Are You a Giver or a Taker?
Are you a Giver or a Taker? Does it matter? If you’re reading this with bloodshot eyes feeling like every ounce of creative energy and drive has been sucked out of you, you might just be a Giver.
Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist, has discovered that this question can actually dictate a high school student’s success in his or her chosen field. If you’re a Giver, you tend to think more about others, and are willing to sacrifice your own success to best help them, i.e. referring a client to another company that may better fit their needs. If you’re a Taker, you view most interactions through the filter of: what can this person do for me? Many of us are Matchers: a mix of both.
You may assume that Givers would have better success in any given field. That’s not actually true. Givers occupy the lowest end of achievement, as they’re often putting others before themselves, causing burnout. However, Givers also raise the success of the organization they work for, by far. Although with the personal cost, at this point, you may be wondering if being a Giver sounds so good.
After discovering that Givers have the lowest success rate in their fields, you may assume that Takers have the highest. Except that’s not true. Grant discovered that Takers tend to rise quickly, but then fall just as fast, as their proclivity for ignoring the well-being of others catches up to them. Just as surprisingly, Matchers are also not the highest achievers. In fact, Givers occupy both extremes, being both the highest and lowest achievers in their fields.
Grant wondered how we can create a world where more Givers can achieve success. Here’s what he came up with:
Protect the Givers. Givers want so badly to help, they’ll take from their own cup to fill yours. This creates burnout, and leaves Givers without the mental or physical stamina to complete their own passions. Recognize a Giver when you see one, and be sure to refill their cup so they’re not operating on empty.
Try Doing Five-Minute Favors. If you are a Giver, or aspire to be one, Grant suggest thinking in terms of five-minute favors. This can be as simple as introducing two people who could help each other, or resolving to notice someone whose work has gone unnoticed. Grant says, “Five-minute favors are really critical to helping Givers set boundaries and protect themselves.”
Encourage Help-Seeking. Successful Givers “see that it’s okay to be a receiver too.” The way to do this is to set up a culture where asking for help becomes the norm. When the stigma of asking for help doesn’t feel embarrassing or vulnerable, people are more apt to ask for aid when they need it, so they can have more to give later.
What is the endgame of creating a world where Givers succeed? Grant says it’s turning paranoia (“a mental condition characterized by delusions of persecution, unwarranted jealousy, or exaggerated self-importance”) into pronoia. Pronoia is defined as the opposite state of mind to paranoia: having the sense that there is a conspiracy that exists to help the person Or, as Adam Grant calls it, “The delusional belief that other people are plotting your well-being.”
Which, if you’re surrounded by Givers, is not so delusional after all.
What five-minute favor could you do today?