How do you respond when people offer a heartfelt compliment or word of appreciation? Are you able to receive it gracefully or does it make you uncomfortable?
Often we don’t avail ourselves of the simple intimacies that can affect the quality of our day. We let moments slip by without being alert to the possibilities of a richer connection, however brief it might be. Paying attention to our language and how we feel inside when someone does something kind can create a lovely bridge between our worlds.
John Amodeo, PhD is the author of the award-winning book, Dancing with Fire: A Mindful Way to Loving Relationships. His other books include The Authentic Heart and Love & Betrayal. He has been a marriage and family therapist in the San Francisco area for over thirty-five years, has conducted workshops internationally on relationships and couples therapy, and has appeared on CNN, Donahue, and New Dimensions Radio.
Editor: Arman Ahmed
Here are two things we may say that block us from receiving more deeply.
I frequently hear people say “no problem” when I thank them for something. This term has established itself so firmly in our lexicon, especially with young people, that I’m sure that many people will have a problem with my having a problem with it.
A close acquaintance returns my call, and I say, “I appreciate your calling me back so quickly.”
He replies, “No problem.”
You may wonder how I could have a problem with such a harmless response. Well, it’s not really a huge problem for me, so please keep it in perspective. I’m happy that he returned my call so promptly. But the pat response, “no problem,” implies that it might have been a problem. It may make me wonder if my call might be a problem for him. Or it may convey, “Well, I’m a busy man, but I can tolerate talking to you.”
Customer service employees are often trained to avoid saying “no problem” for these very reasons. The words “no” and “problem” don’t evoke warm feelings. As customer service consultant Micah Solomon puts it:
“Even when ‘no problem’ is delivered cheerily and authentically, it still carries baggage with it: Saying ‘no problem’ in response to a customer request implies that the customer — or what they’re asking for — is a problem.”
If a friend or acquaintance returns your call promptly, how much warmer would it feel if they said something such as “I’m happy to call you back,” or “it’s great to hear from you,” or “it’s been a while since we spoke. It’s good to hear your voice.”
These small adjustments in our language may seem trivial, but they can create a warmer, more connected climate for our conversation — assuming that we are indeed happy to hear from someone. I’m not suggesting that we be fake, but rather convey our actual felt experience. Sadly, we often don’t convey how much our friends mean to us. A slight tweaking of our language may nurture our relationships and deepen our friendships.
It Was Nothing
When we thank someone for performing a kind act, we may dismiss it by saying “it was nothing” or “no big deal.” Our intention may be to alleviate any guilt the person may feel for the time we spent doing them a favor. But by deflecting their appreciation, we may miss an opportunity to connect in a deeper way.
Rather than say, “It was nothing,” we might enhance a warm, positive feeling if we simply say something like, “You are very welcome” or “I was happy to do that for you” or “My pleasure.” It leaves me with a warmer, more connected feeling to sense that the person received my appreciation gracefully rather than minimized or dismissed it. If we can find the courage to allow ourselves to be a little more vulnerable by giving and receiving appreciation, we may be rewarded with warmer and deeper connections in our lives.
For many of us, it actually feels good to help someone. Of course, we have limits and need to honor them, but notice how you feel when you do perform a kind act for someone. Was it a drag or did you feel some satisfaction in helping them? If the latter, notice how it feels to convey that.
The National Science Foundation has reported that there is an unprecedented number of Americans who are lonely and isolated. Although there are many reasons for this, it may be useful to notice the subtle ways we push people away in our everyday interaction rather than invite them toward us.
Being mindful of the day-to-day opportunities to interact with people in more meaningful ways, we can take a small step toward creating more intimacy in our lives.