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Be Generous with Your Emotions

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Be Generous with Your Emotions

Cheryl  Richardson
Cheryl Richardson More by this author
Nov 15, 2011 at 02:30 AM 0 comments

“Those who are not looking for happiness are the most likely to find it, because those who are seeking forget that the surest way to be happy is to seek happiness for others.”

— Martin Luther King, Jr.

This week’s blog is about generosity—emotional generosity. The topic is prompted by a recent discussion I had with a friend who was disappointed in the reaction she received from her parents when she told them about her exciting new job. My friend had been through a grueling six-month interview process and she was chosen out of ten highly qualified finalists. “I was thrilled and quite proud of my accomplishment. When I visited my family to share the good news, I was surprised and hurt when my parents expressed their happiness, but quickly moved the conversation to other subjects. I wanted to bask in the glow of my success for a while.”

There is a “generosity of spirit” that emanates from some people who are great at sharing in the good fortune of others. They get excited and enthusiastic when a loved one reaches a goal, or they offer all kinds of encouragement and positive feedback when a colleague or friend shares good news. This kind of generosity is usually the result of getting acknowledgment while growing up, developing an abundant mentality as an adult, and/or possessing a genuine enthusiasm for the goodness of people.

Then, there are those who are “emotionally stingy.” These people have a hard time celebrating the success of others. They might turn the focus back on themselves during a conversation, offer a terse “congratulations,” or sometimes, neglect to respond at all.

Many of us, at one time or another, have been emotionally stingy. It’s a normal response to past conditioning or circumstances. Your inability to be emotionally generous with others can be because: 

  •  You didn’t hear words of encouragement or praise growing up so you can’t give what you never had. 
  •  You heard messages like “Don’t get a big head,” or “Don’t get too big for your britches,” so you learned to shut down your excitement or enthusiasm response. 
  •  You grew up in a family that continuously raised the bar on your performance and never acknowledged your success. So, you may have a tendency to focus on what hasn’t been accomplished yet instead of what has. 
  •  You’ve experienced “lack” in the past and, as a result, suffer from scarcity thinking, afraid that there’s not enough good, success, or abundance to go around.

Becoming emotionally generous takes practice. When we’re able to be generous with others, we’re better able to be generous with ourselves. This week, increase your level of emotional generosity by doing one or more of the following:

  • The next time a friend shares an exciting piece of news, spend more time than you normally would talking about it. Ask them what it was like to accomplish such an important goal. Invite them to share their feelings and reactions. Be sure to keep the conversation focused on their success, not your reaction to it. 
  • When you catch yourself feeling envious or jealous of a friend or family member’s success (a normal human reaction), challenge your scarcity thinking by looking for two or three qualities that have contributed to their success. Acknowledge these qualities and then get to work on strengthening them within yourself. 
  • Encourage someone to shine even brighter. I recently had a conversation with my cousin who is a great artist. She expressed some fear about an upcoming show. Here was my reaction: “You are an exceptionally gifted artist. This is your chance to share your God-given talents with the world. Make a decision to see your fear as excitement and let us all appreciate your gift!” 
  • Offer more positive feedback than you normally would. If your tendency is to just say “That’s great, I’m really happy for you,” say more. How about something like: “You are such a committed person,” “Your ability to follow through is amazing,” or “You are one of the most creative people I know.” Of course, your feedback needs to be genuine and heartfelt. Empty acknowledgements are worse that saying nothing at all.

Finally, be mindful of those people in your life who are unable to give you the response or reaction you desire. When you have something to celebrate, choose wisely. As I say in my book Stand Up for Your Life,  “Don’t go to the hardware store for milk!” Turn to the people who can give you the heartfelt generosity you deserve.

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You can find great people to celebrate your success with on my Facebook page.

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