When it’s Better to Receive than Give

I know one of our region’s most gifted relationship builders, everyone knows him.

I remember the day he taught me a valuable lesson. Build connections by letting people do things for you.

I regularly have coffee with “Joe” – not his real name. One morning I offered to buy Joe a cup of coffee. I saw a brief hesitation and then he said, “Thanks Dan, I take mine with cream.”

Joe didn’t want that cup of coffee. He sipped it a couple times and later left it. I wondered what was going on.

A few days later, I asked Joe why he let me buy him a cup of coffee he didn’t want. He said, “If someone wants to give you something, take it. It makes them feel good and builds a relationship.”

I’m not suggesting you take things you don’t want. That was Joe’s approach. The general principle stands. If someone wants to give you something, take it.

Usually, I want to be the gift-giver. I think it’s a position of highest influence. Joe taught me that letting others have the position of influence is good for them and the relationship.


What about obligations. Gifts create obligations; they shouldn’t but they do. Did I obligate Joe? Not much. That’s the point. Small gifts are more relational. They don’t create obligations.


Note: I’m not referring to gifts from vendors. Or, gifts that are actually bribes. This post centers on relationship building. In that case, letting people do something for you strengthens relationships.

Are you like me, reluctant to receive and comfortable giving?

How can leaders receive in healthy, ethical ways that strengthen relationships without creating obligations?


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