Ask Celes – How Can I Stop Being the Giver in a Relationship/Friendship?

Ask Celes

Hey Celes, I’ve always been the listener, the one who gives in, and the one who holds back for others. But now I just really want someone to hear me out and understand where I’m coming from. Is this expectation silly? Or I should try communicating this need to my friends? I just don’t know how though. ~ Sejal

Hey Sejal, changing the dynamics of a relationship from being a giver to a receiver or 50–50 giver-receiver can be tough, but not impossible. Perhaps what might help is if I share my personal example on how I have achieved that.

My Early Friendships

When I was in my pre-teens, I was the listener in majority of my friendships. I rarely talked because I didn’t like to (I thought talking was stupid and obnoxious then). If people had something to say to me I would listen, but I would rarely speak unless asked to do so.

As I grew up, I became more vocal, driven by personal goals and environmental factors. However, the dynamics of my past friendships remained the same. Amongst old friends, I continued to be the person who was expected to listen. This expectation wasn’t so with my new relationships though. Since there were no preset expectations with my new friends, I was free to act in whatever way I desired, including openly talking about myself.

With my old relationships, I felt stifled after a while. I didn’t want to be the person listening 100% of the time but it was unfortunately the case. My friends would continuously share about themselves in a non-stop fashion, asking for my advice and opinions each time, but never asking about myself or my life. It was like a one-way street.

Meeting New People When Traveling

Then when I was in Europe and U.S. last year, I met many new people. I noticed that many people, particularly Americans, were much more vocal than people in Asia. (It is not really a distinction between Caucasians and Asians as I met many Asians while in U.S. and London, but that of the western culture and Asian culture.)

Initially, I found their sharing tendency perplexing. “Why are these people voluntarily sharing so much about themselves, when no one asked them to do so? Why are they talking and talking without letting the other person speak?” I wondered. I thought perhaps they were simply being “loud”. I thought perhaps they had overbearing personalities which made them constantly push information to other people, even when other people were not asking for it.

But after a while, I realized this phenomenon wasn’t just limited to one, two, or a few people. It was across the board with people from different countries and states. Some were not even natives but internationals who were in the country for work. With such diversity, it became clear that the issue wasn’t about other people, but about the way I was approaching my conversations. It wasn’t that they didn’t want to listen to me or that they only wanted to talk about themselves, but that I might be approaching my conversations with a wrong mentality.

Reflection

So I observed my interactions with those people and their interactions with others.

And I found something—those people (whom I had difficulty sharing with) never seemed to need a reason, an opening, or a cue to share about themselves. They simply spoke freely, as and when they wanted to.

On the other hand, I did—I always needed a reason, an opening, or a cue before I would share about myself. I would always only share when there was a h–u–g–e opening or when I was asked to do to. I would never speak otherwise, instead, sticking to only asking questions to the person.

The reason was because I had always thought for a long time that I should only speak/share when asked to do so. I thought if I spoke when no one requested, no one would want to listen to me. I thought people would not welcome my opinions and would frown upon me. I thought people would think that I was being rude and abrasive.

A Self-Limitation

When I reflected on my prerequisites for speaking, I realized I was merely limiting myself.

I wasn’t being fair to myself because I was denying the other person an opportunity to know about me.

I wasn’t being unfair to the person because while he/she was talking his/her heart out and trying to get the conversation going, all I was doing was asking questions and not sharing anything about myself.

I was also not being fair to the friendship/relationship because by not sharing anything about myself, I was, in fact, preventing the friend/relationship from progressing any further.

Realizing that was a big aha moment for me. For I was the one who was holding myself back, not anyone else. There was never a need for me to get anyone’s permission before I could speak or share. My impression that I needed permission was merely a self-limiting belief that held me back from developing a deeper connection with anyone.

Approaching Relationships with a Different Tact

So then, I began to voluntarily share about myself during my conversations with others. At first it felt weird, like I was shoving information about myself in others’ faces.

But gradually, I eased into it. It felt like it was simply a natural part of me. It felt like something I should have done all along.

The biggest surprise of all? While I had thought that people would not want to hear me share, that wasn’t true at all. No one ever shut me down while I was sharing (even if anyone ever did, it would be more of a reflection of the person’s own issues than of mine). Everyone would listen respectfully. Some would even ask for more information, thereby giving me the opening to share even more. Just as I had known more about them from their sharing, here, they were getting to know me more from my sharing. The relationship suddenly changed from a one-way street to a two-way connection.

