulted from time spent embarking on intellectual pursuits.

Elegance has become a lost art.

And, for many, it’s an art form that many of us never learned.

Like most women, I’ve had to learn the art of elegance. And, whether your eight or eighty, it’s always beautiful to be elegant.

There was one place that taught me about elegance like no other could. I bet you can guess where. Of course, Paris!

The City of Lights will leave you inspired as you experience elegance around every la rue. This is almost a birthright as they are trained in the art from childhood.

Consider how success is viewed and valued in the United States. That’s how the French admire elegance.

Are you wondering if it’s possible to have both?

Absolutely! In fact, I’m going to challenge you that through elegance, your body, business and life will improve in quality.

Elegance is a state of mind.

As Dianne Vreeland said, “The only real elegance is in the mind; if you’ve got that, the rest really comes from it.”

Regardless of your busy schedule, crammed wardrobe, or life circumstances, here are 50 ways to bring more elegance into your life starting right now:

1. Start your day off with ease and intention. An elegant woman has a radiating inner peace. In other words, mental grooming is as important as the physical.

2. Maintain good posture. Shoulders back and head held high.

3. Keep a simple wardrobe with beautiful statement pieces.

4. Have a signature meal that you can prepare at any given minute.

5. Dine, don’t feed. Slow down and savor your meal.

6. Do not smack gum in public — be limited in your use. (Sorry, this is a huge pet peeve of mine.)

7. Put the cell phone/ electronics away while you’re sitting at the table.

8. When you are in someone’s presence, really be with them. Even if it’s only for a minute, look them in the eyes and offer them grace and attentiveness.

9. Learn the basics of proper wine service.

10. Keep your nails manicured.

11. Don’t complain.

12. Be kind with your words about others. If you’re going to talk about someone behind their back, say something good.

13. Accept compliments gracefully.

14. Do more of what comes naturally to you. Where there’s ease, there’s elegance.

15. Tip generously.

16. Give creative and thoughtful gifts. They need not be expensive.

17. Keep a secret garden. It’s not necessary to share your entire life story with a complete stranger. Discretion is elegant.

18. Use your manners and be polite– don’t forget your please’s and thank you’s.

19. Remember that silence can be stunning.

20. Eat beautiful foods in moderation. Don’t stuff yourself.

21. Use subtle makeup. Enhance your natural beauty, don’t try to hide it.

22. Choose an elegant icon. Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly and among my favorite elegant ladies. Now, we have the lovely Kate Middleton as a role model for our younger ladies.

24. Speak eloquently and thoughtfully. There’s nothing elegant about the loud, obnoxious tourist. And, don’t be that lady who swears every other word. Save those expressions for when they are truly warranted.

25. Don’t lose your cool in public. Remember: breathe. Scream later in private, if you need.

26. Move gracefully through life… in heels and without.

27. Learn to adore yourself. Elegance and self-loathing don’t mix.

28. Keep a sense of humor. Never take yourself or life too seriously.

29. Tidy up. Keep your spaces (work, home, car, … ) neat and tidy.

30. Have dreams and live passionately.

31. Have boundaries. Gracefully stand against people who don’t offer you the respect you deserve.

32. Keep fresh flowers in the home. They are nature’s Chanel.

33. Saunter, not speed walk, throughout your day. Life is not a race (unless you’re at the gym).

34. Send thank you notes. Everyone likes getting them.

35. Study the arts. Bring intelligent and refined conversation to the table.

36. Learn some French. If possible, learn from the French.

37. Wear scarves. This video will show you 25 ways to do so.

38. Simplify. Simplify. Simplify.

39. Listen to elegant music.

40. Dress for your destiny … even if you’re merely taking a trip to the grocery store.

41. Sip your drink, don’t guzzle it down like it’s the last you’ll ever have.

42. Be responsible for your own happiness. It’s too much pressure to put on others.

43. Have a heart of gratitude, especially when you think that there’s nothing to appreciate. There always is.

44. Apologize sincerely. If you’re going to say “I’m sorry,” make sure it’s warranted.

45. Wear your tennis shoes to work out. Choose great shoes for every other occasion.

46. Remember: you don’t have to have money to be elegant. It’s a mindset, not a shopping budget.

47. Choose quality over quantity.

48. Travel. It does wonders for your personal enrichment.

49. Know who you are, what you love and what you don’t. This doesn’t happen overnight, but you can start in this moment creating an intimate relationship with yourself.

