Polls show that one of the top New Year’s resolutions is to appreciate one’s family and friends and to spend more time with them. One resolution that doesn’t show up is learning how to receive, and yet it is a powerful—though often neglected—way of showing appreciation.
It’s been ingrained in us to think that it is better to give than to receive. Consequently, some of us have never learned how to receive. The result of not being good at receiving is that we deny others the pleasure of feeling valued; we deny them of the joy of giving.
Here are some pointers to remind you to receive in a graceful manner.
1. Accept compliments and praise graciously. This means avoiding well-intentioned, but nonetheless negative, comments such as, “You’re too generous.” Contrast this with, “Thank you for saying this.” If appropriate, think about telling something about the item complimented. “Thank you. It’s a graduation gift my father gave me. It means a lot to me.”
Seneca, the Roman philosopher, made this observation: “You can tell the character of every man when you see how he receives praise.” Dismissing a compliment or praise we receive, even if out of modesty, is the equivalent of unwrapping a gift and tossing it back to the giver.
2. Honor someone who gives you a gift. Don’t dismiss a gift with the proverbial “You shouldn’t have” or, worse still, “You know you don’t have to do this.” Every person offering a gift experiences an anticipatory excitement—the dismissal unintentionally robs the moment of its energy.
3. Know the etiquette of receiving. In her article "9 Ways To Take Compliments Without Looking Conceited," leadership expert LisaMarie Luccioni provides some insights on the art of receiving that we may not all be aware of. For example, when you receive a trophy, certificate or plaque, accept it with your left hand, so that you keep your right hand free for a proper handshake; or demonstrate the right protocol: If you are complimented with a toast, “Toast recipients do not themselves drink," advises Luccioni. "Acknowledge the toast with a head nod and smile, allow everyone to have a sip of beverage, and then offer a return toast (where you can then drink).”
4. Never say, “Thank you, anyway.” This is often a typical, automatic response to someone who has done something for us that turned out to be not what we needed. "Anyway" in this context is a weasel word: a careless habit that takes on the unintended meaning of “Thanks for nothing.” Why not simply thank them for their time and effort?
5. Teach a child how to receive. Teach a child the language of appreciation by modeling the way yourself. You would be giving them a lifetime gift, more valuable than the most expensive toy.
Ultimately, receiving affirms our interdependence and strengthens the human bonds we have with each other. Author Amanda Owen in her book, The Power of Receiving: A Revolutionary Approach to Giving Yourself the Life You Want and Deserve, poses the question, “Who is the Giver and who is the Receiver when we look at the relationship between a butterfly and a butterfly bush? They give to each other and receive from each other.” Receiving well is emotional reciprocity in its most elegant form. It is the most generous way to show appreciation for the attention others give us.