How to be a graceful receiver

How many times have you been out to dinner/coffee/whatever with someone and tussled over the bill? Sometimes a perfectly nice get together can be spoiled at the end by two people insisting upon bestowing their generosity upon their friend, and neither stopping for a moment to gracefully accept the gift. Such a bummer. And notice I’m talking about simply being graceful rather than grateful. Being graceful is an outward expression; being grateful is an internal posture (though can often be gracefully expressed).

It happened again to me today. Went out for lunch with relatives for one person’s birthday, and the birthday person insisted on at least paying for some of the lunches. I told them, there are 364 other days during the year where you’re welcome to buy me lunch; please let me give you this gift. To no avail. Sometimes you just have to shrug and let the steamroller do it’s thing.

It got me thinking about when I’m on the receiving end of that kind of proposition. I like giving gifts as much as the next person, but sometimes it is good to be a receiver. It’s not as natural, though. Givers are in control, receivers not so much. I think resistance to a gift is probably the receiver’s attempt at wresting back a little bit of control from the giver. Anyway, I’ve got some rules that I try real hard to follow:

1. If someone insists on treating me, and I’m not expecting it, I’ll politely decline. If they insist, I’ll ask whether they’re sure (the answer is always yes by this time), then I will thank them and accept.
2. If it’s a larger ticket item, like lunch or dinner, I’ll accept with the caveat that they allow me to get the tip. This almost always works, and we both leave feeling good.
3. If the deal is scheduled in advance, ie, someone says, “I’d like to take you out for coffee” then there’s no demurring and only an honest “thank you.”

Not to beat a dead horse here, but I really do think there’s a difference between being grateful and graceful. We can be graceful through practice, without a grateful heart it’s a hollow discipline. Learning to be grateful makes it easier to be graceful.

2 thoughts on “How to be a graceful receiver

  1. Being a graceful receiver is not that easy one even in Korea where the receiving something can be regarded as a virtue. I will try to give hospitality without making someone hurt emotionally.

    1. There are definitely cultural considerations, aren’t there? It would be nice if America could learn from Korea and begin regarding receivership as a virtue as well!

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