Many years ago, after conducting a seminar out of state, I went to the hotel dining room for dinner. I noticed one of the seminar attendees sitting alone and I asked if I could join her. She appeared delighted and excited and we went on to have a lovely dinner. At the end of the meal, she said with a great deal of enthusiasm and sense of pride, “Dinner is on me!” I thanked her but stated that it wasn’t necessary because the company that was sponsoring the event was paying for my expenses. She replied, “But I want to. Please let me do this.” Because I did not feel comfortable having her spend her money on me when I would be able to get reimbursed for my meal, I said, “Save your money. We’ll let my sponsor pick up my tab.” Afterwards, it dawned on me that it wasn’t about the money at all. This nurse wanted to do something nice for me and it would have made her feel good to be able to do that. I should have simply graciously accepted her offer and thanked her for her kindness. To this day I regret my insensitivity and imagine how deflated I must have made her feel.
My husband, who is disabled and uses a wheelchair, prides himself on his independence. When we are out in public, strangers often run to hold a door for him or something similar. Initially, he would get rather annoyed when this happened, perceiving that people saw him as helpless or “needing” assistance when he was perfectly capable of doing these things himself. But eventually he realized that when others were helping him, it made them feel good. So now, rather than refusing their help, he simply allows it and says something like, “Thank you. That was a big help” or “Thanks – very nice of you to help.” It always puts a smile on the other person’s face.
When my father was hospitalized after a very serious illness, I was impressed with, and grateful for, the expert care one of his primary nurses provided. I told her so one day and she replied rather brusquely, without even making eye contact with me, “That’s my job. That’s what I get paid for.” I got a knot in my stomach and felt so deflated that she would reject or brush off my heartfelt expression of thanks and appreciation. If only she had said something like, “It was my pleasure. And thank you for taking the time to mention that to me.” Graciously accepting a compliment or expression of thanks from another is a way to honor and acknowledge that person.
Next time you contemplate rejecting someone’s offer of help or kindness – or even a compliment, whether you feel you deserve it or not – consider the other person’s perspective. Start being more ‘generous’ to them by giving them the gift of accepting, allowing and acknowledging.