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The Art of Receiving: The Five Week Manners Makeover Step 5

by Danica Waters / photo credits at bottom of post

 

Now that we’ve covered Basic Table Manners, The Art of Conversation, The Art of Greeting, and the Art of Giving, now it’s time to learn The Art of Receiving.

 

Everybody likes to receive presents, right?  In theory, receiving an outpouring of someone else’s thoughtfulness and generosity should not only make us feel super-special, it’s supposed to be downright fun.  So why is it that so very many of us unwittingly make an absolute mess out of the act of receiving a gift?  See if any of these scenarios sound familiar:

 

Scenario #1:

After spending a month quizzing common friends on gift ideas, scouting out every retail shop within a 50-mile radius for exactly what she was looking for, and spending nearly an hour gift wrapping, Betsy finally found what she thought was the perfect gift for her dear cousin.  She was so excited!  Upon arriving at the cousin’s annual holiday party, Betsy proudly handed her the gift and said, “This, my dear, is for youwith a look of anticipation all over her face.  “Oh!  Thank you so much!” her cousin replied, giving her a hearty hug.  Then, without opening the gift and much to Betsy’s dismay, her cousin proceeded to tell her all about the wonderful, mind-blowing gift she’d just received from another friend of hers.  Betsy’s package disappeared into the hustle and bustle of the house, and she ended up leaving that evening not even knowing if her cousin had opened her gift or what she thought of it if she had.

 

Scenario #2:

Still smarting from her gift-giving experience the night before, Betsy delivered a small but thoughtful gift to a co-worker.  Upon presenting the gift, the co-worker looked at her, cleared his throat, and said, “So I suppose you want me to open this now?”  The situation became instantly uncomfortable; Betsy replied that he should feel free to open it whenever he had a minute – it was nothing big, just a small token to say “happy holidays”.  The co-worker brusquely said “Thanks”, and Betsy spent the rest of her workday feeling awkward and uncomfortable about having tried to do something nice.

 

Scenario #3:

Betsy had had just about enough, but she figured that the holidays were really for children anyway.  She’d been invited to have afternoon tea at a friend’s home.  Knowing that her friend had children, she brought a little something for each of them in beautifully wrapped boxes.  Her friend called her children, telling them that Betsy had brought them each a present.  The kids ran into the room, snatched the presents from Betsy’s hands without even saying “hello” to her, and ripped into the boxes.  Two of the three seemed to like what they got, quickly saying “thanks” as they ran upstairs with their new toys.  The third opened his box and said, in front of everyone in the room, “That’s it?  But I don’t want this one.  It’s a little kid toy.”

 

Ever been in Betsy’s position?  “Just can’t get no respect“?  Before you find yourself stocking up on lumps of coal to hand out next year, here’s something to consider:

 

For some people, receiving isn’t as easy as it seems.

Sometimes people who are normally terrific, jovial, outgoing folks can morph into somewhat defensive, definitely ungracious, and in some cases downright rude individuals when they are presented with a gift.  These folks demonstrate receiving issues for a variety of reasons:

1.  They feel embarrassed that they don’t have anything to give in return;

2.  They don’t feel worthy;

3.  They’re not comfortable showing you how much your gift really means;

4.  They feel vulnerable, like they’ll owe you something by accepting your gift;

5.  They simply don’t know how to be grateful;

6.  Alas!  They are rude and selfish ingrates who should be banished from society forevermore.  (Thankfully, this isn’t usually the case.)

 

The Art of Receiving

Receiving is an art form that must be carefully considered and even practiced, especially if you or your child happens to experience receiving issues accompanied by any of the feelings listed above.  Receiving graciously is ultimately an act of humility, and, in the words of Jacques Maritain, “Gratitude is the most exquisite form of courtesy.”

When mentally practicing the Art of Receiving, here’s some things to keep in mind:

1.  Receiving is the other part of a two-way street.  By receiving any gift graciously, you are allowing the Giver to experience the joy of giving.  To receive in an ungracious, stunted, or rude manner strips the Giver of his/her opportunity to experience that joy..

2.  The Giver has already decided that you are worthy.  Accept their opinion.  Insecurity is a heavy beast to battle.  But if feelings of low self worth are stunting your ability to receive graciously, turn your attention to the thoughtfulness of the Giver.  Make them feel appreciated and special for their kindness and consideration towards you.

3.  The Giver didn’t expect you to have a gift ready to reciprocate.  Honestly, unless you just totally blew off your duties as a Secret Santa, the person who just gave you a gift really has no expectation of receiving anything in return.  Your sincere expression of joy and gratitude will be enough to make their giving experience complete.  Don’t rush to reciprocate, either, or you’ll run the risk of looking like you’re giving out of a feeling of obligation rather than inspiration.

4.  Learn how to be grateful for the little things. Learning to focus on and be grateful for seemingly little things that we receive every day is a great way to become accustomed to the experience of receiving.  Maybe it’s really appreciating how your mom always put the right amount of brown sugar on your oatmeal in the mornings, how your husband always brings you perfectly-brewed coffee every morning as you are getting ready for work, or how Grandma always sets out hot tea and cookies when you drop in out of the blue.  Maybe it’s really noticing that your co-worker always has your back in a pinch, or that your neighbor always brings in your trash cans while you’re at work. Getting used to feeling grateful on a daily basis will hone your ability to experience and convey a genuine feeling of gratitude for any gift you’re given, no matter how big or how small.  Becoming acutely aware of and grateful for the little gestures people extend to us every single day sensitizes us to our own ability to positively impact others’ lives in little ways, as well.

 

The Formalities: What to do when you are given a gift:

Having tuned into your sense of gratitude, it’s now time to practice the formal expression within the Art of Receiving:

 

1.  Look the Giver in the eye, smile, and say “Thank You”.

2.  Mention that you sincerely appreciate their thoughtfulness, and express excitement at seeing what they’ve given you.

3.  When opening the gift, your focus and attention should be on the Giver; try to avoid becoming distracted until you’ve finished opening and appreciating the gift.

4.  Take a minute to compliment the gift wrap, if applicable.  Express gratitude over the time and effort taken.

5.  Even if you HATE the gift you’ve been given, look past any personal disappointment and find a way to compliment the Giver’s selection, i.e. “This scarf is simply the nicest color pink!”

6.  Look the Giver in the eye again, smile, and express your gratitude again for the Giver’s time, consideration, and generosity.

 

How to teach your kids the Art of Receiving

Practice makes perfect.  Role-playing potential gift-related scenarios in advance helps kids know what to do and say when the time comes.

 

Hopefully, with awareness and a bit of practice, the circle of giving will be complete and joyous this holiday season and beyond.

 

Enjoy!

 

Photo Credits:

Baby with gift courtesy www.thehalfwaypoint.net

Woman handing gift courtesy www.jessicakateproductions.blogspot.com

Woman with several gifts courtesy www.life123.com

Disappointed child courtesy www.parentsconnect.com

Rodney Dangerfield courtesy www.ranker.com

Insecure girl courtesy www.ronedmundson.com

Circle of hands courtesy www.nonprofitlawblog.com

Chinese women exchanging gifts courtesy www.blogofasia.com

 

Posted November 15th, 2011.

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