The Gift of Receiving

leadership skills giving receivingI’m a guy. I like to help. But sometimes I don’t get to.

I was waiting outside my apartment the other day, watching my kids play, when a neighbor drove up, opened the back of her SUV, and started to unload boxes of tile. Naturally, I offered to help.

To my amazement she replied—with a strained voice between gasps for air—”No…I’ve…got it.” I pleaded with her on her second trip, but was again denied as she struggled to get the heavy load through her door.

People not accepting help is one of my pet peeves. What’s going on here? From what I’ve seen, it usually due to one of four reasons:

1. Pride. We all have a tendency to believe that we don’t need help. Most of the time we actually do. But, even if we don’t need help, that’s still not a good reason to refuse it.

2. Fear. We live largely in a transactional world. If you accept help from someone else, there’s the implication that you now owe them. Most people can’t bear to live with that imaginary debt.

3. Culture. Some cultures are more individualistic or simply more private than others.

4. Lack of Trust. If you don’t know me how can you believe that I have your best interests in mind?

Each of these reasons—at its core—is selfish. They focus on the potential receiver, their ego, their fears, their comfort, their way of doing things.

Meanwhile, I think there are some great reasons for accepting help:

1. It Shows Humility. It takes real confidence to receive help. It demonstrates that you don’t think you can do it all yourself (even if you can).

2. It Helps the Helper. Serving makes people feel good about themselves. When you deny someone the opportunity to serve, you deny them a chance to feel good about themselves.

3. It Creates Better Products & Experiences. Working together usually produces better results with less effort in a shorter amount of time.

4. It Builds Relationships. Serving each other interweaves our lives. It allows us to use our strengths to meet the needs of others and vice versa.

How can you practice receiving today? Here are few ideas:

  • Don’t fight over who’s going to pay for a meal. When someone offers to pay, say thank you and mean it. Don’t promise to return the favor—just be genuinely thankful.
  • When someone opens a door for you, walk through it, say “thank you,” and don’t touch it (trust they’re strong enough to keep it open and fully accept the gift).
  • Try not to deflect compliments that come your way, no matter how uncomfortable you may feel. Honor the other person by listening to and believing what they say.

How good are you at receiving? Where do you need practice?

5 thoughts on “The Gift of Receiving”

  1. Hi Geoffrey
    This is a brilliant, matter of fact, post. My husband and I have been working through this issue in the last few days, both in ourselves and in helping another couple come to terms with some issues in their lives.

    I put the main reason for not accepting help as Pride – which is what you have highlighted. I hadn’t gone much further in my analysis, but you have made some genuine points here which I now need to work through.
    Thank you.

    1. Thanks Kate. I agree; this is a huge relationship builder. It always helps to turn it around and look at it from the other person’s perspective. I think those refusing help rarely do that. Thanks for sharing.

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