Give and Take

Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success

Givers, Takers, and Matchers
Conventional wisdom attributes success to motivation, ability and opportunity, but misses a fourth crucial element: Reciprocity style or the way we approach and exchange value with people. There are takers, givers, and matchers.
  • Takers like to get more than they receive. Self-promote and take plenty of credit. Cautious and self-protective. Helps strategically when benefits outweigh personal costs.
  • Givers give more than they get. Pay attention to what they can give to others. Helps when the benefits to others outweigh personal costs. Shares time, energy, knowledge, skills, ideas, and connections.
  • Matchers balance giving and taking. Seeks fairness.
No one has one style. People tend to act like givers in close relationships. The styles may shift for different roles and interactions. Givers are usually the best performers and the worst performers while takers and matchers land in the middle.
Goodwill and trust enhances success. Giving is a winning strategy in the long-run especially in today’s environment.
  • Connectivity is accelerating relationship building
  • Increasing nature of team-based work provides more opportunities for givers to demonstrate their value
  • 80% of Americans work in service jobs which place a greater emphasis on relationships and reputation
“It seems counterintuitive, but the more altruistic your attitude the more benefits you will gain from the relationships. If you set out to help others, you will rapidly reinforce your own reputation and expand your universe of possibilities” -Reid Hoffman

Spotting Takers
Takers may act like givers to gain access to other networks but can be spotted based on 1) how they treat people below them and 2) their level of lekking (Putting much more attention on themselves. Taking all the credit). In today’s connected environment, it is easier to learn about someone’s reputation and view lekking behavior on social network profiles.

Network Size
Givers have larger networks since they create new connections every time they help someone. This results in broader reach and a larger range of potential payoffs, even if that wasn’t the motivation. Takers and matchers help people when they want something in the future, but this typically results in 1) people feeling manipulated and 2) smaller networks. This is shortsighted because we can’t predict who can help us.

Weak and Dormant Ties
We are more likely to get new ideas or opportunities from weak or dormant ties. There tends to be a lot of overlap in what you already know with strong ties. Takers tend to rebuffed by dormant ties. Matchers might benefit but may be uncomfortable since they may feel indebted. Because givers are generous, People are usually happy when givers reach out.

The Five-Minute Favor
“You should be willing to do something that will take you five minutes or less” -Adam Rifkin
Instead of trading value, add value. Giving consistently can cause a shift in other people’s reciprocity style and inspire them to pay it forward.
Giving and Taking Credit
Givers see interdependence as a source of strength and can harness multiple people for the greater good. Givers are focused on expanding the pie. Takers don’t view them as a threat, matchers feel they owe them one, and givers recognize them as one of their own. Because of this goodwill, givers tend to have latitude to do original things. Talented people who aren’t givers tend to have a target on their backs. Matchers impose a tax on takers. In the long-run contributions are recognized.
Taking Credit and the Information Discrepancy
People try to take more credit due to information discrepancy. We have better knowledge of our own contributions than the contributions of others. This bias can be reduced by thinking about the contribution of others before your own. Givers are motivated to help others so they find ways to put themselves in other people’s shoes. Givers shoulder blame, but give partners credit for success. Let others feel safe about contributing and failing.

Recognizing Potential
Givers have an advantage in recruiting talent. Research has shown that the belief of potential resulted in better performance for randomly assigned students, soldiers, and employees. Takers don’t trust people which constrains development and motivation in others. Matchers look for signs of potential first. Givers tend to be optimistic and see potential in everyone.

Anyone can be a bloomer which is why motivation and grit are so important. Givers focus on gritty people and cultivate grit by making tasks more interesting. Givers tend to be undervalued since they don’t hog the spotlight, but are willing to work harder due to a sense of responsibility to the team.

Doing Good
Takers are more likely to escalate commitments on incorrect picks due to their ego. They are less likely to accept recommendations after criticism. Due to feelings of responsibility for others, givers accept criticism and are less likely to escalate bad commitments.

