The Art of Receiving Thank Yous (and giving them)

A few days ago, I stumbled upon an Amy Schumer joke video (to which I’ll put the link down below), that presented a bunch of girls complimenting on each other and their reactions – I won’t spoil it for you, go watch it -, mostly their inability to receive the compliments they were made to.

I found the outcome of it quite ridiculous; obviously, there is no need to add that this is a parody but all parodies have their side of truth, right? Well, this is reality is so greatly and sadly true. Our society doesn’t like to spend time on teaching us useless things such as how to receive thank yous and compliments.

Thanking people is an educated thing to do, that’s true. But only for what they do for us, or to say no in a polite manner. We don’t get taught how to thank people nor to be grateful and say it. So it is okay – and recommended – to say when things are wrong but not when they’re right? Why not?

It is just weird. People find it weird. They don’t know how to receive positivity. And when you do say something positive that concerns them, they avoid it, change subjects, pretend they didn’t hear. And not because they’re happy inside and don’t know how to show it, but because they think they don’t deserve it, or think the giver is lying, or pretending, and so on.

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It is true that it is not the case of all. Some people are good at receiving compliments and thank yous. But to be honest, even if there were 3 out of 7 billion who did not know how to embrace the positivity in a thank you and a compliment, I’d still be writing these words; it makes me really sad that people don’t realise they’re good people, doing well and good things.

When people thank you or make you compliments, own it. If they believe you deserve to be thanked or complimented on, it is for a reason. Just take it. Nothing less, nothing more. And if you don’t know how to, learn. It’s good for you – it doesn’t get much more complicated than that.

Not only does knowing your value help when facing your potential future boss at a job interview while trying to sell yourself ; it also helps when you get thrown negativity at, voluntarily or not. It helps you stay put and stand straight when people tell you you’re doing it wrong (or not well enough).

Knowing your worth acts like an umbrella when you have no other choice but to walk under the rain.

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And when you realise someone’s actions or words are worth mentioning, mention them. Doing things well  – whatever they are -, acting the right way – however (in)significant it might be -, being good to people around – whoever they might be – is not obvious.

Acts of goodness are not to be taken for granted. Show it, say it, share it. Learn how to see it.

Knowing how to thank people for what they do, whoever they might be and however they might be related to you (or not), helps you live a happier life, or at least a happier day, or maybe just hour or minute. Everyone wants happiness, right?

 Or did I get it all wrong? I’m just not just sure humans are on this planet to get richer and richer and to get on each other’s feet.

Human beings, we get better. That’s what we do. We strive for for doing things better, faster, stronger, and all that. History shows it, your parents and grand-parents’ lives show it. Yours should as well. And if it doesn’t, then there’s something wrong. If you don’t think you’re doing better, then something is wrong. You’re not meant to be sad, unhappy, uncomfortable, angry forever.

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There is and always will be room for improvement. In your workout, organisation, relationships, at work, the way you brush your teeth or cut your onions.

But that does not mean you are worth nothing when you get criticised on one thing or the other.

In order to get better at doing what you do, at being who you are, you need to realise your worth. And welcoming words of kindness is one way to help you find this worth. Let people thank and compliment you. Rather than happiness, positivity is around the corner – just don’t walk the other way around. There are people handing you their hands over there. Go for it.

Here are three links related to this article, more specifically on why it is important to be grateful:

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Shared Knowledge: Please Don’t Assume I Know What You Know

Today, I was talking to a classmate I don’t know well about future plans. We both are in the second semester of our master’s degrees, both from the humanities department — she is doing film and media studies, I am doing linguistics.

Out of curiosity, I asked her if she had the slightest idea of what she might want to do after she graduates; she answered that she felt two kinds of jobs were appealing to her and went on telling me about those two options.

One of them was PR. She said she wanted to do PR.

PR, which stands, she explained a few words later, for public relations.

And see, there are many things in this world that I know I should know: how to conjugate verbs in the past or future to make myself understood, how to count up to the big and scary numbers, how to tie my shoes; I know how babies are made, what nutrients are for, and why it is beneficial for you to exercise; I know about different governmental systems in the world, I know who Gandhi is and that Bogotá is the capital of Colombia.

I know things, and I know I know things, but there so many more things I don’t know, and I know that there are so many more things I don’t know.

And I didn’t know what doing PR means.

