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Reflections from a Reluctant Receiver


I have totally internalized those early messages about how ‘it’s always better to give than to receive.’ Perhaps too much. My anxiety starts creeping up when I realize that I’ve been to someone’s house for dinner twice in a row without reciprocating in between. I can’t receive a compliment without wanting to share one in return. And accepting gifts… don’t even get me started!

So, imagine my stress during the launch of my book as generous bloggers and other online leaders started offering their help and support. Guest blog post opportunities, book reviews, introductions, and referrals started flowing in. People were amazing. And I was clearly on the receiving end to a degree I’d never experienced.

In an effort to return balance to my world, I tried to figure out how to reciprocate… what I could do to for them. Nobody was budging. They really didn’t want anything in return. I pressed and someone finally offered these words of wisdom: “What you can do is just accept the help and say ‘thank you’.”

That simple advice caused me to think deeply about my patterns (which I know others share) and come up with three reasons we all should relax into receiving.

  1. The universe innately creates balance. We don’t need to fret and force it. When we approach life with a spirit of generosity, everything evens out over the long-haul. It’s a bit like the ocean. At any moment in time, the waves are coming in or going out. But, we don’t focus on or worry about where the water is at the moment – or whether it’s the same drops coming and going. We trust the constant, effortless flow back and forth. Similarly, opportunities will present themselves for giving and receiving in equal measure over time.
  1. There’s pleasure in giving. Here’s where the axiom comes in. Most human beings truly do experience a genuine sense of pleasure as a result of giving. It’s hard not to smile when doing a good deed, offering your help, or even sharing a compliment. But, too frequently we diminish the pleasure others may derive with our ‘receiving-averse’ reactions. How fun is it to compliment someone who proceeds to tell you that you’re wrong, the dress is old, or they’ve actually gained rather than lost weight? When we can relax and accept graciously, we enable greater satisfaction and pleasure for the giver.
  1. Appreciation is powerful.  The research is in and it confirms that appreciation is one of the most constructive emotions around… with the power to improve health, combat depression, contribute to happiness, and more. No wonder it’s something that so many of us crave… but don’t ever seem to get enough of. Expressing sincere appreciation benefits both the giver and receiver. As you both soak up the beneficial effects, you’ll notice that appreciation begets appreciation – making appreciative receiving a gift in itself.

So, let me close with what I think I’ve learned.  Thank you!  (How did I do?)

What about you? What makes you reluctant to receive? How do you relax into receiving?

This article was originally posted by Susan Mazza on her inspirational site, in celebration of the launch of Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go: Career Conversations Employees WantPlease visit and learn more about Susan and Random Acts of Leadership.


  1. A thoughtful piece and an important lesson in Universal humility. Thank you!

    • Thank you, Pete. Humility is the perfect word… really puts it into perspective.

    • Your first paragraph is me 100%! I too look for ways to immediately repay the person who has done something nice for me. I find that instead of enjoying the gift I end up with my mind racing on how to “equal the playing field.” I need to remind myself that things do even out. Enjoy each gift given to you and know that you provide the same pleasure to others when you give back.
      Thank you for sharing- in turn, I shared with my team. 🙂

      • I guess this is more universal than I first realized. As I talk with others, it’s clear that many of us struggle with the whole notion of ‘evening the playing field.’ That’s another argument for receiving gracefully… as we receive, we let others feel the relief of being even again. Thanks for sharing your thoughts here… and for sharing the ideas with your team. I’d love to hear their reaction.

        • I am a nurse eudcator and human resource development manager for a private hospital group in Soiuth Africa. Nurses are givers and often struggle to recieve. What I have learnt is that we should also allow others teh pleasure of giving by receiving what the give with sincere gratitude. Sometimes giving something small means the world to the giver. we should not deprive others of the joy of giving.

          I sincerely enjoy receiving anything, gifts, guidance, appreciation, and even a thank you from a colleague, student, loved one.

          • You are so right Erika. And I know from my own experience when my mother was ill and subsequently passed away, the debt of gratitude people feel to nurses is great. We were blessed with nurses who provided wonderful, compassionate and loving care. I’m grateful that they graciously accepted our expressions of thanks, as it helped to facilitate the grieving process. Thank you for sharing your thoughts… and for the work you’re doing to bring health and comfort to others.

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