50. Comment on the Facebook page or in the section below and share your elegant tips!

If you read this list and are feeling inelegant, please know that these are qualities of my life that I continue to cultivate. This is not about perfection; that’s never elegant. It’s about awareness and simple shifts that you can incorporate into your daily life.

Grace is in your movement. I find that wrists, neck, and posture are three key elements of grace. Work on your neck and wrists first, do some exercise to release tension if you have and then practice.

Your movement has to be relaxed and effortless. If your mannerism is stiff, your movements reflect tense body, you will never achieve grace. Grace has to be effortless, but it doesn’t mean it comes without effort.

Never be in a rush. Or never seem to be in a rush, even when you are. An elegant woman would never be seen in a rush. An aspect hard to apply nowadays in a fast-paced social environment, but that will define you from the rest. Just never seem to be in a rush. Appear slow, as is you are floating gracefully.

Maintain a good posture. Your posture is a key component of how you look. It is a core to graceful movement. Sit up straight, practice good posture if you don’t have one. More on how to have great posture here.

Enjoy yourself. Your joy of life, the moment, the experience will reflect in you. Imagine you are in a cafe on a beautiful summer afternoon somewhere in French Riviera. The evening is simply beautiful. You notice a woman sat alone and enjoying her ice cream. You can see how emerged in a moment she is, her eyes are sparkling, you can just feel how delicious her ice cream is, but more than anything you can see from far away, that she is enjoying that simple moment. Now that is a joy for life, for simple things, and that is infectious. Enjoying yourself and the choices you make makes a woman graceful, her body moment is more serene when it comes from the moment of joy.

Let your arms, wrists move freely. Relax them. Your core posture can be intact, but letting your arms, and wrists be free will give the appearance of ease. Practice. Let your hands float. If you sit on the char in perfect posture (hopefully that comes naturally), you may seem stiff, therefore hand gestures and neck movement are sending the message, visible reflection. If you make those effortless, you will look effortless regardless of your back.

Relax your shoulders. Check if you have your shoulder tense then release them, massage for a second. Your posture will look better and your neck- taller. 

Learn from the old movie stars. Watching old movies from the 50s,60s, seeing legendary stars encourage me to be more graceful. Observing them can teach you how to gesture, how to move your neck, how to play with your eyes. There is a no better visual library for a woman on gratefulness than old Hollywood movies. And while a lot of content will be a bit dramatic and too acted, you can still pick and adopt some great movements.

Exercise. Yoga and Pilates especially help not only to strengthen your back muscles but also to increase your flexibility and plasticity. It stretches your muscles as well. Plasticity, in opposite to stiffness, makes your movements more gracious.

The more dressed you are, the more down-to-earth and relaxed you will want your manner to be.

Listen to a song that moves you. I find that music such a powerful tool. While I use heavy music at the gym, softer tones when I am walking or getting ready for something bring a much softer side of mine. I noticed this mode reflects in my body language, how I move.

Sound beautiful. Talk in a pleasant voice tone and watch what comes out of your mouth.

Wear comfortable shoes and clothes. If you cannot walk in shoes, especially heel you will never look graceful. Comfort doesn’t mean ugliness though. Choose items you can move in.

Make wider movement with your head. Move your head not only horizontally in one level, but let it twist in a wider span. Instead of looking to one side as is your head is a door, moving on one horizontal level. Maybe it goes down first, it moves in a side angle vertically and then finally turns right. Then you lift your eyes. That is a graceful movement.

Gesture with your fingers/wrists when you talk. Soft gestures make a massive difference in your demeanor.

Don’t be stuck in a cluster. The cluster at home, in your email, in your purse- anywhere will reflect poorly on who you are. I have never met an elegant, graceful person who is stuck in a cluster. It just doesn’t happen. Who you are in personal life management will reflect on who you are in public. If not immediately, then eventually for sure.

Take care of your looks. Pay close attention to your looks. Make sure your clothes are ironed, shoes are clean, your white T-shirt is still white, and are well-groomed regardless of the style you embrace.

‘Grace’ has two main definitions. It can refer to elegance and poise. But it can also mean decency or honour. Both of these aspects can be helpful to us, especially the latter. Let’s consider each in turn.

A graceful person, in the first sense, is one who is unruffled, someone who can deal with trials and tribulations without breaking step. This can be a distinct advantage in relating to other people. It can help put them at their ease and help them have confidence in us and what we are trying to do. Having the poise of inner calmness can also work wonders for our blood pressure, our ability to cope with pressure and thus keep stress at bay. It therefore has benefits all round. Some may see it as a quality that some people are born with, while others have to learn how to do without. However, in reality, it is a skill (or set of behavioural skills) that can be developed over time. There is no reason why people cannot learn to develop poise and grace if they are prepared to make the effort and to develop the self-awareness involved.

