What to Do When We Are Ungraceful

This article is written in the context of romantic relationships; however, these tools can be used in virtually every relationship.  They may be tailored to use at work, with family members or even strangers.  There are modifications at the end of the article.

I have a friend who says: We’ll never rise above human and we’ll always have moments that are unspiritual.  What that means to me is that sometimes I will be ungraceful.

We all do things that are disempowering to our mate, however unintentionally, from habits or ingrained behaviors.  Yesterday, my husband Vj wanted to take my picture because he thought that I looked cute bundled up in the warm gear he bought for me (It has been in the 20s for several days here!).  As he was taking the picture, he had such a huge smile.  I felt very loved and admired.  Then, it was taking too long for me.  I had to get to an appointment and an impatience habit rose up in me: “Ok, I have to go!”  In an instant, his smile left and he turned away. 

It wasn’t a huge deal but I allowed the habit of impatience to steal a tender moment from us.  It is these small things that erode confidence and trust others have in us, unless we take care of them.

One thing that we can do is acknowledge our folly and give a blanket apology.  With someone with whom we are intimate, we can simply say, “I adore you and I recognize that I don’t always express that.  I know that I do small things that may seem hurtful or unsupportive. Please forgive me and know that even though my actions may not express it in the moment, I love you very dearly.”

Another thing about acknowledging these interactions is if you are the one who is being disempowered, you can choose not to be to be disempowered by it. It is along the lines of pre-forgiving.

In more formal (or less intimate) relationships, you can tone it down with humor.  “Gosh, I was abrasive just then!  Did you see that?  My apologies.  I am not sure where that came from!”  You can also address things after the fact.  There is no expiration date on appreciation or acknowledgment.  “Wow, you know last week I came off as aggressive and that is not how I want to perform at this job.”

I do teach an awfully lot about taking full accountability, which is very important.  And we do want to be mindful of others and the level of propriety.  What that means is: take accountability, but not at the cost of someone’s comfort or make your apology into a big deal if it isn’t warranted.


Let someone near you know that you realize some of your disempowering traits and ask for forgiveness.  You may let them know what the relationship means to you and that you welcome their help in releasing these old habits.


2 Responses to “What to Do When We Are Ungraceful”
  1. Sarah, an important post for satisfying relationships. Oftentimes we are not self-aware to know we are behaving in destructive ways. Having the self-awareness is really an important first step.
    Coach Theresa

  2. Yes, I do believe that most of us tend to function on one extreme or the other: we either appologize too much; or not enough (or not at all).
    I learned years ago that in order to maintain harmonious relationships, I need to be aware of my "ungraceful" moments and acknowledge to the other person that I was "out there"…  And God knows I'm "out there" quite often :)  But ever since I started acknowledging my extreme humor or bluntness at times; and combine that with an apology when needed, my relationship with everyone around me improved tremendously.  I married for 13+ years and I'm still "ungraceful" at times… and so is she at times… but we lovingly get over it in minutes and apply the so healing "I love you" ointment to erase the hurt… 
    It works!  We screw up once in a while and it is appreciated if we acknowledge that we did so… and if we notice that we hurt the other person's feelings (or even if we just suspect that we might have done so), apologize.  

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