Why Receiving Gracefully Is Just as Important as Giving

It’s often hard to simply say “thank you,” but that’s all you need to do.

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There’s nothing quite like the joy of receiving a lovely gift. Yet when someone is kind and generous, it can sometimes stir up uncomfortable emotions. Giving, on the other hand, seems more straightforward. It makes us feel good and improves our well-being. But giving and receiving are two sides of the same coin — you can’t have one without the other.  

“They create an inner balance, and complete a symbiotic circle,” psychotherapist Pauline Sanderson tells Thrive. And while receiving comes naturally to some people, it’s harder for others. “Whether it’s help at work, help with the kids, or gifts of money or food, accepting the gift graciously can be a learned skill which takes practice.” Here are four tips that can help:

Just say “thank you”

“When someone brings your family a pie, pays for dinner, or jump-starts your car, ‘thank you’ is all you need to say,” Sanderson says. “You can add a non-verbal ‘thank you’ with a hand over your heart, a light touch on their arm, and of course, your warmest smile,” she adds. After showing your gratitude, take a moment to go inward and appreciate how good it feels to know that someone else cares for you. 

Enjoy the gift mindfully

“Instead of wondering whether your friend could really afford the gift, or feeling guilty because you haven’t given them anything, focus on the thoughts behind the gift,” Sanderson suggests. “Be grateful for the deeper gift — that the person cares for you,” and for the evidence that you’re not alone. There’s power in taking a moment to appreciate the gesture and the connection with the individual who gave it to you.  

Think of receiving and giving as a team sport

“We all share a common humanity; we’re on the same team,” Sanderson says, noting that we all have something to give and something to receive. “If it’s your turn to receive, it adds to the success of the team, moving everyone forward toward the shared goals of good will, health, and happiness.” And remember: Your time to give will come! 

Pay it forward 

If you feel anxious, unworthy, or compelled to “return the favor” when you receive a gift, remember that receiving graciously becomes your gift to the giver.  When someone lends a helping hand, they typically want you to accept it — and doing so allows them to feel the benefits of their altruism as well. Plus, there are always opportunities to give to someone else after you receive some help. As Sanderson says, “Share your joy by ‘paying it forward’ and responding with a gift for someone else in need.” 

The wisest thing you can do is be present in the present. Gratefully.” 

––Maya Angelou


Published on
September 22, 2022
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