Think about the range of people you know. Think about the extremes – that is: who do you see among them who are particularly graceful? At the other end of the spectrum, who are the people you would regard as far from graceful? What distinguishes the first group from the second? In other words, what makes the graceful people graceful and the not so graceful people not so graceful? What can you learn from this analysis that can help you optimise your ‘gracefulness quotient’?

The first sense of ‘grace’ is therefore a matter of skills. The second meaning, by contrast, is a matter of values. Being graceful, in our second sense, is about committing ourselves to a value position that involves being respectful, treating people with dignity and thereby being a decent and honourable person. Of course, much of this derives from our upbringing, the ways in which we are taught right and wrong and other aspects of our culture. But, while cultures are very influential, each of us has our own role to play in shaping how we behave and how we treat one another. We need to take ownership of our ‘grace’.

Values are often seen as abstract issues, but in reality they are very concrete, in the sense that they are very influential in shaping our, thoughts, feelings and actions. It would therefore be very unwise to dismiss them as ‘abstract’, as if that means they make no difference to our concrete reality. That would be far from the truth.

To develop grace in this second sense, we can undertake a parallel exercise to the one outlined above: Who are the people we know that we regard as particularly decent and honourable? Who are the ones we would see as lacking grace? What distinguishes the first group from the second? What can such an analysis teach you about making grace an important feature of your value base?

What is particularly interesting is that, if we look closely enough, we can see important links between these two different meanings of ’being graceful’. The more poise we have, the more confident and self-assured we can be, and therefore be in a stronger position to treat others with dignity and respect, as we will have less baggage of our own to get in the way. Similarly, the more we treat people with dignity and respect, the fewer problems we will have and the more respect we will get in return. That will then put us in a stronger position to adopt an elegant and self-assured approach to our lives, to have the poise that comes with grace.

You’re on stage. Three hundred pairs of eyes are fixed on you. You’re killing: Twenty minutes in and the audience is in the palm of your hand.

Then your slide show freezes up.

Your skin tingles. Your body tenses. You stammer. Your eyes dart back and forth from the audience to the screen to your laptop to the stage manager in the wings.

As Beilock and Carr describe it, “Pressure raises self-consciousness and anxiety about performing correctly, which increases the attention paid to skill processes and their step-by-step control. Attention to execution at this step-by-step level is thought to disrupt well-learned or proceduralized performances.”

Or, as those of us less learned describe it, you choke.

Still, some how, some way, in the very same situation, other people don’t choke. What do they have that we don’t?

Maybe it’s coolness under fire. Maybe it’s what the more colorful call knowing what to do when the crap hits the fan. Whatever you call that sense of grace under pressure, some people are just born with it, right?

Some people do seem naturally confident and poised under pressure. But poise isn’t natural. Poise is a skill that some people develop.

People like you.

How? Let’s start with a basic premise. When you panic, you don’t freak out because you lack bravery or courage. You don’t lose your cool because you aren’t born with the right stuff.

You panic because you face an uncomfortable situation and you don’t know what to do. You freeze because you haven’t done the work to change, “Oh-my-God-this-can-NOT-be happening-to-me-right-now. ” into, “Oops. That’s unfortunate. Oh well. No problem. I know what to do.”

That’s why hanging tough when things go wrong isn’t the result of bravery. Bravery is the result of knowing what to do and how to do it when things go wrong. Thinking clearly and staying at the top of your game is easy when you’ve actually practiced for the worst.

And that’s why the key to maintaining your poise during even the most stressful situations is to gain experience. Not just any experience, though; the right kind of experience, the kind that builds confidence.

For example, say you’re scheduled to do a product demo for an important customer. The pressure is high because your business is struggling and if you don’t land this customer you might have to let some employees go.

Here’s how to ensure you can stay cool–no matter what happens:

1. Practice the basics.

Run through your demo a number of times. Smooth out the kinks. Make sure you know it cold.

Make sure you can perform it on autopilot–in a good way–so that some of your focus can be applied to reading the room instead of wondering, “Okay, what do I do next?”

Then think about the most likely questions or interruptions. Rehearse what you’ll do if the client wants to see a certain function again. Rehearse what you’ll do if the client wants to know how a certain function applies to their processes. From the customer’s point of view, the best demos are interactive and informal–make sure you’re ready to present the demo as a conversation rather than a presentation.

