Posts Tagged ‘Charm’

“What do you want for Christmas?”  Kids spout out a million things quickly and directly.  Adults, hem and hedge.  So when I ask “What do you want from life?” I shouldn’t be amazed that kids also spout out a million things quickly and directly.  Adults, hem and hedge.

I was like that myself.  As a child I could tell you immediately.  At the beginning of 2009, I could only hedge.

That’s how 2009 became the year of Change.  Thankfully, it’s almost over.

Don’t get me wrong, I have no complaints about 2009—I changed a lot thanks to that question…

“What do you want from life?”

A: “Something else.”

I made several notable changes—like my job, my religion and my relationship status.  After much consideration, I did not change my address as I promised many of you that I would.  But I did change the name of our house (now d’Anconia Four), the décor, and my furniture arrangement in just about every room (twice).  I also did not change my own oil in my car; instead I changed my mind about the intelligence of paying someone else to, as well as my tires.  I did change the headlights myself.  I also changed my dress size (not for the better), the scents around me, my dominant color, my sleeping habits and my financial status and acumen.   All good changes, but still leaving me wanting when asked…

“What do you want from life?”

A: “A levee to support and direct me and my natural flow without restricting, distracting or destroying.”

So I changed the rules of the house.  Yes, I changed the rules of the house.  Don’t worry, the rules of negotiation are still wildly popular here, but they are no longer center stage.  Etiquette is.  And, consequently, our house has become our very own Finishing School with regular courses in home arts, personal presence, behaviorism and official etiquette.  With extra lessons in Voluntary Simplicity, Music, and Fairy Tales, and tagalongs such as dream analysis, conflict resolution, the scientific method and palm reading.  It has become my devotion and my revolution.  And it begins in my living room with the two people I care about most—Kate and Meg.

Now, I hear some of you pitying Kate and Meg, but let me assure you, they were actively involved in this transformation of rules and expectations.  Likewise, they were key players in the creation of our new pledge—To live honestly, fully, simply and well.  We spent literally days talking through individual and collective goals, scouring dictionaries and quotations and even creating scenarios to see how it would work.  But this is what we agreed to, and we have all taken the pledge, spit-in-hand handshakes, pinky swears, and all.   Still, do I know…

“What do you want from life?”

A: “Ability to face uncertainty with grace.”

My meditation, on the other hand, was a solitary change.  And it was one of the most painful changes I’ve ever made.  When you cannot find peace in even your most peaceful moments, when you find yourself fearing even that which you hold sacred, when you are conscious of your decline with no desire to stop it, it’s time to realize that perhaps a meditation you made years ago in a different point in time must be released.  Sfumato.  “Let go.”

Then I knew….

“What do you want from life?”

A:  “To BE in any situation or circumstance.”

In the book Connected, authors Christakis and Fowler point out that if we are six degrees removed from everyone else in the world, and we have three degrees of influence, then it’s not impossible to assume that we could influence half the world.

I’m going to find out.  Because what I want from life is to become a diplomat.  That is the woman I’ve been working to become since childhood.  Civility, connecting ideas and people, mitigation and negotiation, persuasion and influence, public administration, complexity into simplicity, travel, culture, individualism…  And charm.

It turns out I’m already well on my way.  I just need a little poise and to poise myself.

What is it that YOU want from life?

I hope you’ll tell me this year.

–With warmth and undying wonder, I am,


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Do it with charm.

That was my promise to you for this blog. I promised it because it is a vital component to building professional relationships.

Merriam Webster defines relationships as “being connected.” So I resort to my physics background and switch to science for a second. According to science there are two ways to connect: force and attraction. Many of the relationship-building lessons here require you to find and use your strength. I want you to be strong. But strength is often perceived as force.

That isn’t what I’m advocating. I don’t want you to force anyone do anything.

This is something I recently had to confront personally. It seems that command was one of my top five strengths according to strengths finders. Honestly, I was upset because I pride myself on my charm. And command didn’t sound charming.

So I looked up command. It seems there are two words that mean being authoritative and taking control: demand and command. Demand uses “what is due” to claim authority and take control. Demand flows from the leader to the followers.

Command uses skill and ability to be assigned authority and take control. It usually flows from followers assigning authority to a leader. The difference between demand and command is force versus attraction. And using Merriam Webster’s definition of charm–“a compelling need or desire to draw toward”–the difference between demand and command is charm.

Etiquette is the tool that drives charm. That’s because etiquette is not about conforming to rules. Etiquette is about enhancing who you are so that others will see your strength instead focusing on your weaknesses.

Now I know that Emily Post (one of my heroines!) has published huge volumes of rules to be followed, including those that instruct you on use of forks and invitations and even e-mail. But these rules allow you to determine what is acceptable behavior so that people don’t focus on what you do wrong. Instead, by behaving appropriately, people will focus on what you do well.

And we will start next week with our language in public, better known as Monica’s No Self Deprecation Rule.

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