It would appear that by opening myself up, by voluntarily sharing about myself, I had given my connections with other people a new leash of life.

Today

Interestingly, after I adopted this behavior, many of my relationships readily molded themselves to fit the new me.

For example, I have a friend from secondary school who used to dominate our past conversations. I would only speak 0–10% of the time as I never felt that I was able to share. After I realized I could just share as and when I wanted, the dynamics readily shifted. I readily contribute at least 50–60% of our conversations today, sometimes even more.

And the key thing here is that this shift, along with the shifts in my other relationships, would have never occurred if I had never initiated the sharing on my end.

Letting Yourself Be the Receiver

My point of sharing this story is that you do not need permission from your friends, family members, or relationship partner to become the receiver in the relationship, any relationship. You do not need any reason nor any prerequisite to be the receiver (or the sharer for that matter) either.

The only thing you have to do is to create the space, the opportunity, for you to receive by extending your arms to others. As people see your arms being extended, those who are able to give will give naturally. Those who aren’t able to give or are unwilling to give will simply not give, and you would know by virtue of their (lack of) actions/words.

For those who are able to fulfill your receiver needs, you may want to forward the connection. For those who aren’t, perhaps you are just not compatible as friends/partners at this moment, and it’s a connection you want to park for now. That’s okay; everyone is different and it’s not reasonable to expect that you are on the same page for everything. There are always new people whom you can meet and build new connections with.

Give my suggestion a shot today. Who knows, the person whom you want to receive from might have been secretly wanted to be a giver all along, just that you had never given him/her the opportunity to do so.

This is part of the Ask Celes section. If you have a question to ask me, proceed to the Ask Celes page. Check out past Ask Celes questions here.

  • JadePenguin

    I started doing that a while ago. Unfortunately, only a few people actually do seem interested. Maybe it’s a clash of cultures here (me in England among many many Brits) or maybe I’ve met many of the wrong people.

    I’ve also noticed that most people are very very held back and won’t share much about themselves. “How are you?” – “Good” – “What have you been up to?” – “Been working” *I share something about me* *other person listens, doesn’t say much and conversation ends there*

    The suggestion in itself is great advice though! If someone wasn’t interested in you, why are they talking to you and sharing about themselves? ;)

  • Sejal

    Thanks Celes,

    I had tried that out before but it felt so awkward and “unlike me”, that I fumbled through it and ended up pretty let down. I thought I was doing something wrong. So thanks for answering. You saved me from giving up before I truly started.
    Its inspiring too. I can definitely put up with some awkwardness as long as I know that I’ll gradually ease into the whole receiving state. :)

    • http://personalexcellence.co Celes

      Hey Sejal, the key is that you shouldn’t feel ‘awkward’ about doing it. Remember that if you feel awkward, it’s because somewhere inside you, you feel that it’s wrong for you to share or expect to receive, when it shouldn’t be that way. It’s merely something you desire and it’s as respectful and natural a need as you willing to be there for others. Without receiving, you can’t be in a position to give to others too. Also remember that without putting yourself in the position to receive, you prevent others from connecting with you on a meaningful level.

      So there you go, and all the best in easing into a receiving and giving position with your relationships and friendships. :)

      • Sejal

        Noted!

        Thanks a ton :)

  • Bob

    Hi Celes,

    I find Americans approach to conversations more open and spontaneous. As you say Celes, they start talking and give opportunities to connect straight away. They speak freely and have an interest about life and are willing to share.

    I see exactly what you are saying about needing permission to speak, I was taught not express my emotions and this has been drummed into me repeatedly through social conditioning.
    I think we are taught socially prerequisites in each country and that we need to go through a set sequence to be acceptable as part of society.

    I recently came to the conclusion that i should be a builder not a destroyer when having conversations and see them as exchanges to be nurtured.

    Regarding the change in dynamics – sharing, “The relationship suddenly changed from a one-way street to a two-way connection.”
    Sharing, I think it shows that you respect and value the persons opinions, so then they feel good and because you have ‘recognised them’ as being worthy, open up and recognise you as well.

    I have observed the following:
    In the UK people have a habit of saying very little as Jade Penguin says above and do not in general want to recognise someone new… You are not felt welcome in general.
    Whereas in France they have a healthy respect for you when entering a shop they always greet you and say hello sir/Madame, thank you for your custom, and about 75% of the time wish you a good day.
    This opens people up because:
    1 You been recognised – Greeting
    2 You’ve been identified – Sir/Madame

    I think this is due to conventions. I would never ask a question in France without first greeting the person. In the UK people jump straight into a question without generally first greeting someone.
    People in France thank you all the time, in the UK it is only when they feel like it.
    The French always close the conversation with goodbye, and the UK only when they feel like it.
    The French nearly always Wish you a good day, and in the UK hardly ever.

