Last week I wrote about how to give gifts. By the way, I had a little giveaway planned but the instructions were buried at the end of last week’s post. Let’s try again – be sure to scroll all the way to the end for the instructions so you don’t miss out!
This week, the topic is how to receive gifts. There is a saying that “it is better to give than to receive.” If this is true, then naturally we should all want to give. (Indeed, there is a special feeling that comes from giving.) But where would that leave us – who would there be to receive the gifts, favors, and assistance that we are happy to give?
In light of that observation, we must all become both givers and recipients. This means we must be not only skilled at giving gifts, but also prepared to receive what others offer, too. This allows others to practice giving. Let’s talk about the ethics (norms, rules) that tell us how to receive.
This week’s topic: Receiving Gifts
I once had a boyfriend who refused to accept gifts or help from anyone. Everything I tried to give to him, no matter how large or small, was refused. Part of it was pride. He was proud of his independence and loathed being reliant on another person. To receive any gift was an insult to his masculine self-perception.
There was a secondary reason why he refused gifts: he realized that in relationships, giving is never absolutely selfless – he did not want to owe anyone anything, ever. Even having to say “thank you” as per social custom was an infringement on his free choice. He did not want to be coerced into praising others or showing false gratitude. It was frustrating for me.
And yet, he might have been right. Think about it: accepting a gift creates a social debt to the giver; when you receive a gift, you must exhibit a positive attitude towards the giver, saying or doing certain things. It is customary to acknowledge the gift, to say think you and say that you like it. Even if you don’t like it, you must pretend to like it! Not only that, but in the future you will be expected to give gifts on similar occasions, e.g. for a birthday or “just because”. All this – regardless of whether you wanted the gift or not. Try ignoring these social debts and see how long your relationship lasts.
You might be someone who does not like to give gifts for these, or other, reasons. But think of it this way: by receiving a gift and saying thank you, you are actually giving, too. You give the other person an opportunity to feel the joy of giving and practice selflessness (even if they fail to get the details right!).
To Receive a Gift is To Acknowledge the Giver
Most gifts are meant to communicate an emotion or thought with the recipient. In relationships, an act of communication requires a response or acknowledgment. (Silent treatment = poison for relationships). The recipient must say something or do something – otherwise, you’ll feel cheated by the exchange. Over time, this feeling grows into resentment. Recall the loving parent’s biggest complaint: “My kids are so ungrateful. I just need to hear a ‘thank you’ once in a while!” At the very least, the child is expected to be a “good kid”, lest he hear the reprimand of “After all I’ve given to you, you go and do THIS?”
An unexpected gift might be communicating a need to be acknowledged or validated. Notice me, praise me, accept my gift and thereby accept me. All of us feel vulnerable sometimes and need to be acknowledged. Feeling unappreciated – that one’s gifts and efforts to please a partner go unnoticed – is the complaint that leads couples down the path to divorce. When you receive gifts, it’s crucial to be aware of what the giver is trying to communicate.
Practice Receiving Gifts
By now it should be obvious that we need to be skilled at receiving gifts for the following reasons:
- to allow others to practice giving
- to practice being grateful for other people (i.e., to acknowledge them and their efforts)
- to keep our relationships healthy
The keys to receiving:
- focus on the effort and sentiment; avoid critiquing the gift object or timing
- use your imagination to understand what the gift is communicating (could it be love, or a need for love, security, gratitude, etc?)
- specifically respond to the effort and the communication so the the giver feels heard and appreciated
- say Thank you!
- Do you agree that it is better to give than to receive?
- Have you ever received a bad or awkward gift?
- What made the gift bad: the timing, the item, the person giving it (or something else)?
- Have you ever received an anonymous gift, and was this a good or bad experience?
- Think about the recent gifts you’ve given. Did you expect something (anything at all) in return? Check in: would you feel cheated or resentful if they did not respond how you wanted them to respond?
- In your opinion can gift-giving within a relationship can ever be altruistic (selfless)? Consider different relationships: parent-child, partners, siblings, etc.
- Choose one person in your life. Can you practice both giving and receiving today? (Think of small things, and be specific.)
How to Get the most out of Know Thyself 2019:
By the way, the questions for my Know Thyself 2019 project are designed to help you define your thought patterns and opinions. Doing all 365 questions will help you learn to ask yourself questions.
Giveaway: Follow this blog using your email address, or follow via WordPress, then like AND comment! You’ll be entered in a Christmas giveaway for a $20 Amazon gift card – so you can give a great gift to someone this year! Draw date: December 11th, 2019. Winner will be announced in next week’s post!