What Kind of Giver Are You? Or Are You a Taker?


Credit to: ” Give and Take:  Why Helping Others Drives Our Success”

By Adam Grant, Penguin Press

I write this post with sincere thanks to our daughter Laura, soon to be MBA graduate from Wake Forest University.

Laura and I have different personalities, but some very similar reading paths. She once read The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich at my suggestion, and I waited eagerly for her to “hand down” her Harry Potter hardbacks as she finished them.

I was touched when she sent me “Give and Take – Why Helping Others Drives Our Success” by Adam Grant. Laura has been working under intense pressure for over three semesters. It takes guts to take a hiatus from a busy career to become a full time student. It is so tough that Wake will graduate its last class of full-time MBA students the year after Laura Graduates.

She has had to be in an intense, competitive, environment, learning “quant” (quantitative analysis), team-building, networking, and so much more.

She enclosed a card with the book explaining that she read it as part of a negotiating course assignment, and that it had as big an impact on her as anything else the had learned at Wake.

I agree. Being a veteran of self-help books, it was not as new to me as it might have been, but it was comforting to read example after example that reinforces what I believe is true in life. If you are a fan of Malcolm Gladwell, you will like this book.

Here it is in a nutshell:

1. The question posed was whether a “giver” can succeed in a competitive career. Good question, for Laura and still for me.

2. The author has a bit of Malcolm Gladwell in his case studies, which tend to be anecdotal, not scientific, but from what I know of the people in question, his lessons ring true. (e.g. Abraham Lincoln)

3. He identifies three broad categories of people, found in every profession, “takers” of course, “matchers”, and “givers”.

4. In the next part, he presents, repeats, and demonstrates his theme many times.

a. Takers often do just fine, but sometimes their “taking” sets them up for a fall. They focus on their perceived self-interest, give as little as possible, purport to give “when people are watching”, and are otherwise not generous.

b. Matchers often give, but they keep careful track, and pull back if the recipient does not reciprocate. They do  pretty well, but not as well as the takers and not as well……….see below.

c. Givers are “at the bottom of the barrel”, being the least productive and the least successful, AND,

d. But givers are also  the MOST successful!

5. What? The author demonstrates, with dozens of examples, that there are two kinds of givers.

a. Some of us are “too nice” as “Dr. Laura” (Schlesinger) calls them. For whatever reason they give, give, give, and cannot say no. People take advantage of them, and they tend not to get ahead in life. Someone is always there with a hand out.

b. But the other kind of giver is a bit more pragmatic. They give of themselves sincerely, without taking note of who reciprocates, or when, BUT they have an “antenna” for the “taker” who diverts them from helping others who truly might pass it on. They gently disengage from the parasites. That skill is “learning to say no”. It is an essential skill for creative “giver” to master. That’s was frees her/him to get ahead in life. Constant measuring what you will get in return just gets in the way.

6. Time and again a selfless act allows the thoughtful type of giver to find, or make, another connection that benefits his friends, family, or colleagues, and ultimately himself.

I will not put the examples here, but I have found these lessons to be true in my life, and thank my dear daughter for sharing this book with me.




This post was written by Burton Hunter

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