Ep. 106 – Giving & Receiving: What’s On Your Menu?

Welcome to episode 106, which is going to be a two-part conversation around the topic of giving and receiving. 

It’s two parts because, the more I’ve discussed and researched the topic, the more nuance there seems to be between the two. And the layers of giving and receiving aren’t always tied to tangible things. 

For example, have you ever tried to give a compliment to someone who was clearly uncomfortable with receiving it? Or maybe you’re that person who doesn’t like to receive compliments?

The Bottom Line on Top of this episode is that in order to receive a gift, we need to find out first what it is we actually want – not just what we’re willing to accept. 

For a lot of us, it can be uncomfortable to receive something – much less *ask* for something. The purpose of today’s episode is to explore what’s on our personal menu of wants.  

Now, it can be easy to dismiss the idea of having a mental menu of wants as being selfish. Stay with that resistance for a moment and see if you can identify the source of that sentiment. 

It can often take a lot of introspection – and sometimes trial and error – to figure out what we do and don’t want. And then there are social dynamics that play into what we are conditioned to value and into what we subconsciously accept.

In this go-go world, how often do we actually stop to consider what we want?

When I was growing up my dad used to say to me: “Your wants are many and your needs are few.”

Yes, yes, that was true. But it’s also okay to know what you want – if for no other reason than to know what we can source for and provide to ourselves. 

Having things we desire doesn’t make us selfish; it makes us human. 

Let’s try out this concept in a scenario. 

Imagine you are out walking on a beautiful day, and you realize you are hungry. You see a lovely bistro and take a seat at a table. 

A server comes to greet you and you ask for a menu. 

“Oh, there are no menus here,” they reply. “We will bring you something.”

“I’ve never been here before,” you say. “I don’t even know what you offer.”

“That’s okay,” is the response. “We will decide what to give you.”

Ummmm, that’s a little unusual. And, yet, it’s also a very common way in which we are given things in our daily life – whether that is a gift, a compliment, or an opportunity, a lot of times it is bestowed upon us. And sometimes that is a delightful, unexpected experience. And other times, you are kind of secretly hoping there is a gift receipt.

Now imagine the same situation but this time the friendly server brings you a very large menu. It has pages and pages of options with all different types of cuisine, portion sizes, and cost. As you sit there flipping through it, you are starting to feel overwhelmed by all the choices. The more you’re thinking about it, the less certain you are of what you want in that moment. 

The busy bistro is buzzing around you with lots of people, and you start to feel pressure to make a decision, but which thing to choose? The earlier enjoyment of the experience starts to fade and even if you make a choice, you might start to second guess if it was the best option. 

This can happen to us as recipients, too, when very well intended people ask us what we would like. The process of picking an option in a timeframe can sometimes cause our brain to go blank. 

But what if we return to the bistro and this time there is a chalkboard outside. It showcases a short list of the store’s specialties. High quality options targeted just to your tastes. 

This is where our conversation takes us today. Taking time to spend a few minutes to reflect on what you’d like to see becomes a very important short-list on the You Menu. 

Are you someone who likes gifts in boxes or do you prefer things to experience? Or do you like both?

Are there things you know you would return if given so you wouldn’t even have them on the chalkboard at all?

Would you prefer to plan the menu yourself vs. go along with the plans of others? Or do you love it when something is planned for you because the decision making that you don’t have to do is a gift in itself?

Or is it time that you seek? Or maybe talent from others? What does care look and feel like when its custom made for your tastes?

Start with space to consider what you would write on that chalkboard. It’s a delicious exercise in creating a curated collection of things that delight…you. 

I had a chance to do something similar recently- my oldest son was asking me what I’d like for Mother’s Day. Over the years, I’ve happily collected the crafts and tchotchkes that come with this day, especially as they grew up. And then there were the teen years of there being only one thing on the menu and that was oh-yeah-that’s-right-happy-day-to-you-mom very limited effort. 

But this year, I already knew what to put on the chalkboard. 

“Write me a letter,” I said to my boys. 

After they clarified that this didn’t mean to send me a long text on their phone, I explained that their words given in this snapshot of time this year would be the perfect gift for me. Nothing they could find on a shelf will mean as much to me as the effort and sentiment from them as they are now. 

And next year, or next holiday, I may have a different item on the menu. And that’s the beauty of gifts. The right ones don’t take a lot or cost a lot to feel right for you. And while amazing and lovely gifts can certainly come from things that we don’t even think to put on a list, having an idea of our wants becomes a gift we provide to ourselves – and a gift that we give to others. 

So pick up a pen to your own menu. See what it is you want, and what you definitely don’t want. And what makes the cut on that chalkboard for now.

While you can’t always get what you want, if you try sometimes, well, you just might find, you get to know what you want.  

Your brain is hungry. Give it some intellectual snacks in the
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I'm Kristin

I left my corporate work and dove further into how to navigate this noisy, digital, exhausted world. The result is a methodology centered on communications, productivity, and culture that blends theory with practice and helps people better enjoy the life they worked so hard to get.