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How to Be More Effective in the Workplace by Mastering the Art of the Give and Take

Updated on September 11, 2014

The Art of Give and Take

Givers and Takers

According to conventional wisdom, highly successful people have three things in common: motivation, ability and opportunity. But there is a factor to success that convential wisdom doesn't take into account, and that is reciprocity.

Reciprocity is the art of giving and taking. Some people are natural givers, while some people are natural takers. Takers have a distinctive signature - they like to get more than they give. They tilt reciprocity in their own favor, putting their own interests ahead of others' needs. Takers believe that the world is a competitive, dog eat dog place. Most takers aren't cruel or cutthroat, they are just cautious and self-protective.

Givers are a rare bread. Someone who fits the profile of a giver believes in giving more than taking. They tilt reciprocity in the favor of others. Givers focus on others, while takers focus on themselves.

Reciprocity is the Amount You Give Compared to the Amount You Take


Who is More Successful - Givers or Takers?

The patterns of success based on reciprocity styles are pretty clear. If I asked you to guess who is most likely to wind up on the top of the ladder of success, who would you pick - the givers or the takers?

You would probably pick the takers - and you would be wrong.

Givers are actually scientifically proven to wind up monopolizing both the bottom and the top of the ladder of success. Takers usually fill up the space in between. Giving can be much more powerful than most believe.

Finding the balance between the give and take is the key to finding yourself at the top of the ladder of success instead of at the bottom.

Are You a Giver or a Taker?

Why Givers Succeed More than Takers

Most of us underestimate the giver. We view givers as weak, spineless, and powerless. While this may apply to some givers, those who fall at the bottom of the ladder of success, this is far from true for successful givers. Successful givers are powerful people with unique attributes that help them get to the top.

Givers are masters of powerless communication. Great negotiators who know when to speak up, and when to listen, the successful giver is someone who knows how to keep their ego in check. While takers believe that accomplishing things on their own makes them look strong, givers know that true strength is only shown when one is able to ask for advice.

Givers can sometimes seem like doormats, but those who wind up on their top of the ladder of success are those who learn to harness the positive attributes of the giver, and minimize the negative parts. Givers can be too trusting and too generous, which is why they need to learn how to discern between situations that give them power, and situations that sap their power from them.

Givers tend to be humble, they may have trouble asserting themselves. In order to succeed, they must learn to screen for potential takers, and recognize when it is time to speak up. They must realize when their reciprocity is benefiting them, and when it is hurting them.

Givers make better negotiators than takers and they are more even tempered. Unlike takers, givers focus on others, allowing them to see the big picture in a clearer, more informative way. Givers work better in teams than takers, even when they are leading the team. They also are more effective communicators, knowing when to speak up, and when to listen.

The giver can be a powerful force if the person knows who they are, knows what they stand for, and is able to muster up the courage to stick up for themselves.

Survey of Readers

Do you consider yourself a giver or a taker?

See results

The Unique Approach of Givers

Being able to understand what makes givers so powerful relies on learning the unique approach givers take when it comes to networking. The interactions of successful givers can be divided into four domains - networking, collaborating, evaluating and influencing.

A close look at the networking done by givers highlights fresh approaches for developing connections with new contacts and strengthening ties with old contacts. Examining collaboration reveals what it takes to work productively with coworkers and earn their respect. Exploring how givers evaluate others offers counterintuitive techniques for judging and fostering talent in order to get the best results from others. Analyzing the influence of givers sheds light on novel strategies for presenting, selling, persuading, and negotiating, all in the spirit of convincing others to to support one's own ideas and interests.

The Definiton of Success

Givers and takers are very different people, so it is understandable why they both have very unique ideas of how to define success.

In the mind of a giver, the definition of success itself takes on a distinctive meaning. Whereas takers view success as attaining results that are superior to others, givers are more inclined to follow, believing success is when everyone involved winds up on top.

Takers don't care about what happens to other people. Givers get to the top, and watch the ripple effect of their actions. They need to make sure that nothing that they did negatively impacted someone down the line.

This is why givers wind up ahead of takers - because they care about the whole, not just the part. They have no desire to advance at the expense of anyone else, which is a great trait for any person to possess.

Understand the Power of Reciprocity

Actions to Take to Become More of a Giver

If you still don't know whether or not you are a taker or a giver, author of the book Give and Take by Adam Grant has put together a comprehensive give and take test to help you find out. It is possible to transform from a taker into a giver, but it isn't easy.

If you think that you are a taker and want to make a shift, here are some tips:

  • Test your giver quotient through Adam Grant's website
  • Start a reciprocity ring where people present requests and help fulfill the requests of others
  • Help other people in need in order to bring out your inner giver
  • Practice being a powerless communicator - utilize active listening skills combined with appropriate assertiveness
  • Surround yourself with givers
  • Donate your time, money or efforts to something you believe in or care about

© 2014 Kathleen Odenthal


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