The Givers and Takers of the World

What makes a person a giver or a taker? Is there a thick bold line between the two, or is it more muddled? Are women more biologically prone to giving -whether it is time, money or apologies?

The idea of ‘give versus take’ takes shape in all interactions and relationships of our personal and professional lives. We are either giving advice, making time for people, or being philanthropic in any way possible without any strings attached, or we are on the receiving end. We alternate between the two based on different situations we encounter on a daily basis, if not an hourly one. In other words, we are almost never always just givers or takers.

According to Adam Grant, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and author of the groundbreaking book “Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success”, most people fall under the category of matchers.

A matcher is someone who strives to tip the scales so that they are even, fair and just. They make careful observations on takers and make it a point for them to pay something back in order to tip the scales again. They basically hold tabs on who has done what for who, and hate to see people who act so generously towards others not receive any rewards. In fact, most matchers will go out of their way and do karma’s job by promoting and supporting givers so that they can get the good they deserve.

Givers, on the other hand, have close to zero expectations from other people and are not bothered when their request for favors go unanswered by those who they went out of the way for. In his book, Grant explains that givers fall under the two opposite ends of the spectrum: they are either very successful people or can be found at the bottom of the ladder. Either way, givers often put themselves at risk for burning out or being taken advantage of and ultimately give a few sacrifices, tangible or not.

Is there a gender factor that plays a part in this?

A study led by Hannah Riley Bowles, a professor at Harvard University, focused on the role of our sex chromosomes on the idea of giving and taking. She asked 200 senior executives to sit down in pairs where one person would act as the boss and the other as an employee to negotiate salary promotions. Male ’employees’ asked for an average salary of $146k while the females asked for 3% less -only $141k. But why did they not bargain as hard as the men? Simply because they were more inclined to be givers.

Another group of women, who acted as the ’employee’s mentors’, asked for an average salary of $167k. Why the big difference? Bowles concluded that these women’s tactical use of aggression on the negotiating table was consistent with their self image as givers; they were each fulfilling their responsibilities to be mentors for other people.

So, would it be fair to say that all men are takers and all women are givers? Of course not. But are women more inclined to do so, perhaps due to theories of evolution and social conformations?

If we are to observe the history of the female role in society, we will see a commonality across all cultures and traditions. Before colonization, and in the Choctaw Native society, women were deemed with high respect due to their vital roles as caregivers for their families, communities and tribes. In fact, they were dignified to the extent where family lines followed that of the mother, and during tribal functions, the children would sit at the fire of their mother’s family while the father sat at a separate one.

But history didn’t stop there. Up until our modern day, most women are most likely to stay at home and care for their children while men go to work and earn the bread. Within a household, the mother is most likely to be the emotional giver, the one who her children confide in, the one who provides comfort, whether it is by preparing her husband’s favorite meal or taking care of a sick child.

Does this mean that history has dictated that all women enjoy taking up the role of the giver? Or is it that men never had the chance to take it up? Or perhaps a little bit of both?

As a woman, I cannot deny that I do enjoy the act of giving up my time, my knowledge, and my care and attention to the people in my life, and more often than not, complete strangers. I don’t expect anything in return, but I do tend to draw the line and pull myself away when I feel like I’m being taken for granted. I also tend to get upset when I see a loved one’s continuous actions of kindness go unnoticed. So, it is safe to say that I am 50% giver, 35% matcher and 15% taker.

I do know someone, however, who is 99% giver. I don’t know how they manage to stay sane, but they are constantly devoting their time, sharing valuable insights and going out of their way for everyone who crosses their path. They give, give and give and expect nothing in return, and although they have changed the lives of many people, they rarely see any of it returned. But the universe is slowly repaying them; they are now extremely successful, well known for what they do and admired for it, too.

So, maybe, no good deed ever goes undone?

What category do you fall under? Share your thoughts on my blog!