How about Being a Better Receiver?

 “To give is better than to receive”

That is a timeless saying most of us grew up with.  And it is true for the most part.  At this time of year, it is especially relevant.

But I want to give you something more to think about.  receive

How about being a better receiver?

A friend brought this idea up the other day to me.  We all have a tendency to under-acknowledge gifts we receive from others, especially when they are intangible.  The kind note.  The compliment on our appearance.  The congratulations for a job well done.  The good service.

How often do you find yourself downplaying a thank you or a compliment?  Someone says they like your shirt or blouse?  “This old thing?  I bought it a long time ago”.  You are thanked for some small good deed that you did for another?  We might say, “Ah, it was nothing”.  Someone acknowledges the hard work you have done towards a goal.  We say, “thanks, but I haven’t completed the task/got there yet.  I have a long way to go”.  A cashier or server takes care of us at a bank or store.  We complete the transaction and move on.  Someone at the gym comments on how much stronger we seem to have gotten.  We say, “Thanks, but I am no where near as dedicated or strong as you are”.

Those all may be accurate responses.  But they are missing one key ingredient.  We are not thinking of the other person at all.  We are so hung up thinking about ourselves, that we do not think about the other person.

This lesson was driven home to me so strongly at some training that I went to that it is indelibly marked on my brain.  The teacher of a class complimented me on some activity that I had completed.  My response was something along the lines of, “Thanks, but I could have done ‘this’ better and I need to do ‘this more'”.  Sounds okay, right?  I am saying thank you, but I know I need to get better.  I want to improve and keep growing.

But see how the phrases all have “I” in them?  Where is my concern for the other person?

Focusing on “I” is not considering the other person

And then things got much more real for me later that same day.

The same teacher later that day talked emotionally with the class about her future.  She was not sure she was going to continue teaching.  One reason was she was unsure that she was really making an impact in other’s lives.  She felt like her skills were diminishing in some way and that she was uncertain about the end results.  In addition, she had grown up in a family where recognition was rarely given.  Achievement was expected, and effort or progress was rarely acknowledged.  So she was having a crisis of confidence.

It did not take me long to put my own house in order.  Wow.  She had complimented me earlier.  My response was a typical one.  But had I contributed to what she was talking about? She gave me an opportunity to be a good receiver (of praise).  I, of course, thinking about myself, was not a receiver. Upon reflection, how hard would it have been to be a good receiver?  “Thank you for noticing.  I have been working on trying to get better at xyz.  I appreciate you acknowledging it”

How hard would it have been to say that?  What a difference that might have made.  And most importantly, it was the truth!

So as we reach the end of the year, and the receiving season, how about a little consideration of the other person? How about we think of the other person and make their “gift” a true gift?  Try to think about how you might be helping them.  Who knows what impact it might have on the other person’s day or holiday season.  Isn’t that the reason for the holidays – to bring joy to others?

Happy Holidays

P.S. Thank you for the gift you give me by reading my posts.  I love doing them.  Admittedly, I do not have a large following, so the posts are mostly done out of my love for writing and learning.  But on those occasions where I get acknowledgement from someone else, it is a great gift.  Happy Holidays!


Being More Open

I read a most fascinating quote about someone the other day.  Referring to the behavioral economist, Daniel (Danny) Kahneman, the person wrote the following:

When Danny heard an illogical argument, he asked, What might that be true of?

That one takes a little reflection.  Rather than quickly dismissing another person, Kahneman pauses.  And Thinks. He is willing to try to find a way to learn from the experience. He does not let his prejudice automatically take over. He has a learning mind, a curious mind.  Besides learning something himself, he may find a way to help the other person.  Even if it is simply allowing someone to give voice to their thoughts, that is helping them.  Perhaps the two of them can work together to make some additional sense of the original argument.

It is so easy to dismiss illogical arguments.  Someone asserts something that is so patently crazy, we don’t have to spend any time even considering it.  Think about the person who won’t try something because it “didn’t work for someone else” or who says “everyone knows it is true” when they state some outrageous fact.  Given the odds against you a person who says they are “investing” in lottery tickets because they want to get rich are probably illogical.

It’s easy to say, “That’s crazy Old Uncle Charlie, you know he doesn’t know what he is talking about.”  Or you might think, “They are so young (or old) that they just don’t know”.  Or you might simply scoff or laugh at them.  Perhaps your inner-mind is shaking your head and trying to figure out how to get away from this person as fast as possible.  I know I sometimes getting angry when I hear some illogical arguments.  After all, we are human, too.

Thinking logically, it makes sense to ignore, dismiss or refute an illogical argument.  Since there is a flaw in the person’s logic, why pay attention?  They have made a mistake.  Or perhaps they are not very smart.  Or, they only listen to one voice.  Perhaps they are a fanatic about a political orientation, a religion or a news source.

