I’m sure most of you would have at some point in your life, Googled or read articles about the rules of gifting, how to gift properly or what to gift to whom. We all want to be the best gift givers, right? We do try to put at least some thought while picking gifts for our friends or loved ones. Interestingly, our culture lays a lot of emphasis on the value of giving and it is understandable. It’s been ingrained in us to think that it is better to give than to receive. We are also reminded to give much often. But as with most things, there is the “other side” of gift giving – gift receiving.

With all that talk about giving, why don’t we ever hear about receiving? I think there is a good reason for that  – giving costs money while receiving does not. That said, the art of receiving is just as important and a skill that we all need to learn. We tend to forget that with every giver, there is also a receiver. And when something is not received well – whether it’s a gift or a compliment – we notice!


Since there is so much importance attached to giving, some of us have never learned how to receive. What happens when you don’t receive a gift properly? You deny the giver the pleasure of feeling valued; you deny them the ‘joy of giving’. Personally, I really bemoan the absence of grateful receivers. It’s like they leave a bitter aftertaste in your mouth. When you get back nothing or little in response to what you give, isn’t it natural to feel mystified or in some cases even resentful? And I’m not talking about getting anything material in return. I’m talking about the lack of acknowledgement by the receiver. I feel the simple act of acknowledging the gift received or a simple expression of gratitude is one of the ways we give back to the giver. That ways it feels good for our giving to be received and make us want to give again!


Let me try to explain this better by way of a case study of sorts from my personal experience. Every Christmas, I love to get gifts for my friends and family (at least for the ones who are local). It’s usually nothing extraordinary but yet I’m always thoughtful when it comes to gifting. Now it so happens that most of my friends here in Dallas now have kids. So last Christmas, I decided to get gifts for their kids. I ordered customized gifts for three. Now you have to understand that these are not my kids or my siblings’ kids or even my best friend’s kids. So I feel I did go out of my way to put in that thought and effort to get something customized for someone else’s kid. Here are the three different reactions/responses (parents’ responses since the kids are too young) I got to the same gift:

First: I met this friend and her two year old son a little after Christmas so my gift was a little delayed. Nevertheless, it was accepted most graciously with the mother reminding the kid to say thanks. We had met outside so once they reached home and unwrapped the gift, I received a text from the mother mentioning how much she appreciates the gift, the thought I had put in and how excited the child was to receive the gift that had his name on it. Also, that she always loves my gifts! ???? Now, that felt great!

Second: This friend of mine had come over to our place for lunch with her husband and two year old daughter. When I gave the child the gift, she opened it instantly and seemed happy with what she got. I wouldn’t say my friend was overly excited about it but it was a pretty neutral reaction. She liked the fact that it was customized and seemed pleasantly surprised by that. My reaction to how my gift was received was also pretty neutral.

Third: I met these friends for a Christmas brunch outside and handed over the gift that I had got for their less than one year old son to the father. I remember a very cold, unenthusiastic ‘Thank You’. The gift was put in the car before we went inside the restaurant. Till date, I haven’t received any acknowledgement whatsoever for my gift. I don’t hold any grudges against them, but honestly, I feel they robbed me of the joy I felt when I first decided to give that particular gift. This kind of situation has happened more than once (lack of acknowledgement). So I’m not being harsh, but I guess they are just not so good receivers.

I’m sure we all know people who are not all that gracious or thankful about the gifts you give them. It could be your friends, extended family members or even your spouse. They could be giving you information you need to pay attention to (wrong choice of gifts), or maybe they are just not all that well mannered. Try not to be one of those people.

So here are some ways I think we can excel at the art of receiving:

  • Smile when the gift is handed to you and accept it graciously. Don’t say things like – “Oh, you didn’t really need to.”
  • Gifts will not always be perfect. No one has the right to expect people to always please them with what they choose to gift. It really is the thought that counts. “This is great! Thanks a lot for thinking of me/my kid”, is not a lie. It’s just a way of letting the giver know that you’re grateful that they thought of you.
  • I feel it is always good to open the gift in front of the receiver (depending on the situation/place etc.). The giver always imagines how surprised or delighted the recipient will be when they get the gift. Remember, whether you are thrilled with the gift or not, express your appreciation by complimenting their thoughtfulness.
  • If you open the gift later, always acknowledge the gift by way of a call or text message.

Basically, to receive graciously requires more than just words like ‘Thank You’. It requires focusing on someone who has done something special for you. This holiday season, receive well from the people who give to you. Listen to what they say, notice what they do, and most importantly, respond with a sincere ‘Thank You’!

Have you had any experiences with not so good receivers? How did you feel? Share with me in the comments below. I’d love to hear.

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