Now, it is not the first time this —seeing the look in the other person’s eyes, who realises you don’t know what they’re talking about (if you’re transparent) and who, from my own experience, in 8 out of 10 cases, judges you negatively— has happened to me and I know I am not the only one who has experienced this uncomfortable feeling. How many times have you nodded approvingly, showing attention and understanding, when someone was telling you about a thing they did at work or they went through in their studies when you actually had no idea of what they were talking about but didn’t ask about, for fear to feel like an outsider, or worse, stupid.

There are words, expressions, that we hear them all the time — and sometimes even use — without really knowing the meaning that’s embedded to them. And I have a feeling no one

a) really cares about understanding what the other person is saying, or

b) really cares about knowing things.

Maybe both.

But I do — and I know many people do, too.

When you talk to me, I would like to understand you as much and as well as I can. Besides, I like learning things. When you assume I know what you are talking about, and when you realise I don’t, and when you take me for stupid or uneducated, you prevent me from achieving these goals.

So. Next time you are in a situation where you see your audience doesn’t follow or understand you, please don’t take them for stupid. They are not stupid. They just don’t share the same knowledge.

Please don’t assume everyone knows what you know just because you know it. Or just because we have access to online dictionaries and, in general, this almost magical resource that’s called internet — which, by the way, still about half the planet is not able to use (and which also allowed me to learn what it means to “do PR”). Please don’t assume the basis of your knowledge is the basis of my knowledge, too. Please, be my teacher instead.

And maybe… Maybe you don’t know how to be a teacher — and that’s fine too. Cf. the previous paragraphs of this article. But please, please, don’t look down on me for not knowing.

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“Si la vida es genial, lo va a decir el libro”

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Here I am, once again, trying to reflect on what I am experiencing here in New-Zealand. And in fact, I must say that nothing special has been happening to me for the past few weeks, but I keep meeting new people on a regular basis. Since I am living in a hostel, it is buzzing with people from all around the world, and in this one, I am sharing the area with many South Americans – Argentinians mostly, Chileans and Uruguayans.

By sharing mate and talking about life – work, music, religion, politics, a lot can be covered in a day – I realised that what I love the most about travelling is people. Now, New-Zealand is very quiet in general; apart from Auckland and maybe Wellington (I haven’t been there yet), cities are small, and if there are any, you can see them written on a map without zooming in that much. There are about 17 inhabitants per square kilometre – according to Wikipedia -, which lets you enjoy the green and blue views as well as the silence about 98% of the time. However, the Flying Nun is not New-Zealand – this ‘backpackers’, as they call it, is an old and grey building with a surprising rainbow-coloured inner life.

Let me explain: there are many types of travellers – we all come from different countries, even continents; we have different backgrounds and have experienced different things along the way; we got here for different reasons and with different expectations. Not only does this make me see the place I am in right now as very colourful, but this is also what, in my opinion, is the most interesting part in travelling.

What are the chances for you to meet an Argentinian history teacher who left it all to see if he could regain faith in his job? What are the chances for you to meet a Japanese make-up artist who is now doing gardening in a remote surfing town in Kiwiland? What are the chances for you to meet a German girl who grew up in Africa, studied accounting and is, so you just discovered, passionate about nutrition and health? What are the chances for you to meet a 21-year-old English cook and surfer who has been on the road for the past three years of his life?

What are the chances for you to meet them all at the same place?

And when it all somehow settles down, when you think you’re starting to know people, when you think that tonight, you’re just going to enjoy a beer and laugh about the events of the day, you realise there is an amazingly talented photographer, a quiet bracelet-maker and a virtuoso pianist in the crowd. People are full of surprises, stories to tell, jokes to make, emotions to show, theories to elaborate, recipes to share – and the best part of it is they often don’t realise it.

Finally, I have come to realise – yesterday night at around 1 o’clock in the morning GMT+13, to be precise – when in a joke, someone told me that “si la vida es genial, lo va a decir el libro” (the book will tell if life is amazing), that one’s actions are not what makes them, but what one makes of their actions – this is what matters.

And when you’re travelling, it is when you can truly experience the freedom of being who you want – or rather, who you truly are. You can decide that your book, even if you’re not the only one to write it, is yours to be considered amazing or not. In fact, I truly believe that the feeling one gets after reading a book is what one should remember – just like words sink in to be reflected on, events happen for one to make something out of them.

Just by being themselves and making something out of their stories, travellers are precious sources of inspiration. They broaden up your vision and lead you to paths of opportunities you would never have thought of before. And actually, travellers are not – people are.