Not long ago, I was privy to a conversation between two women who met up with one another at a professional event. It was apparent that they had not seen one another for a long time as they hugged and expressed excitement about running into each other. One woman commented to the other on how healthy and happy she looked, saying “You look really great! And that dress is lovely.” The other woman replied, “Actually, I gained so much weight…and, this dress? It was a bargain at TJ Maxx…$10.00. Can you believe that?” The woman who gave the compliment stepped back and was quiet. There was an awkward pause between them. Where does one go after that?
Most of us were taught to say “Thank you” when receiving a compliment. However, debunking a compliment or acknowledgement can come about quite naturally – Out of habit. One might feel uncomfortable with the attention, not want to appear selfish or feel self-conscious when noticed and in turn think it is okay to not take the compliment. It can, however, present a problem for the “giver” of the compliment. Rejecting the compliment actually discounts the observations and intentions of the giver. It says, “You are wrong. I don’t want your compliment. I am not open to you. I don’t like myself.” It is a block to connection and relating. Rejecting an acknowledgement such as a compliment or act of kindness can be experienced as very invalidating by the other person.
So many acts of kindness are rejected in this manner – Whether it is an invitation to lunch, holding the door for someone, not allowing a birthday gift to be given…There are so many examples both large and small of heart centered generosity gone awry.
Deep down inside, each one of us wants to receive. That is just human nature. “Give and take” is built into our primal template of survival skills. We give in order to belong and to build cooperative relationships with others as well as to plant the seeds for being able to take later when we need to. Without the dynamic of give-and-take, civilizations would crumble and cease to exist. Give and take is a necessity. Giving and receiving has a deeper meaning and is more intentional rather than transactional. Receiving is about connecting.
Receiving is different than “taking” in that it involves being aware of the giver, what is being given, as well as the intentions of the giver. It requires being able to receive and truly say “Thank you” and take in the emotions that come along with generosity, such as gratitude, happiness and, at times, awkwardness. Receiving with accountability builds true relationships – allowing for vulnerability and intimacy.
Many of the worlds religions emphasize “One must receive for the sake of giving.” If no one chooses to receive or cannot receive graciously, then no one can give nor can be acknowledged or known. It diminishes the possibility of the wholehearted connection which we claim to want the most.
How are your receiving skills?