The Law of Receptivity

The key to effective giving is to stay open to receiving.


What makes getting so difficult?

It should be an easy thing, accepting what someone gives us. Everything about it is simple: Person A passes something to Person B and both parties leave happy.

Why it such a problem for most of us?

In The Go-Giver, Pindar prompts Joe to remember the old adage “It is better to give than to receive,” then smashes it on the floor:

It’s not better to give than to receive. It’s insane to try to give and not receive.
Trying not to receive is not only foolish, it’s arrogant. When someone gives you a gift, what gives you the right to refuse it—to deny their right to give?
Receiving is the
natural result of giving.

Objects and actions are meaningless without transfer from one to another. Though a rose would smell just as sweet if it had any other name, it is only a blossom until handed to a lover. The transaction’s symbolism allows a person to display affection, whether laying them on a headstone or offering them to an angry wife.

That which comes back to us — tangible or intangible — is a reflection of the importance someone else places on what we do.

Generosity is returned without fail, it is merely a matter of the seeds we have sown and the mind of the receiver. This is the central truth we have been building towards all week, but the question remains:

Why is the “natural result” such a challenge to accept?

The issue is solved by considering the corollary to the first law, “The receiver makes the determination.” In other words, the worth of whatever we do is in the eye of the beholder. Sharing our gifts often means we’ll come across some that trash them, some who are indifferent and — Surprise! — some that feel they are forever indebted.

We feel guilty when showered with thanks because we underestimate our actions.

We place our own conception of our contributions into the minds of those who overwhelm us with their gratitude — people who, ironically, think they’re unable to match what they got from us.

Even though I have read through this section more than twenty times, I still thought “I could have done better” when my students brought tears to my eyes with parting gifts.

How many times has “I didn’t do anything to deserve this” come to mind when presented with a token of appreciation?

Ignore it.

Acknowledge what they see.

Be thankful they are grateful.

Take what they give — to do anything else is rude.

This is the fifth in a five-part series discussing the core principles of The Go-Giver by Bob Burg and John David Mann. If you’d like a preview of this wonderful book, download the first chapter here.


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