By Jimmy Warden
In our world today, there is a lot of focus around taking advantage of opportunities, no matter what those opportunities may look like, and taking them by any means necessary. With that mentality, we can find ourselves in situations where we feel like opportunities should be given to us, even if we didn’t initially give something to earn those opportunities. This is because we’ve taken opportunities without thinking about how it could affect others. We’ve only had our own interests at heart. Before we can receive the benefits of something being given to us, first, we must give pieces of ourselves.
Givers and takers… and matchers?
There is a phenomenal book out there by Adam Grant called Give and Take, which I have yet to read, but its thesis is about the idea of people being givers or takers. Grant also has a phenomenal TED Talk on the subject. In his talk, Grant discusses a large study where he surveyed over 30,000 people across the world in various industries about their willingness to help others. Grant found that there were three main types of results, and four different types of givers and takers in more specific results.
First, the overall results of the study showed that the three main types of people are givers, takers, and matchers. Out of the survey results, 25% of people were givers, 19% of people were takers, and 56% of people were matchers. This meant that one fourth of the people that participated in the survey often chose the disposition (through the answers from their survey) of “what can I do for you”, because their results indicated that they were a giver. Slightly less than one fifth of those surveyed chose the disposition of “what can you do for me”, as their results indicated those of a taker. Lastly, the matchers were more on the team of “an eye for an eye”, because they believed more in the concept of reciprocity.
Agreeable giver, agreeable takers, disagreeable givers, and disagreeable takers
As for the four types of givers and takers, the list includes: agreeable givers, disagreeable givers, agreeable takers, and disagreeable takers. The reason for the agreeable and disagreeable categories is that being a giver or taker can be influenced by the agreeableness personality trait, but not it’s not always correlational. Agreeable givers are what you might be expecting: people that say yes to everything. Their polar opposite would a disagreeable taker: someone who is out to “get theirs” by any means necessary. A disagreeable giver is someone who does not agree with others easily, but still regularly gives pieces of themselves (professional services or friendly favors) to other people. This means that agreeable takers are the people that will be nice to your face, but turn around and stab you in the back if it means that they’ll reap the benefits of that.
The challenges of being a giver
There are a few main reasons why being a giver is so damn challenging. First, they are are taken advantage of by the takers; especially, the agreeable ones. People can spot a giver from a mile away. All it takes (no pun intended) is paying attention. Givers make themselves known with their daily acts of kindness and generosity with their time, but this puts a massive target on their back if they have takers in their lives. Secondly, because givers are so willing to help others, they often bite off more than they can chew by taking on more in a day than they are capable of doing across time. Their constant saying yes to everything leads to unnecessary tasks being added to their to-do list, which makes for longer days, and shorter nights of recovery. As a result, being a giver drains people of energy and they eventually burn out, which is the third challenge that givers face.
Does this mean I should be a taker or a matcher?
Despite the challenges of being a giver, this doesn’t necessarily mean that we should become takers or matchers. Takers are really energy vampires at their core. Because they’re taking so much from the givers, it only takes one taker to nullify the work of three givers. To quote Grant: “one bad apple can ruin the bag, but one good egg doesn’t make a dozen”.
Another reason we shouldn’t be takers or matchers is that when Grant analyzed the results of work-related (and overall) performance levels, neither takers or matchers made up the list of high performers. Takers actually performed the worst, and matchers ended up in the middle grounds. Even though takers and matchers were conserving energy by handing responsibilities over to givers, they weren’t contributing to the greater good of their organization, so they weren’t helping the organization improve their standing.
So does that mean….
Givers were the ones that performed the best! Even though they also made up much of the lowest performances due to burnout, they also made up a vast majority of the highest performances. These givers are the ones that people look to as mentors and respected professionals in their field, the supermoms that seem to be able to do everything for their families, the friends that we can always count on, and the teachers that always make extra time for us. These are the people that time and time again, are always there when we need a hand. Not only that, but they’re the ones that also make the time to improve their own lives, while simultaneously improving the lives of everyone around them.
When givers make up the majority of an organization, they can truly improve its culture because they can influence the matchers. It was shown in Grant’s study that matchers, true to their name, matched the status quo of the environment that they were in. If the status quo was be a taker, the matchers followed suit. If the status quo was be a giver, the matchers gave.
What this means for us
This means that we need to take stock of where we fall within the frameworks of giver, taker, or matcher. Are we someone who has the mindset of doing things for other people? Do we always look out for our own personal gains no matter the circumstance? Or do we believe in an eye for an eye?
Not only that, but we need to analyze where we may fall within the quartet of givers and takers. Are we an agreeable giver who says yes to everything? Are we a disagreeable taker who will not stop until they dominate the world? Are we a disagreeable giver who is headstrong, but still willing to do the right thing in most situations? Or are we a deceitfully kind person who is really in it for our own benefits?
Another idea to keep in mind is thinking about the people that surround us. Where might they fall within the aforementioned frameworks? Depending on where they fall, how are they influencing our lives and our personal well-being?
The more that we think about these ideas, the more that we can surround ourselves with the right people, be in the right profession, and take proper action in the world.
As long as we can remember, life is more than just give and take.