Why It’s Better to Receive Than to Give

Image by Alice Harold via Flickr

We teach our children that it’s better to give than to receive. I’m not sure it is.

Not because it’s better to get stuff. I’m not materialistic that way. But because you’re not quite so disappointed if things don’t go as you hoped.

Receiving a gift is easy.

A gift is a statement saying, “I know who you are and I appreciate you.”

When you get a squirrely gift, you might rethink your relationship with the giver.

But if you asked for a pair of diamond earrings, and got a four dollar pair of glass earrings from Walmart, you can just buy your own diamonds. You have a job. And you have money.

Giving a gift is hard.

Suppose you buy a $20 bath set from Target for Aunt Rita because you’re obligated to buy her something. That’s easy.

But you might be inclined to do some research. You want to find the perfect gift. You want Aunt Rita to know you understand her. This isn’t easy.

A girl smiling or laughing.
Image via Wikipedia (This is not Aunt Rita)

Giving is about observing joy in your loved ones.

What happens when you watch Aunt Rita open the bath set? Is she excited? If so, your easy gift has gotten you the satisfaction you seek.

You might see Aunt Rita smile appreciatively and say, “Thank you,” without much joy. If you don’t care about Aunt Rita, this is not a big deal. But then perhaps you should refrain from giving a present to her at all.

Do some research. Maybe Aunt Rita loves birdwatching and has an entire library on birdwatching books. Is there a new book coming out? Pre-order it for her and watch her face as she opens that. The joy will be clear.

Some people don’t exhibit joy face-to-face.

Uncle Zeno is a grumpy old curmudgeon. Every present he opens is followed with “Thank you” in the bah-humbug tone. But he follows up with a thank you note expressing his appreciation and how he uses the gift.

A nicely written note from Uncle Zeno goes a long way.

A child sad that his hot dog fell to the groun...
Image via Wikipedia

When no appreciation is shown, the disappointment is high.

Sometimes you give a gift and there is no exhibition of appreciation or joy. This is miserable.

In the next opportunity of giftgiving, you’ll be more likely to choose the easy $20 bath set to give. Or give no gift at all.

Investing emotional energy to find the perfect gift needs a return. If there is no ROI, there will be no future investment.

Get ready for the ups and downs.

So get ready to receive kooky gifts and things that mean nothing to you. But also prepare yourself for some sadness around giving.

It might be better to give than receive in your parents’ eyes. But for emotional risk, it’s easier to receive than to give.

Do you hate giving or receiving? Share your story in the comments.

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2 Responses to Why It’s Better to Receive Than to Give
  1. Jo Champion
    December 4, 2010 | 10:01 am

    I HATE opening presents because Im one of those that does not “react” quite like everyone wants me to. I love the presents but then I will smile and say thank you and its so anti-climatic for the people that buy it. So then I work myself up and try to react in a more upbeat appropriate manner and then it comes out forced and insincere. So then they think I really dont like the present at all. Ug its too much pressure.


    • Idearella
      December 4, 2010 | 8:01 pm

      Do you write thank you notes, Jo? You could express yourself that way. Thus you don’t have to feel the pressure and your friends and fam will quickly learn that they’ll get the full feel of the joy in the mail. It will give them something to look forward to.

      Thanks for your comment!

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