The Gift Of Receiving


The Gift Of Receiving
How & why graciously receiving gifts and acts of kindness from others is a priceless gift to them.

The Art of Gracious Receiving

Gracious receiving is more than writing or saying a polite or mechanical “Thank-you.” It’s one moment or several moments of our time and attention focused on responding to someone doing something for us or giving something to us. It’s slowing ourselves down long enough to acknowledge someone who’s trying to share some part of themselves or some thing with us. [EXPERT]



Here are 5 ways to become a more active receiver:

  1. Give someone your full attention. Stop whatever you’re doing (even just for a few seconds) and focus your attention on the giver. If you’re too busy to stop what you’re doing, say so. Example: “I’d really like to give you my full attention but I can’t do that right now. Can we do this in a few minutes, (later, tomorrow, etc) so I can give you the attention you deserve?” The giver will feel honored and will usually agree to a mutually agreeable future time to present their gift. [EXPERT]
  2. Comment on the specifics of the gift or act of giving. When writing a thank-you note or thanking someone verbally, be as specific as you can about their action AND it’s positive impact on you. It takes a bit more thought (or memory) and yet means so much more than a plain, generic, “Thank-you.” [EXPERT]
  3. If you’re uncomfortable receiving something, turn the attention back to the giver. We don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings because we have trouble receiving. If receiving something triggers some discomfort within us, we can still receive graciously if we turn our attention back to the giver by complimenting him or her for their kindness, creativity, investment of time and/or energy, etc. This will take the attention off of us and make the giver feel even more honored. Example: “Your gift is so unexpected. How nice of you to think of me. You sure caught me off guard. You’re very kind. Thank-you.” [EXPERT]
  4. Make a point to look someone in the eyes when saying “Thanks.” In this busy time, as we rush around, taking a moment to really look at someone when we say “Thanks” gives the giver that moment of honoring I mentioned earlier. It tells them, with our action, that we acknowledge them. It shows them they matter and that they’re not invisible, taken for granted or ignored. This is particularly effective with children and strangers. It only takes a moment but the impact is lasting and positive. [EXPERT]
  5. Better later than never. It’s never too late to thank someone or honor a giver for something nice that they’ve done for us. Example: “Hi, I just wanted you to know how much I appreciated what you did for me last week (last month, last year., etc.). I was in such a dizzy when you stopped by (called, wrote, etc.) that I didn’t realize I hadn’t thanked you properly. You were very kind and I just want to make sure you know I’m grateful.” [EXPERT]


Happily, most receiving blunders can be repaired. If you realize that you’ve overlooked or missed a chance to appreciate someone’s act of giving, there may be some hurt or angry feelings. Silently hoping their upset feelings will go away is denial and avoidance rationalization. It’s also a fear choice. See my article about making choices with fear or courage. People have long memories when it comes to being unappreciated. So, if the relationship is important to you. Here’s an effective and light-hearted way to approach this person in order to acknowledge your oversight and apologize, non-defensively. [EXPERT]

Try this: “Don’t you hate it when you do something nice for someone and they don’t say anything about it? Me too and I’m SO sorry! I really do appreciate what you did for me/gave to me.” This direct, sincere and non-defensive comment usually clears the air.


Get good at receiving! 

As we reflect on our ability to receive, we’ll surely realize that we missed a chance or two to practice gracious receiving. Fortunately, awareness brings the opportunity for change and to make new choices. Rather than beating ourselves up for the past (a well-worn path and non-productive use of time and energy), we can choose to forgive ourselves, apologize where applicable and then turn our attention to becoming excellent receivers from this day forward. [EXPERT]

This skill gets easier with practice. Why? Because it feels so good to have such a positive impact on people. Birthdays and the upcoming holidays give us lots of opportunities to master our receiving skills. While its true that feeling valuable and worthy may not be line items on anyone’s gift list, these are basic human desires. As we realize we have the ability to instill these feelings in others, we can look for opportunities to do so.

Next time you find yourself with a chance to receive and therefore have some positive impact on another-consciously give it a whirl! Although they may not know why they feel so good, you’ll know and that’ll put a smile on your face as well. Isn’t it kind of ironic (and wonderful) that each time we graciously receive a gift or act of kindness; we’re also able to give one in return?! The saying, “It’s better to give than to receive,” has been drilled into our heads since we were kids but I think a more accurate phrase might be, “It’s joyful to give and very thoughtful to receive.” May you find both generous giving and gracious receiving equally energizing and joy-filled activities anytime of the year.

Copyright 2002 Cathryn Bond Doyle.
Revised for 2012, Copyright Cathryn Bond Doyle

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