2. Then rework the basics.

All your initial practice will result in a set of logical steps: 1, 2, 3. To really know your stuff, change it up. Start with step 5. Start at the end and work backwards. Skip a couple of steps.

Rehearsing a different order helps reinforce your knowledge of your material and also prepares you for those inevitable moments when the client says, “That sounds good so far. but what I really want to know is this.”

When that happens you won’t need to say, “We’ll get to that later,” and frustrate your client because you’re fully prepared to get to it now.

3. Practice the “What if?”

Once your presentation is in good shape it’s time to prepare for things that could cause you to freeze. What if your software locks up? Figure out what you’ll do. What if your client is delayed and you only get 10 minutes instead of 30? Decide how to shorten your presentation so you still hit key points. What if you get questions you aren’t able to answer? Decide how you will respond.

Go ahead; go crazy. Think of some outlandish scenarios and decide how you’ll handle them. It’s actually kind of fun.

4. Visualize.

Athletes mentally rehearse; they imagine themselves performing an action. It works for them–and can work for you.

There’s no need to make your product fail on cue so you can practice what to do. Just rehearse it in your mind. There’s no need to get a few friends to role play hijacking your meeting so you can rehearse how you’ll respond. Just picture it happening, and picture what you’ll do.

Not only is visualization effective, it also has a calming effect: Picturing yourself succeeding is a great way to build confidence and self-assurance.

That’s especially true if you:

5. Create solution shelves.

Responding quickly is a skill that can be developed; that’s why the military, police, and emergency workers train relentlessly. There’s no need to think on your feet if you’ve already done the thinking. Stick your solutions on mental shelves, and when you’re faced with a tough situation, reach for the solution.

Go back to your “What If” scenarios. If a key employee doesn’t show, what’s the solution? Stick the answer on your shelf. What if price is an issue before you even get a chance to start? Stick the answer on your shelf. What if the room you’re shown into isn’t appropriate for the demo? Stick the answer on your shelf.

The more answers you prepare and shelve, the more you can rehearse and visualize. Instead of having to think on your feet, it’s stimulus-response.

Stimulus-response is easy.

6. Learn from close calls.

Say something goes wrong; your client doesn’t notice, but you realize it was a close call that could have ruined the presentation. Don’t just walk away relieved. Think through what you could have done–and add the solution to your mental shelf.

Close calls are like gifts, because they let you learn painlessly.

7. Rinse and repeat everywhere.

You can apply this approach to almost any situation, whether business or personal: Giving feedback, pitching investors, disciplining employees, dealing with confrontation, playing a sport, starting and building relationships. it doesn’t matter.

You don’t need to be brave. Just take a systematic approach to developing skills and gaining confidence.

Do the work and bravery, composure, and coolness under fire are unnecessary.

This is an elegant, graceful transitional episode that honors the past while also setting the stage for Rory’s departure to bigger and better things in the finale.

With his graceful long legs gobbling up the track, Farah’s feet flashed Nike yellow as he ran the final 400 meters in about 53 seconds.

Tall, graceful , and deep green, this artificial ficus tree is offered in various sizes depending upon the needs of your space from 36 inches up to an impressive 96 inches high.

Lucius enjoyed the life of a magnifico in the nabob splendor of the Comstock Lode, among the graceful wooden neo-Renaissance mansions, peeling in the searing Nevada sun, built by nineteenth-century silver barons.

Later she would become known for being soft-spoken, but as a baby she kicked so much that her family called her “Kiki,” a fitting early nickname for a woman whose power of graceful dissent eventually earned her the moniker “Notorious RBG.”

Its graceful hotels and beautiful restaurants are totally dependent on the tourist trade.

“Wait…” Suddenly a huge, graceful black marlin leaps out of the water, sending a shower of water ten feet high.

The brand logo turned out to feature a graceful archer on horseback, in a Tatar national costume, poised to shoot his arrow.

She sent me an unexpected, funny and graceful note after the interview was published.

Nicholas II, the last Romanov, built the graceful Livadia Palace on top of a hill there.

Arches more graceful in form, or better fitted to defy the assaults of time, I have never seen.

The wave-like movement of these animals is particularly graceful and cleverly done.

Some one had gathered orange and lemon branches, and with these fashioned graceful festoons between.

Going back, Liszt indulged in a little graceful badinage apropos of the concerto.

A mixed type of the present day Negro, she was slightly tall, and somewhat slender, with a figure straight and graceful .