    Interestingly they are two opposites France has a structured conversation norms and the UK anything goes. The Americans I have encountered are very similar to the French in this respect except for, as you say, Celes the openness and sharing which starts connections straight away.

    Thank you Celes, for sharing your perceptions on conversations, I’m thinking how I can apply this.

    • JadePenguin

      I’m surprised to hear about the no greeting and no thank you in the UK. My experience has been that they do very much follow conversation norms and say the “compulsory” things. Just that many conversations do not advance beyond that :(

      I’m guessing you visited a different part of the country :) But good to know it’s not just me experiencing a difference in cultures!

  • Charu

    This is a really excellent question! I have often faced the same problem and as Sejal said in the comment above, even I feel awkward sometimes. I almost thought I was the only one with a problem like this, especially in conversation and I’m sometimes classed as ‘reserved’ even though I’m extremely talkative with some people. I was inspired enough by this article to start sharing more and more about myself in my interactions with others in the last few days. :dance: I think I will be referring to this article again and again in the days to come when I interact with new people. Thank you Celes! :heart: I guess this reply also relates to the article you wrote on oneness mindset sometime back ,am I right?

    • http://personalexcellence.co Celes

      Charu, yes you are definitely right that what I’ve shared here links to the article on how to address social anxiety. You have definitely been reading the articles and intently applying the concepts! :D Fear of sharing what’s on our mind comes from the separation mindset, and if we go with the oneness intent, relationships will easily be forged and advanced with ease. It may be easy to say but challenging to apply sometimes, but it doesn’t change the fact that oneness is indeed what will help us to forge promising relationships.

  • Sejal

    Hey All,

    I’m back here to report-

    I finally did get an opportunity to meet this particular friend of mine.
    The first minute or two, my mouth was really dry and hands went cold from nervousness.
    But I pushed through and spoke my mind in a calm manner. Water helped. :D

    Right after, she began talking. Before I got lost in listener mode again, I waited my turn and voiced myself once more. Things smoothed out after that. It really did. I guess she’ll take a while to get used to this little change.

    As for me, I’m really loving it. Now I can’t imagine not being actively expressive.

    I tried this with my mom as well. She’s tougher to deal with because she’s never been much of a listener. Although she didn’t express as much interest as I would have liked, it made a huge difference in me. Just speaking my mind made me feel a lot lighter.

    • http://personalexcellence.co Celes

      Sejal, how beautiful. Thanks so much for sharing your results with us. :D It seems that you are getting results for the actions you are taking. Isn’t it great to boldly step forth in full faith and see results unfold before you? Often makes us wonder why we didn’t start doing such actions early on. I know I sometimes think that way.

      Congratulations! :hug: What you are experiencing isn’t the last step of the equation but the first of many exciting things to come. I’m so excited for all the possibilities you are going to have with your relationships now that you are taking the step out to carve the position of the receiver for yourself. :D

      • Sejal

        Your so right!
        Just this morning my mom came home (works nightshift).
        Instead of just falling asleep like she normally does, she actually asks me how my day was (prev day)
        This is unusual coming from my mom. More unusual for her to actually appear interested.
        So at around 6 am in the morning, we were just chatting away while I got out of bed and she was about to go to sleep. It didn’t last long. My mom really was tired. But it felt great.
        Plus, it seems like this simple act of opening up is like a domino effect opening up so many more possibilities, releasing me from other connected limiting beliefs. For example. today the block I had that prevented me from being a leader just faded. Before this, I thought it wasn’t “good” to voice out my intention to lead. Even though I knew I had the capabilities, I would just sit in the background waiting for someone to spot my potential out of the blue and nominate me.
        Not only that, I think this has made me shift ever so slightly to the more active side as opposed to passive. DOMINO EFFECT!!!!

        Thanks Celes.

    • JadePenguin

      YAY! Glad to hear the conversation went better with the friend and that sharing feels so right for you :)

      • Sejal

        Yup? Turns out, she was having the very same problem I had but just with her other friend.
        I did tell her what I learnt… So lets see… If she manages to go ahead and just do it…., who knows? This might start a huge chain reaction here in India! :D