How Well Do You Receive?

| | Personal Leadership

Do you know someone who has a hard time receiving? It could be anything in particular – a compliment, a gift, a favor, etc.  Maybe you are one of those people.

There are 3 reasons I have observed in myself and others for feeling discomfort when it comes to receiving.

Being aware of how each of these factors may be at play can free you up to receive as well as support others in doing so.  It can also help you be a better giver.

1.  Your Personal Context for Receiving

I was reading a post from Erin Schreyer titled Are You Giving, Taking… or Stealing. Essentially Erin makes the point that at some point taking can cross the line into stealing even when what is being given is free.

She got me thinking about the big difference between taking and receiving. I started wondering if, for those who have trouble receiving, there could be a belief that these are the same thing. Clearly they are not, but your beliefs don’t always follow logic.

In fact you may not even realize you have a specific belief that is in the way of being able to receive the generosity of others with grace and ease.

Your belief may or may not have to do with feeling like in receiving you are taking something that doesn’t belong to you.  That is of course just one possibility.

Maybe you were told you were selfish or undeserving at some point in your life and it stuck to you as though it were the truth about you.  Perhaps you watched as the people you looked up to deflected compliments or denied gifts with the equivalent of “you shouldn’t have” in the name of being polite.  Maybe you learned you shouldn’t accept gifts because it would obligate you to someday offer something in return as though a gift is just a way of manipulating you into owing them something.

If you are consistently challenged with receiving generosity from another (or even asking for help or support of any kind) it may be time consider what is in the way.

Try asking yourself this question: What do I fear would be true about me or them (or worry others will think of me) if I accepted a “gift” in any of it’s forms without resistance or qualification?

2.  Your Relationship with the Giver

If you already know or sense there are issues in your relationship with the giver, those issues will likely color your experience of receiving from them. In these situations it may be a good idea to consider if your experience with receiving in this instance may be a symptom of an issue in your relationship rather than with your inability to openly and authentically receive.

A good question to ask yourself is: how are my feelings and interpretations of this person and our relationship affecting my experience in being given to by this person?

3.  The Givers Intention

Not all gifts come without strings attached.  On the surface the giving gesture may seem like an act of appreciation or generosity.  But if it somehow doesn’t really feel like a gift or an act of true generosity, there may be a hidden motive or expectation of something in return.

In fact, if that is the case it isn’t a gift at all.  It is a form of manipulation.  In these situations it is no wonder you would feel uncomfortable receiving because in doing so you are making an agreement you may not want to make.

If such a situation arises consider it may behoove you to speak up if your relationship with that person is important to you.

You may not want to address your feelings then and there, especially in front of others as this kind if conversation is a private one.  You may not want to address it all if you don’t trust the individual or you don’t see this person having enough influence over your future to make it worth the risk of a potentially difficult conversation.

Either way make sure you choose based on how you value the relationship and your commitments rather, than your fears.

And if you do speak up remember to go in with an open mind because your interpretation of their motive may not be their reality.  Your new awareness can be a great way to open an important and constructive conversation, but remember you are not the only person with feelings and beliefs in this equation.

Consider this…

None of us would get along in this world without the love and support of others.  To the extent that you are limiting the ability of others to give to you doesn’t just rob them of the joy of giving.  It may actually be stealing away your personal success and satisfaction in life.  And the extent to you experience discomfort with receiving from a particular person is an opportunity to observe and take action to make that relationship better.

So what about you – how well do you receive?


Enter A Comment

Jenifer Olson @jenajean   |   22 February 2012   |   Reply

Hi Susan,

Interesting post! The whole giving and receiving thing can get pretty complicated, but I think if we give because we love someone, believe in them or can make a difference in their lives, it can be life-affirming for the person receiving the gift and accepted with joy. 🙂


Susan Mazza   |   24 February 2012   |   Reply

Great points Jennifer! Thanks for your comment.

Marguerite Granat   |   26 February 2012   |   Reply

Susan, it is interesting observation. Some people have the need to immediately give back because they can’t receive. Part of the joy of the person giving is that the gift is welcomed. As you mentioned above if the intent of the giver is manipulation then it is not a gift. A gift is something that is given with sincerity without the expectation of receiving something in return. Great post!

Susan Mazza   |   27 February 2012   |   Reply

Yes Marguerite – that need to give immediately back is another symptom of difficulty in receiving. This too can rob the giver of the joy of giving.