June 26, 2016

What to do with the Awkwardness of Receiving Unexpected Kindness.


Haters will be haters—these wise words are plastered all over social media and spoken while offering encouragement.

It speaks to the fact that we can’t stop people from not liking us. We are quick to advise others to block out the haters and to let go of the negative effects of angry or hateful words.

There is little we can do to change someone’s mind if they’ve determined we are just not their cup of tea.

We don’t get to choose who dislikes us, so we are encouraged to just let that sh*t go. If we do try to change their minds, it only ends up with us having to change something about ourselves. Most of us have heard the saying that the right people will come into our lives if we just are ourselves. “Your vibe attracts your tribe,” as the saying goes.

Many times though, the advice we really need but rarely receive is how to negate the positive attention that is offered to us.

We have all had someone offer us some unexpected kind words or loving emotions that have touched our heart but left us feeling unsure of why they were offering it to us. This gift can often take us by surprise and may even leave us questioning how we feel about this offering.

A lesson that I have learned is that we don’t get to choose what others offer to us and that we don’t possess the power to choose who will love or hate us.

This lesson I speak of has nothing to do with the gifts that others send our way though, but rather it’s about what we can control. We like to think we have control over who offers us what, and I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news—but we don’t get to decide this. Through many bumps and bruises, I have discovered that we cannot control another’s emotions any more than we can control the wind.

We tend to want this control when and how these gifts of positive emotions are given to us because it leaves us feeling vulnerable. We suddenly feel like we have to offer something in return and may experience feelings of unworthiness in receiving this love. We may question why they would choose us to love, or it may be that we just don’t want this affection.

So how should we deal with an act of generosity that is given, whether it’s physically or emotionally?

First off, understanding that we can’t control how another feels about us will help. And while that’s all fine and dandy, what should we do about the feelings we experience because of it? We really only have two choices: accept what they are offering or decline it.

Think of it this way: Let’s say we are having a rough day and someone offers us a cup of tea that is steaming, aromatic, warm and sweet and it happens to be their favorite tea. The only problem is, we don’t want this tea.

We can accept the tea with a forced smile and try to drink it down, regardless of the fact we think it will make us gag. We can lie to this person and tell them we absolutely adore this tea and that it is sitting on the shelf at home. Or, we can pretend not to see the tea being offered and simply avoid making eye contact with this person who’s offering it.

Sounds rather ridiculous, doesn’t it? Yet, this is how we might act when someone offers us a positive feeling that we are uncomfortable with. While the above example is simple and might make us laugh, there are better ways to stop trying to control what others offer us.


Search for all available exits and as soon as the other person turns their head, run like hell for the door. Don’t stop! Keep running till you are out of breath but in a safe location away from this person. Don’t forget to delete this person from your phone, all of your social media accounts, and any other way they might contact you. Better yet, get into the witness protection plan. That is the safest bet!


We can thank them for their offer, tell them that is really sweet of them to think of us then politely decline the offer of the love while maintaining our distance. Remember how this ended the last time someone offered us a similar gift? We accepted the offer and later on in the relationship, we got burnt. Now, we’re vulnerable, and this may be the same scenario, only it’s a different person making the offering.


We can tell them we are a little hesitant to just go ahead and accept their gift. So we open the lines of communication about what exactly they are offering before passing any judgement. We still remember our previous hurt and vulnerability, so we choose to go slow, enabling us to make the best decision for ourselves.


We acknowledge the love being offered and tell the person that while it is a really sweet thing, we are not looking for love right now. We politely decline the offer, while being honest and clearly communicating with the other person.

Not one of these situations has us trying to control what is being offered to us. We see the gift for what it is and we also understand that we only have control over whether or not we will accept the offering.

As ridiculous as some of the scenarios sound, many of us do this when we are uncomfortable or feeling vulnerable. By either exploring or acknowledging the gift, this will empower us to a greater understanding and allow us to make the best decision for ourselves.

We do not have to accept every gift that comes our way, especially if it is not right for us.


Author: Debbi Serafinchon

Image: Kristina Alexanderson/Flickr 

Editor: Catherine Monkman; Katarina Tavčar


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