Powerless Communication
The two paths to influence are dominance and prestige. Dominance is zero-sum. When takers come across someone more dominant, they risk losing influence. Prestige isn’t zero sum. There is no limit to amount of respect and admiration you can receive. Takers focus on powerful communication but powerless communication (less assertive, doubt, vulnerability, hesitation) can be a good tool for building prestige.
  • Presenting – Givers are comfortable expressing vulnerability since the objective is not gaining power, but helping others. Tends to only work if speaker establishes competence. Speaking about something you care about despite vulnerability earns prestige.
  • Selling – Asking questions elicits talking. In an experiment, people who talked more liked and felt like they knew the group better. Givers focus on getting to know the person and understanding their problems. Telling people to do things results in resistance. People are more likely to act if they believe it is their idea.
  • Persuading – Givers tend to use tentative talk (well, um, uh, you know, sorta, maybe). Shows a willingness to defer. May hurt in leadership, but dominance tends to stifle information sharing.
  • Negotiating – Asking for advice encourages greater cooperation and information sharing. Givers not scared to look vulnerable. Only works if genuine otherwise will seem manipulative. Some benefits of asking for advice:
    • You learn about the other person.
    • In order to give you advice, they are forced to see your perspective.
    • When someone helps you, they think they like you.
    • People feel flattered.
Why Some Givers Burn Out and Others Don’t
Self and Other Interest
People assume self-interest and other-interest are opposite ends of a spectrum, but you can have high self-interest and high interest for others at the same time (described as Otherish). This describes successful givers. Otherish help with no strings attached but do not overextend themselves.

Causes and Volunteering
Givers do better when they are able to see and connect with the impact they are having. Chunking time into larger segments tends to be more beneficial than sprinkling acts. 100 hours per year seems to be the point where people are much happier with marginal benefit for additional hours. Successful givers focus on causes they are passionate. They don’t do things just for the sake of duty. Otherish recognize the importance of protecting their well-being.

Otherish tend to be more resilient to burnout than other people. Part of it may be due to greater willpower. Givers consistently override their selfish impulses and may result in greater control of thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Additionally, Otherish give in ways that are personally rewarding rather than exhausting. While Otherish may seem less altruistic, they give more in the long-run because of their resilience.
Avoiding the Doormat Effect
Becoming a doormat is the worst nightmare of a giver. This can be avoided by adopted an Otherish mindset.

Sincerity Screening
To avoid getting exploited, it is important to identify takers. While we are good at evaluating agreeableness, agreeableness is independent of generosity. See who is asking insightful questions to learn and who is just asking for things.
Generous Tit-for-Tat
Start out as a giver, but once a counterpart acts as a taker, act as a matcher. Pure tit-for-tat might be too strict so adopt a generous tit-for-tat strategy: never forget a good turn, but occasionally forgive a bad one (one out of every three). Balances reward of giving and discourages taking without being too punitive. People can change. Wait long enough and people can surprise you.
Advocacy Paradox
Givers tend to be less assertive in negotiations. This can be avoided by seeing yourself as an advocate for your family. By acting on behalf of others, your actions can align with your caring. Highlighting concerns for the interest of others may leave a positive impression as well.

Increasing Value
While sports are win-lose. In many business situations, there can be win-win. Selfless givers make too many concessions. Takers are only focused on claiming value. Otherish are concerned for themselves and their counterparts so are able to think in more complex ways and identify win-wins. By increasing value, they are able to give more and take more. Find ways to give more with less time.

Shifting Reciprocity Styles 
Givers can avoid being exploited in group settings by getting other to act like givers. Altruism arises from empathy and developing a sense of oneness with others.
Common Ground
Common ground is a major influence on giving behaviors. We like bettering the group that we belong to. People feel greater attraction if the common ground is more unique. People want to fit in, but like standing out too.

Creating a Group of Giving
There generally needs to be a critical mass of exchange benefits before positive feelings are created towards a group which fuels giving. People only identify after they have received enough benefits from the group.

Attainable Standards
People are more likely to adopt a standard if they see it as achievable. In an experiment on energy usage, people were likely to decrease their energy usage, if they were shown how much less other people were using. Sometimes, people act as takers because they don’t know the appropriate behavior of the group. Showing the norm can change behavior.

The Reciprocity Ring
The reciprocity ring is an exercise where each person makes a request and the group tries to help. This had powerful effects in classrooms and with business leaders. People thought others would be less helpful than they actually were. Many people have giver values, but hide them because they fear it is not the social norm. The reciprocity ring can disrupt this self-fulfilling prophecy. Takers contribute because it is public.

Shifting Behavior First
In order to change people’s attitudes, you need to change their behavior first. When people repeatedly give, they can internalize giving. People don’t become givers if they do it for external reasons. It needs to be a personal choice. Generalized giving systems work because it encourages people to give while maintaining a sense of freedom.

Don’t give up the long-term for the short-term. Develop courage to express your values. Focus attention and energy on making a difference in the life of others. Givers get to the top without cutting down others. Give in ways you find enjoyable and meaningful. By consistently giving, you may find yourself developing a giver identity.

Action Items

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