In his acclaimed, landmark book Give and Take, Wharton Professor Adam Grant breaks down 3 broad categories of people with very different reciprocity styles – Takers, Matchers, and Givers. He then discusses how each reciprocity style affects one’s personal and professional prospects, gradually building an argument for why we should all give more.
First, a quick breakdown of Adam’s 3 categories:
- Takers are fixated on always getting more than they give. They tend to be competitive; this “taking” mindset can manifest in behavior that’s anywhere from cautious (so they won’t be taken advantage of) to cutthroat (so they can extract as much as possible from others at all costs).
- Matchers believe in quid pro quo. They are extremely attuned to fairness and perceived equality in relationship. If they do you a favor, they expect a favor of equal magnitude in the near future. Similarly, they’ll feel indebted to you if they’re on the receiving end of a good deed.
- Givers are those who are “other-focused.” They don’t weigh the pros and cons of others. Instead, they give without keeping score. Simply put, givers seek to enrich the lives of the people they interact with. As Grant writes, “If you’re a giver […] you simply strive to be generous in sharing your time, energy, knowledge, skills, ideas, and connections with other people who can benefit from them.”
Throughout the book, with the aid of extensive empirical research and colorful anecdotes, Adam builds a compelling argument that becoming a Giver is the best way to approach our relationships. In the long run, Givers end up doing significantly better than Takers and Matchers for a few key reasons:
Givers have the broadest and healthiest networks. Givers make connections with others all the time, not only when they need them (as opposed to Takers and Matchers, who can be more opportunistic about networking and thus have a smaller set of contacts that they develop only when they need a new job/introduction/etc.). Furthermore, rather than looking to extract as much value as possible from their contacts, Givers are always adding value to their networks by fostering connections and knowledge-sharing between others.
Givers develop great reputations. When you’re known for helping others, people are much more likely to conspire in your favor. To paraphrase Adam: Takers know you’re not they’re competition, Matchers want to see you rewarded, and other Givers know you’re one of them. A good reputation pays great dividends in the long run – others become eager to help you and see you succeed.
Givers can accumulate significant knowledge and experience. By helping other people, Givers get exposed to new domains and novel new problems. Over time, this can accrue to become a formidable cross-disciplinary knowledge advantage.
Best of all, giving is contagious – by becoming a Giver, you slowly infuse others with the same collaborative, sharing values. This translates to a lot more for everyone in the long run.
Give and Take’s author (and my former professor) Adam Grant doesn’t just preach the value of giving – he lives it as well. Adam is an incredible embodiment of the giving spirit – he’s selfless with his time, generous with his advice, and above all, kind.
Through small means, I try to give too – whether it’s through volunteering with nonprofits, providing pro bono advisory services to small, scrappy companies, or making sure the right people in my life meet each other. I hope that this content enriches and enhances your life in some way.
Sample Weekly Action Plan:
This shouldn’t be a big surprise: this week’s action plan is all about giving.
Today’s task is easy. Give $5 to someone on the street who’s asking for it. It’s an inconsequential amount for those of you who are reading this. Regardless of your views on homelessness, it’s simple, it’s a small amount of money, and it’s an easy way to groove a habit of giving. That’s it for today – it’s 10 seconds and $5.
You might be surprised at how you feel after doing this.
Today, take 10 minutes to scroll through your LinkedIn or Facebook contact list. Foster a connection between 2 people that would benefit from knowing each other. Adam suggests finding 2 people with “uncommon commonalities” – for example, an interest in the same obscure music, or social impact causes.
I’m a big fan of the double opt-in intro, where I reach out to individually to the two people before making an introduction.
Here’s a simple set of templates to do this. Just copy, paste, and go.
Email 1 (to each person individually): “Hey X, hope you’re doing well. One of my friends, Y, happens to be [working in/interested subject area]. Thought it would be great for you two to meet – if you’re interested, would love to make the introduction so you two could chat.”
Email 2 (once you have the go-ahead from both parties): “Hey X and Y. Just wanted to make a quick intro here. [Give a very brief background on each person] I’ll let you two take it from here!”
Create a “giving inventory.” Adam suggests that in order to be efficient and effective as a Giver, you should identify some areas that you enjoy and find energizing. List 1-2 things you’re good at, and translate them into how can use your expertise to help others.
Here are mine: (1) providing free advising to nonprofits and startups, and (2) connecting members in my network who need each other. Yours might be anything from tutoring others in finance to teaching dance to helping plan and coordinate conferences.
Reconnect with someone you haven’t interacted with in 3+ years.
Ideally, this is some who you’re able to help in an identified area from Thursday’s exercise.
That’s it. It’s up to you to take it from here.