Kahneman provides us a different way to look.  Perhaps the person is illogical.  But that does not mean we need to ignore or dismiss them.  Maybe they could be, in some small way, a role model for us.  They can show us the flaws in thinking about things in certain ways.  They show us how silly we could be if we followed their “logic”.  We can learn from them.

Maybe, just maybe, they are on to something.  A totally different perspective, even if it seems illogical, might be great guidance for us.

Does entertaining someone’s illogical approach necessarily hurt us?  Might it be non-life threatening to show magnanimity to another?  Perhaps listening and allowing the other person to be themselves opens them up to new possibilities.

I know I am quick to dismiss others who are one-issue dimensional.   Or if someone provides an argument for an action they are taking that seems to me to be totally unrelated.  Someone who follows a way of thinking that is totally different from my core values has to be crazy, right?

I think the point is this.  Anything I wrote above might be right or could be wrong.  But opening yourself up to the possibilities – however remote – has to be a strong way to grow as a person.  Maybe you will get a new perspective. Perhaps you will learn something new because you spent a moment to think.  Maybe you will help make someone feel better about themselves.

Is any of that worth asking “What might that be true of”?

Are we drawbridge-uppers or drawbridge-downers?

Stephan Shakespeare, the British head of YouGov, had a metaphorical question for all of us: “Are we drawbridge-uppers or drawbridge-downers?”.  He goes on to say “Do you think the bad things will all go away if we lock the doors (that’s a “drawbridge upper”)? Or do you think it’s a big beautiful world out there, full of good people, if only we could all open our arms and embrace each other (drawbridge-downer)?”  Hmm, interesting.

The arguments for drawbridge UP are pretty clear.  We interested in getting ourselves in order, focusing on us, whatever “us” is.  So, get the drawbridge up.  If you don’t have your stuff together, are you really in a position to best serve others? It can make a lot of sense to argue that we really need to get our own ship in order.  Opening up to new cultures, religions, thoughts or feelings can strain the social fabric.  That can be true for a country. How about a state?  How about a company? A department within a company? An individual?  It might be argued as an individual that I need to do some things for my family and myself before I can do for others.

On the other hand, there is the idea of  drawbridge DOWN.  The Statue of Liberty proclaims, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”  In America, are we interested in seamless borders, where we are looking out for (and welcoming) all? Maybe our best, right now, is good enough.  It is probably better than doing nothing. Most of our religions ask us to help each other, to love your fellow man.  That requires a drawbridge that is down, so people can walk across it.

But does that drawbridge down fit today’s situation?

Unfortunately, there is no “easy” answer.

Drawbridge uppers argue that doing something for all others erodes social capital and trust.  Social capital is networks of relationships among people who live and work in a particular society which enable that society to function effectively gets eroded.  It is hard to build social capital with people who don’t, can’t or won’t assimilate. It is very difficult to build trust with someone who shares little or no common norms or values with me.

One way to look at this is at an organizational-level approach.  Should an HR Department, for example, have the drawbridge down, thus reaching out more to everyone – employees and job seekers?  Should the drawbridge of communication be open? Should employees and job seekers have much more access over that drawbridge?  Or does it make more sense to close up the drawbridge?  Focus on doing more good for the current employees.  Let’s make sure we are supporting the hiring manager better.  Let’s make sure that we really know who and why we want to hire before we take action.  Keep outsiders outside the walls – it is best for the organization.


I really want to take this concept down to the individual level.  How do you feel?  Should you be more open, more welcome to others?  Should you open lines of communication and welcome people?  Are you interested in leaving the drawbridge down so that people of different races, nationalities, cultures or religions can come into your castle?  It is very uncomfortable with so much difference in our world today.  I think we all recognize that some differences spark creativity and knowledge.  But what is too much?  Anyhow, given all the stress and uncertainty of today, is it even wise to allow more in?  Maybe closing our minds for a little while is the right idea.  Let me get my castle in order first. Drawbridge Up!

Most of us probably want to appear open and inviting.  That “sounds” better and more enlightened.  But is it really our true feeling?  The discord in today’s society would seem to point to such major differences among us that having the drawbridge up is preferable.  It is hard to accept someone who is different – especially in ways that really matter to us.

Think about it this way.  We have so many differences at a values level – religion, LGBT rights, gun rights, abortion rights, how to raise a family, acceptable social norms, language spoken, etc. Drawbridge down welcomes them all; drawbridge up excludes them all.  Would you accept a bunch more Donald Trumps and Hillary Clintons in your life – both of them?  Are you willing to allow more refugees as well as intellectuals to cross the drawbridge?  How about more of that annoying person at work or the boss from hell?  It might be hard to justify keeping the drawbridge down for them, but if the drawbridge is up, the co-workers you like can’t get in either.

Perhaps this is a good subject to consider for the new year.