“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.
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?
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!