Givers,Takers And Matchers

wealthymattersPeople differ in their preferences for reciprocity. Accordingly they can be divided into Givers, Takers and Matchers. Takers are people who, when they walk into an interaction with another person, are trying to get as much as possible from that person and contribute as little as they can in return, thinking that’s the shortest and most direct path to achieving their own goals.

At the other end of the spectrum, are Givers,looking to help others by making introductions, giving advice, providing mentoring, sharing knowledge,volunteering,giving their resources without any strings attached,etc.Very few of people are purely takers or purely givers. Most hover somewhere in between. That brings us to the third group of people, who are Matchers. A Matcher is somebody who tries to maintain an even balance of give and take. If  they help you, they expect you to help them in return.They keep score of exchanges, so that everything is fair and really just.

The Givers are over represented at the bottom of the pyramid of success. By putting other people first, they often put themselves at risk of burning out or being exploited by takers.But also Givers are over represented at the top of most success metrics.In sales, the most productive sales people are actually those who put their customers’ interests first. A lot of that comes from the trust and the good will that they have built, but also, the reputations that they create.

The success of Givers and the fall of Takers is  driven by the Matchers. A Matcher really believes in a just world.A taker violates that belief in a just world. Matchers cannot stand to see Takers get ahead by taking advantage of other people.Matchers will often go around trying to punish them, often by gossiping and spreading negative reputational information. Matchers also hate to see people act really generously and not get rewarded for it. Matchers will often go out of their way to promote and help and support Givers, to make sure they actually do get rewarded for their generosity. This is one of the most powerful dynamics behind the rise of Givers.

Oftentimes Givers put themselves at risk in the short run. But in the long run, they end up building the kind of social capital that’s really important for success in a very connected world. Givers have to get better at protecting themselves and learn to ask “Is this person a Taker, a Giver or a Matcher?”.By all means go ahead and help people who can’t help you back but avoid those who show signs of routinely using others.Also, being a Matcher is a safer strategy.

How do you spot a Faker, or a Taker in Giver’s clothing?There are a couple of powerful ways to spot a Taker.You can identify the Taker CEOs,who are entitled,narcissistic and self-serving,without ever meeting them by the gap in compensation between the CEO and the next highest-paid executive and comparing it with the industry norm. The second clue is in their speech. Takers tended to use first-person singular pronouns, like “I” and “me,” as opposed to “us” and “we,” when talking about the company. The third,is that Takers literally feel it’s all about them and that they are the most important and central figure in the company. When you look at their photos in the company’s annual reports, they actually have larger photos and they are more likely to be pictured alone.You can even spot cues on Facebook. One of the easiest ways that you can spot a taker is to look for a pattern of basically “kissing up, kicking down.” Takers tend to be very careful at impression management and ingratiation when they’re dealing with someone superior or more influential. But it’s hard to keep up the façade in every interaction. It’s often peers and subordinates who have a more direct window into what this person’s true motives are like.When Mahatma Gandhi edited a magazine, he receive all kinds of letters. One letter was from a young woman who was about to get engaged. She was going to meet her prospective fiancé for the first time. She wanted to know how she could judge this person. The advice that Mahatma Gandhi gave her, in the columns of the magazine , was, “Don’t look at how he treats you. Look at how he treats his servants.” That’s very, very telling because  a true sign of character is how you treat people who are vulnerable.

Givers and Takers also differ quite a bit in the way they approach collaboration and sharing credit.Here are two interesting stories:

Frank Lloyd Wright,found that his draftsmen were essentially getting more commissions and more work than he was because customers and clients found them easier to work with and every bit as talented. He was offended by this and felt they should be subservient to him. He actually set a policy that they were not allowed to accept independent commissions. If while working in his studio they did any work, even if he never touched it, his name had to be signed first. That obviously cost him a lot of very, very talented drafts people. If you look at his legacy, he rarely mentored and championed far fewer great architects than most who achieved similar stature did.

Jonas Salk is remembered as a hero for discovering and commercializing a polio vaccine. Salk’s never gave credit to any of the people in his lab who helped him discover the vaccine and actually caused the team to fracture and splinter. Salk never made a discovery that was nearly as influential again. This is one of the costs of appearing like a Taker in a collaboration: slighting other people who might deserve credit. What Givers tend to do in collaboration is assume that credit is not zero sum.  This makes it a lot easier to keep people on board in a team over time. It means, typically, that if you’re a leader or a manager, people will follow you if you rotate to a different organization or a different job. That’s really powerful, but often harder to do.

Knowing that Givers end up at the bottom and the top means there are some risks associated with it.Those risks actually can be mitigated with careful strategies. A lot of it comes down to setting boundaries. Many Givers confuse being helpful or being generous with being available for every person and every request all the time. There are other Givers who confuse being generous with empathizing and dropping everything that you’re doing to help others.People who fall in the giving end of the spectrum need to work on setting clear boundaries and determine, “Okay, how am I going to help most of the people most of the time?”.They can adopt the concept of the five-minute favour. Instead of just helping everyone all the time, Givers can ask the question, “Can I offer something of unique value to this other person that will take me five minutes or less?” It’s basically about finding high benefit to others, but at low cost to the self….

Concern for your own interests and concern for other people’s interests are actually independent motivations. You could score low and high on one, or on both. The Takers tend to be purely selfish. There’s one group of givers, who are purely selfless, who constantly put other people’s interests ahead of their own.But, there’s this other group of Givers that  can be called “Otherish.” They are concerned about benefiting others, but they also keep their own interests in the rear view mirror. They will look for ways to help others that are either low cost to themselves or even high benefit to themselves, i.e., “win-win,” as opposed to win-lose. The selfless Givers might be more altruistic, in principle, because they are constantly elevating other people’s interests ahead of their own. But they’re actually less generous because they run out of energy, they run out of time and they lose their resources, because they basically don’t take enough care of themselves. The “Otherish” Givers are able to sustain their giving by looking for ways that giving can hurt them less or benefit them more. Selfless givers are at much greater risk of burnout and exploitation than are the “Otherish” Givers.

Givers can also ask themselves the question“What are the types of giving that I find most energizing or most consistent with my skills?” For some people, it’s making introductions. For others, it’s sharing credit. For others, it’s stepping up as a mentor. Finding your own Giver style is really powerful.

Even if Givers don’t always do better than Takers or Matchers, they manage to succeed in ways that make others better and lift others up, instead of cutting them down. Looking for ways to do that is probably the most sustainable path to success in the long term.

On, you can take a free self-assessment  test and a free 360 assessment, where you can get other people to rate you,to figure out where stand are in the Give-Take spectrum.



About Keerthika Singaravel

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