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Are You A Giver Or A Taker? #MondayMusings

Going through life, I was convinced that  there are broadly two categories of people in this world – givers and takers.

Reading Eric Butterworth‘s writing I found this to substantiate my views:

The takers are the people who believe their lives will always be the total of what they can get from the world. They are always thinking get, get, get. They plan and scheme ways to get what they want in money, in love, in happiness, and in all kinds of good… but whatever may be their spiritual ideals or lack of any, no matter what they take, they can never know peace or security or fulfillment.

The givers, on the other hand, are convinced life is a giving process. Thus their subtle motivation in all their ways is to give themselves away, in love, in service, and in all the many helpful ways they can invest themselves. They are always secure, for they intuitively know that their good flows from within.

I classified myself as a giver, but then got a bit confused along the way when I realized that I was often giving too much of myself, and at great cost to my well-being. Slowly, I started to learn to assert myself and say ‘no’. But I wondered if that automatically moved me to the other camp? I then realized that even givers have to learn to set limits.

Adam Grant’s ‘Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success‘ (affiliate link) makes  interesting reading. Citing research from Yale psychologist, Margaret Clark, he says that outside of the workplace, most of us, in our relationships with family and friends are givers – we don’t keep scores. However, in the work place, the behaviour that dominates is that of ‘matchers’.

We become matchers, striving to preserve an equal balance of giving and getting. Matchers operate on the principle of fairness: when they help others, they protect themselves by seeking reciprocity. If you’re a matcher, you believe in tit for tat, and your relationships are governed by even exchanges of favors.

Grant notes that we all move between being givers, takers and  matchers depending on the situation:

Giving, taking, and matching are three fundamental styles of social interaction, but the lines between them aren’t hard and fast. You might find that you shift from one reciprocity style to another as you travel across different work roles and relationships. It wouldn’t be surprising if you act like a taker when negotiating your salary, a giver when mentoring someone with less experience than you, and a matcher when sharing expertise with a colleague. But evidence shows that at work, the vast majority of people develop a primary reciprocity style, which captures how they approach most of the people most of the time. And this primary style can play as much of a role in our success as hard work, talent, and luck.


Having read the book and pondered on this question, I no longer feel the need to slot people into one or the other category. But it helps in our own growth to understand how we and others move into different behaviors and roles.

Watch Adam Grant talking about givers and takers.


Still, I was happy to read that in the long run, the winners, for want of a better word, are ‘givers’ because giving has such a wonderful effect.

Givers, takers, and matchers all can— and do— achieve success. But there’s something distinctive that happens when givers succeed: it spreads and cascades. When takers win, there’s usually someone else who loses. Research shows that people tend to envy successful takers and look for ways to knock them down a notch. In contrast, when [givers] win, people are rooting for them and supporting them, rather than gunning for them. Givers succeed in a way that creates a ripple effect, enhancing the success of people around them. You’ll see that the difference lies in how giver success creates value, instead of just claiming it.

Maya Angelou put it so beautifully when she said: I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back.

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    Image of a women’s hands via Shutterstock


    1. Mithila Menezes Mithila Menezes May 19, 2016

      The quote by Maya Angelou is truly perfect. Being balanced in giving and taking is something that appeals to me. I must be a little bit more observant and identify whether I’m a giver or a taker! 🙂

    2. laurie laurie May 17, 2016

      So nice, Corinne. I want to believe I’m a balance between the two, but always feel I could do more. There are only so many hours in the day, but always want to help where I can. Inspiring food for thought.

    3. Vinitha Vinitha May 17, 2016

      Giving always will make us tired, especially if others take advantage of that. Balancing giving and taking is the best. And of course, those who take but never give anything should be avoided for our sake!

