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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I really like this one, thank you! I too often deny others the pleasure of helping. Very good reminder.
Hi Dan I think most of us are reluctant to receive because for one it is not as gratifying as giving and two it may create obligation as you said. It is also a lot easier and more natural to give and not as hard as receiving especially when the receiving happens unexpectedly. I think the Roman Governor Pontius Pilate said it best when he cautioned the Judeans to be gracious and accept his generosity. The downside of not learning how to receive with “graciousness” is being perceived as arrogant and superior especially when the material value is small yet the unseen big intent is ignored. Giving comes natural to almost everyone but receiving takes practice particularly when one is needy. Receiving if done with sincerity allows connection with the giver and starts equity in a relationship of equals. So let us be gracious and provide ample opportunity for the givers to have their day of gratification. That being said Dan, I am happy to receive all of the wisdom and keen advice you have provided me over the past year and a half. Have a great weekend Peace 🙂
Totally agree. While using the principle of reciprocity is a powerful tool of influence, leaders can benefit by being sensitive to the needs of others and then meeting those needs. Accepting a gift honors the person and their intent and builds the relationship.
If I understand – receiving is in fact giving. You are giving someone the opportunity to feel good in their deed. Less obvious than a tangible gift, but longer lasting.
Interesting concept and one I wrestle with…..I have breakfast once a week with friends and someone always pays…I don’t like it because I then feel obligated and money is tighter than we’d like…so buying for one is simpler than buying for 4. I am sure they don’t mean it that way.
I love this post! And it makes absolute sense. Ive witnessed it in situations where sometimes yes, the person giving the gift seems much more happier and valued when the other accepts. Sadly, only the other day I refused a gift for fear of burdening the other, where it could have actually built a connection but now I know what to do.
I am more of a gift-giver but the value of Joe’s lesson is the importance of creating balance. Giving gifts can be powerful. Receiving gifts is also powerful. Keeping that power for both people in the relationship balanced keeps it healthy. I think some of us forget that. It is such a great feeling to give that by accepting a gift, we give that good feeling as a gift.
This was a great lesson for me as I reflected on your words. Many thanks Dan!
I believe giving based on expectation does not build relationship. Receiving that inflates our ego and creates biasness for others are fake. I receive things (usually intangible) that are real, feel me proud and do not make me to hide before others. I receive the things that I can show to others and also that can be accepted in front of others. I also take care about the things offered. When it is just to please to get work done, then I don’t receive it. I believe, any receive that disconnect me influence my perception is fake and deceiving.
Leaders can receive things in public to make it more healthy and authentic. Leaders need to be very careful while receiving and make sure that they don’t compromise with their core. Context keep on changing but leaders should strike a clear balance not to compromise with their values while receiving anythings.
I don’t fully agree on “if someone wants to give you something, take it”. In the coffee example, it’s perfectly fine to say “no thanks”, that doesn’t kill the relationship and you can talk and communicate around that. What’s worse though is answering to a “no thanks” with insisting, over and over. Being pushy is never a good strategy, in any kind of relationship.
I wouldn’t follow my friends specific approach. Just the general principle.
Thanks for joining in.
Welllll, since Al Diaz made a Scriptural comment, I guess so can I….When Simon Peter, an Apostle, complained about Jesus washing his feet, (receiving a gift from Jesus), He/Jesus said, “If I do not wash you, you have no part in Me”. Of course, it was a lead into Judas…But, what I have always remembered feeling about that was, I need to be able to receive, as well as give. If I can’t receive a gift from someone else simply for what it is, a gift from someone else, how can I expect anyone to receive a gift from me? Many times when I meet someone for the first time in business and in networking, I bring a gift. It could be as simple as a couple of bars of soap I made – I like to make things, and typically give little things away that someone may admire. There are many darksided reasons for gifting, but it was a cup of coffee, not a Rolex. When there is a group meeting together, I don’t think one person should pick up the tab unless it has been decided before hand. You don’t know what hardship it could mean if it is expected at another ‘lunch’ meeting for the next person to have to pick it up. As Matt said, money is tight – for many.
That said, I’m going to make an appointment with someone I want to do business with, and hopefully, in her set up. Our visions seem to have a similar thread, but what I want to offer, she may know of nothing. Therefore, I was going to offer a portion of what I do just so she can experience it, first hand. Now, I hope that she will be able to receive it, not as a bribe, because it truly isn’t, but as an experience, so she will be open to its’ value for both of us. You’ve made me a bit nervous…..
I tend to agree with Gabriele’s point of view, Also, what struck me as odd is the fact that you noticed he didn’t want the coffee and he left it sitting. Not sure how that made you feel good about the relationship? Relationships are built on mutual respect, and enjoying each others company. I’d prefer words of encouragement, honest feedback, or healthy debate on a topic of interest instead of a “gift”.
Buddhist monks traditionally beg for two reasons: one because it allows them to focus their time on their practice, but two because it allows lay-people the opportunity to ‘gain merit.’ Gaining merit can be seen in many lights, including cynical ones. However, an easy way to understand it is as the above article says, it allows the giver to do something good for someone else, which engenders goodwill towards oneself and one’s community. This in turn is reflected in the health (mental and otherwise) of the giver and his/her community.
I remember being called by a follower to come treat a Rinpoche, after he had gotten a hip replacement. Although *I* treated the rinpoche, I had a distinct warm feeling from having the opportunity to give something for a person who was devoted to doing Good Work.
Religion aside, it does a mind/body good to do something good for another. Turning down a sincere gift or favour does no one any favours.