Conversations with Leonie: Giving for the Wrong Reasons
Love your work. I have what I am sure is an unusual problem. I am a giver. I like to give, and I was brought up with good values. I take little presents to friends and colleagues and I never drop in anywhere without a good wine and savoury loaf of some kind. I‘ve recently been told by my ‘not so giving’ or appreciative sister in law that she would like me to stop buying these little gifts. She says it’s inappropriate and makes her feel uncomfortable. I had a similar situation with a work mate last year, but she has since left so problem solved there. I spoke to my brother and he said that she cleared talking to me about this with him and he agrees. Giving is what I do and just don’t get it. Why would anyone not like a gift? This really has left me feeling upset and confused. So, I feel that if I can’t give anything to these people, I will just not go near them. I can’t change who I am. I am a giver and they need to accept me for who I am. I have other friends and family, but I find that I am always thinking about this esp. when I see little things that I would like to buy for their girls and thought I would drop you this email for your opinion.
You may find that you are not happy with my opinion but here it is. People are often suspicious of this kind of behavour, believing it to be due to the person wanting recognition or praise for their giving. They may see it as narcissistic and a way to be seen as an altruising, good person. I have previously talked about virtue signalling and this type of constant giving can be seen by others as an attempt to be recognised as prosocial and unselfish or as a martyr. You can be seen as giving only to get praise or to be spoken about in the positive.
This type of non-seasonal or non -special occasion giving could also be interpreted as a quid pro quo attempt by the giver where the receiver truly feels that the giver wants them to be in their dept and owe them a favour should they ask for it. These feelings naturally cause a person to recoil from a relationship and want to put distance between them and you. The last thing you want is for someone to dread your visits.
Additionally, your giving all time could be seen as you just showing off your income or your life style esp. if the people you are giving to are not experiencing the same standard of living.
In the same vain, some people may be uncomfortable because they are not in a financial position to reciprocate and this causes undue stress on the relationship.
Your brother and sister in law may be trying not to spoil their children or teach them that first comes effort then comes reward and your showing up with gifts every time you go over could be very undermining to their chosen parenting style.
I feel that you should stop and think about exactly what kind of relationship you really want with others. It’s wonderful if to be a giver. However, you are saying that you are giver and that’s just who you are holds no weight with me at all.
Why? Because there are many types of currency to give to others, not just money and people who are natural givers know this. One of the strongest currencies we can give others is the currency giving of time and effort. This includes volunteering, of working with the elderly and/or neglected animals, of raising money for research and also close to home is the currency of helping your family with child care and other non-monitory needs. Have you ever said to your brother “Hey guys how about you go out for a couples date and I’ll look after the kids” or “Would you like me to ferry the kids around to sport, dance or whatever so you can get on top of the shopping and housework and have a bit of the weekend left to rest before Monday”?
I hope I have given you some insight here because knowledge is power, and I would hate for you to continue to struggle with your relationships without at least exploring the above concepts.
Til next week
Counsellor | Author | Columnist | Radio Commentator | Trainer | Mediator
Leonie is a Qualified Counsellor, Trainer, Mediator and Early childhood Educator who is also a Justice of the Peace.
Specialising in Relationship Counselling, Personal Counselling and Employment Coaching.
Relationship INTENSIVE CARE
by Leonie Schilling
A Practical Guide to Saving and Maintaining Your Relationship.
This book is a must have for people looking for a practical and easy to understand plan to repair their relationship.