    4. Linda Linda May 17, 2016

      This strikes a chord with me…. I used to be a non-stop giver… to the point of exhaustion. And, if I didn’t give, I’d feel guilty. But, I think that was because I based my value as a person on what I could do for people, rather than my intrinsic worth. I thought I could only be valuable and recognized via what I could do for others. And, I still do lots for others, but I also set boundaries and say no more than I used to. I learned that those who took and took didn’t think any more highly of me, they just agreed to take what I was giving. Being in a relationship with a rather narcissistic person taught me that I could give until I had nothing left, and their opinion of me didn’t change much. I like myself more now, so I set limits, and also accept compliments and offers of help where I wouldn’t have prior.
      PS. Thanks for letting me know about my Twitter link… fixed now!! Linda. xox

    5. Vishal Bheeroo Vishal Bheeroo May 17, 2016

      I believe in principle of reciprocity in a professional set up since it’s all about a team work since being only giver or taker affect the flow and beat an incidence on everyone. Having said that, we shouldn’t shy from giving more than is asked from us since we will grow and will benefit us in the long run. I call it a team player. On a personal front, I’ve been a giver and don’t expect much from people. That’s the way I’ve been.
      As always, an interesting post that makes us think about healthy relationships.

    6. Nabanita Dhar Nabanita Dhar May 17, 2016

      I think I keep changing between giver and taker..But broadly for my family, I’m a giver…but I guess in a family everyone is a giver for the other…outside I’m a matcher and even a taker…have been taken advantage of and hurt too many times to be anything else for others

    7. Lux G. Lux G. May 17, 2016

      I’ve dealt with takers for too long that I can’t bear to be another taker in this world. I give! 🙂

    8. Jennifer Jennifer May 17, 2016

      Love Maya’s quote. It’s something I need to remind myself as I feel like I’m always giving, to the point that people expect me to always play that role and are surprised when I no.

    9. Payal Agarwal Payal Agarwal May 17, 2016

      Yes, “givers need to set the limits.” I’ve learnt it hard way. Lovely post, Corinne.

    10. Darla M Sands Darla M Sands May 17, 2016

      Excellent post! I’ve had to put my foot down lately on some giving that’s asked of me, realizing I need to take care of my own little family first and foremost. I like to think I’m reaching equilibrium. The quote by Ms. Angelou is excellent. Thank you for sharing.

    11. Anna R Palmer Anna R Palmer May 16, 2016

      Like so many things it is a spectrum. It is a very interesting question to consider. I am probably more of a taker than a giver…but when it really matters I give a lot of myself. It is something to watch for sure…

    12. Haralee Haralee May 16, 2016

      I love Maya’s quote. How true it is! We have to be both, those of us who are self reflecting enough to know there is a choice.

    13. Parul Thakur Parul Thakur May 16, 2016

      What a lovely post and this made me think, who am I ?
      I am a taker of love, happiness, and thoughts and I am a giver of love, happiness and thoughts 🙂 I think I am a mix of both. While I want things in life, I am ready to give away.

    14. Kala Kala May 16, 2016

      Hmm, I would put myself in the givers grp but too often find myself being taken for a ride. Life teaches you, its probably more prudent to be a matcher. Beautiful thoughts Corinne.

    15. Darshana Darshana May 16, 2016

      I’m afraid I’ve been a matcher in most places other than with my closed ones. I give if I believe they will reciprocate. Except of course when it comes to the people who are unable to return what they receive.

      The fact about the difference between the giver’s and taker’s success is thought provoking. I deeply admire and respect the ones who are able to just give and give, selfless and large hearted.

    16. Richa Singh Richa Singh May 16, 2016

      Don’t have the option often… so many takers around the giver is invariably the only option left. But slowly bringing balance back into life.

    17. Alana Alana May 16, 2016

      I’ve rarely put people into the “giver or taker” category. Our world would be a much poorer place without the people who give and give, but they can also self destruct if that’s all they do. Unfortunately, some people out there are pure takers when it comes to anyone except their immediate family and loved ones, and some are takers even to those.

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