At this time of year we are focused on acts of giving, but there is an important counter-action to giving; receiving. It may seem counter-intuitive, but the act of receiving is a complicated one, yet one that is foremost as we head into the season of giving. On the surface it seems easy enough, someone gives you something and you express gratitude, and the majority of time that may be exactly what happens. However, not every one is as able to receive, it is not always a comfortable act. Sometimes receiving is a complex action that requires something of us we may not have available (which is no reflection on the gift giver), or because the gift (anything from a smile to a present) takes us by surprise. For a variety of reasons, we may feel uncomfortable or even unwilling to receive what is being offered, even though it may be given in a heartfelt way. Receiving requires an act of self-confidence, an act of celebration, recognizing your worth thorough the kind intentions of others.
To make this more tangible, when was the last time you asked someone for help (either at work or at home)? At this time of year things are always busy; year-end wrap-up activities at work, working to get budgets aligned or spent before the end of the quarter, social commitments (or social obligations, depending on how you look at it) with family and friends. While the song may say “Its the most wonderful time of the year” I would add it is also one of the most demanding. Have you asked for help lately? If not, why not? Could you have used a hand, either at work or at home, to ensure what needed to get done would be done without strife? What are the more indirect benefits in asking others for help? Did you think you should ask for help, or was your inclination to simply “suck it up” and work harder? Many of us feel if we ourselves are too busy to do anything but check off our own lists, we would not want to place demands on others. Sometimes we do not ask for help as a misplaced attempt to maintain balance, for others and ourselves (“I can do it faster myself”). Yet I know many people who, when asked to help, are pleased because they can see they are well regarded, they are needed, especially if the request is considerate and has everyone’s best interests at heart. Specific requests that come from a very well intentioned place have the power to help others see their own worthiness, while helping us to reflect this in ourselves. Sometimes we do not make requests because we know we can’t reciprocate, and so mitigate any further intrusion on our own productivity by going it alone. What would our days look like if we all chose to act this way? Vulnerability is threaded through the act of receiving, but it is not always a comfortable state.
If we are not inclined to ask for help we may also be very poor at receiving it when it is offered, like any other skill in life, you need to practice this to be good at it. Unfortunately there are those who have been touched by life so harshly they simply cannot trust the act of giving, but for the majority of us there is a lesson here. Wrapped up in our own fugue of things to do we sometimes choose not to make the time to receive what is freely given to us, and in the process we ignore our own worthiness. From the smallest offering (the smiles of strangers), to well intentioned compliments, hugs, gifts and the well wishes of co-workers, family and friends these things are meant to provide a measure of recognition, of celebration. If those gifts make you feel uncomfortable (or if awkwardness has descended just reading/thinking about them) ask yourself “Why?”. Then ask yourself “What is the most gracious thing I can do when these gifts are offered?” It is an act of selflessness that allows us to meet others where they are, which is what the art of receiving is all about. While you may be preoccupied with work and home consider returning the smile of a stranger, accepting a compliment warmly (rather than demonstrating discomfort), receiving an unexpected gift as it was intended (without the gilt of having nothing to reciprocate) because this honors the act of giving, the giver and ourselves.
While a lot of societal value is placed on giving, receiving is an equally important act for that must be present for giving to take place. As you head into the final days of 2015 reflect on your ability to receive as a mirror of your own self-confidence, and the value your openness here may hold for others (as well as yourself). Consider the importance of asking others for meaningful help, and providing an opportunity to build something of value together. The act of heart-felt receiving provides shared meaning and warmth at a time when we all may need it most.
“At the deepest level, there is no giver, no gift, and no recipient... only the universe rearranging itself.”
Carleen Hicks is a certified Integral Professional Coach™ and EQ-i 2.0 Practitioner. She uses a unique perspective from her experience as a Leadership Coach and HR Professional to help people reach their full potential. Check out her Resources page to find great books, blogs and web sites that support professional growth and development.