That’s Men: Giving can help you flourish in the rat race

Tue, Dec 17, 2013, 01:00

Can giving be bad for you? Yes, if you’re giving to the wrong people, according to Prof Adam Grant of the University of Pennsylvania.

Generally speaking, though, giving can help you flourish in the rat race, he argues in his book Give and take.

In research in the United States, successful salespeople and engineers
have been found to be givers in the sense that they willingly help out their colleagues. Overall, they give more than they take.

Givers have deeper and more meaningful relationships than non-givers, and that’s a good outcome in all walks of life. “Giving” includes helping others and not just making gifts.

But while it’s good for you, a lot depends on who you’re giving to and why.

Grant divides us into givers, takers and matchers. Givers give. Do a favour for a matcher and they’ll do you a favour back to keep things balanced.

Takers will accept what you give them – but don’t expect anything in return.

As he did the research into his topic, Grant told the American Psychological Association’s Monitor, “I realised that I was falling victim to helping the people who had a history or reputation of being selfish.

“I’ve learned to be clearer about trying to help givers and matchers, and I’m much more cautious now about helping takers than I used to be.”


Take a break from takers
But giving doesn’t automatically spell success.

“Selfless givers tend to fail, as they struggle to set boundaries. They put other people ahead of themselves almost all of the time and they’re willing to drop their individual goals and ambitions and productivity for others.”

The ones who succeed focus their generosity on other givers or matchers and steer clear of the takers.

I like his thinking on this. Too many people lose out at the hands of takers, not only of money but of time and emotional investment.

If they see all giving as good, then they are setting themselves up to fall into the taker’s trap.

By takers I don’t mean people who aren’t in a position to give something back but who would if they could. I mean the ones who wouldn’t even if they could.


Fear of asserting yourself
When you have spotted who are the other givers and matchers around you, then you know who to help out.

However, if you are giving out of a fear of asserting yourself or if you are so available to others that you have nothing left for yourself or your job, you need to step back and take a long, hard look at what’s going on.

The good news in our wicked little world is that the giving instinct seems to be quite strong.

In one study, doctors and nurses used 45 per cent more soap and sanitising gel beside signs reading “hand hygiene prevents patients from catching disease” than beside signs that replaced “patients” with “you”.

In another study, people making phone calls to raise funds for scholarships almost doubled their success rates after learning of the positive effects their work had on the lives of others.

Hell hath no fury like a giver scorned, though. For instance, my impression is that charitable donations are falling because charities are suddenly being seen as takers rather than givers.

That’s a pity because most people involved with charities, as employees or volunteers, are givers, in my view.

Those the charities are meant to serve still need our money and I believe the public should go on giving while
insisting on effective statutory
regulation.


Nobody’s fool
This all puts me in mind of a relative who was described at his funeral as “Everybody’s friend and nobody’s fool.”

He did a lot of favours for a lot of people but he knew a taker when he saw one. That, I think, is the principle to follow.

You’ll find a link to the APA Monitor article at bit.ly/takersgivers.

The Monitor is worth a visit if you’re interested in psychology.


pomorain@yahoo.com

Padraig O’Morain is a counsellor accredited by the Irish Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy.
His book, Light Mind - Mindfulness for Daily Living, is published by Veritas. His mindfulness newsletter is free by email.

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