The Lost Art of Receiving

Giving to others is a popular topic in the how-to literature. But receiving is not nearly as popular. To me, this doesn’t do justice. After all, every time a person gives (whether a compliment, a piece of advice, a present or a helping hand), another one receives. And receiving properly is, despite appearances, as important and intricate as giving.

Although how you respond to a ‘gift’ you get is party regulated by specific cultural norms, there are also principles that rise above one individual culture or another. There is a subtle, universal art to receiving, which derives from fundamental aspects of human nature.

In this article, I’m gonna talk about this lost art and give you some practical advice on how to receive properly.

Always Show Appreciation towards the Intent

I like to think of giving as having two core elements:

  1. The intent of giving;
  2. The actual act of giving.

When someone gives me something, I find it useful two consider these two elements separately, and respond to them separately.

In my view, the person’s intent is virtually always positive. So, first and foremost, you always wanna show appreciation for the intent. It’s therefore astute to first respond to any act of giving by thanking the other person for their positive intention, by expressing your gratitude. Thus, you always start on a constructive note.

But what about the actual act of giving? How do you respond to it? That’s what my next point concerns.

Respond Authentically To Being Given

People often engage in games when they receive something. For instance, many folks believe they should always reject a gift at first, as a sign of courtesy, even if they like it, or even need it badly. “Oh, no, I can’t take it”, they say, and the other person must then insist.

Although cute, I rarely find this approach beneficial, nor do the people I coach on the topic of receiving. It’s dated.

If a person gives you something, they most likely enjoy doing so and it does not inconvenience them. So, plain authenticity is a much more helpful response than playing games. Thus, my advice is to respond genuinely from the get go, and simply accept what you are given.

Also, in the odd case when someone gives you something that happens to actually be a bad gift for you (like a pet cat if you have a major cat allergy), it’s okay to politely explain yourself and refuse the gift. The prior step of showing appreciation for the intent will smooth out your response significantly.

Say Something Positive and Specific about the Gift

This simple trick can turn receiving from a trite, predictable act, to a unique and memorable experience for both parties: when you receive something, take a few seconds to notice it and see what you like about it, or how specifically you might use it. Then make a comment in which you express just that.

For example: “Wow, the colors on this shirt are awesome! I love wearing lively colors.” Or: “This cactus is gonna look great in my garden, next to the tulips.” Or: “You made good points in your feedback. I will definitely consider it.”

No need to try to make a particularly cool or witty comment. Any basic, positive and specific remark will do the job fine. It will show the other person that you genuinely value their gift and you wanna make the most of it. This goodwill will usually matter the most to them.

Don’t Feel Pressured To Give Back

People often hesitate to receive gifts because they feel that with them comes attached an obligation to respond in kind. To them, any accepted gift creates more owned debt.

While I can relate to this mindset, I do not find it too realistic or constructive. If a person gives you something, it’s usually because they want to, not because they expect something back in return. So there is no need to feel obliged to reciprocate. You may often wanna reciprocate because you authentically feel like it, but it doesn’t mean you have to.

There are some people though who give to receive, but pretend to give with no strings attached. Like buying you a nice gadget or piece of jewelry, expecting you to go out with them in return. But by rejecting their gift and then feeling bad or accepting it and then feeling in debt, you only encourage them to play this manipulative game.

I find the best approach to be to accept their gift and think of it as having no strings attached. If it did have strings attached, it’s really the other person’s problem. They need to learn to express their desires openly rather than trying to pressure people into giving them what they want. And this is one way you ‘educate’ them in this direction.

If you often struggle with receiving without feeling the pressure to respond in kind, you will benefit greatly from working on improving your social confidence, because it means you are lacking in this department. You wanna fix the problem from the root upwards.

Considering this, I recommend you check out this practical confidence presentation I created, in which I’ll show you my tried and tested method for gaining social confidence, as effectively as possible. There are priceless gems of advice for you in it.

Being a good receiver is something you learn with practice and a bit of guidance. Just as being a good giver is, and many other social skills. By being both a good giver and receiver, you can effectively nurture your relationships with other people, making them as enjoyable and rewarding as they can be.

For more advice on improving your communication skills, social confidence, relationships and social success, I invite you to join my free newsletter and continue this journey of discovery with me.

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