How do you respond when people offer a heartfelt compliment, a friendly favor, or words of appreciation? Do you receive it gracefully or feel awkward and uncomfortable?
Source: Wikimedia Commons image by Kru Tony Moore
Oftentimes we don’t avail ourselves of simple interpersonal pleasures that can improve the quality of our lives. We don’t let people in. We let moments slip by–ignoring the possibilities of a richer connection, even if brief. Paying attention to our language and how we feel when someone treats us kindly can help us feel less lonely and more connected.
Here are common things we say that may hinder a gracious and gratifying flow of giving and receiving.
I frequently hear people say “no problem” when I thank them for something. As i discussed in a previous article, this term has established itself so firmly in our lexicon, especially with younger folks, that I’m sure that many people will have a problem with my having a problem with it.
An acquaintance returns my call, and I say, “I appreciate your calling me back so quickly.”
He replies, “No problem.”
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 response, “no problem,” implies something. It makes me wonder if my call might be a problem for him. It sorta sounds like, “I’m a busy guy, 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, fuzzy feelings. As customer service consultant Micah Solomon puts it:
“Even when ‘no problem’ is delivered cheerfully 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.”
When a friend or acquaintance returns our call promptly and we thank them, how much warmer would it feel if they said something like “I’m happy to call you back,” or “it’s good to hear from you,” or “it’s been a while since we spoke. Nice 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 fake it or overstate it, but rather convey our actual felt experience. Sadly, we often don’t reveal how much our friends mean to us. A slight tweaking of our language might 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 performing 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 gratitude 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 connections in our lives.
It can feel good to help someone. Notice how you feel when you perform a kind act for someone. Did it drag you down, lift your spirits, or was it neutral? Did you feel satisfaction in helping them? If the latter, how might it feel 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.
By noticing 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 and communities.
© John Amodeo
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John Amodeo, Ph.D., MFT is 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 licensed marriage and family therapist for over 35 years in the San Francisco Bay area and has lectured and conducted workshops internationally.
Wikimedia Commons image by Kru Tony Moore