Why Giving Is Risky But Worth It

Giving is a worthy career-1019998_640 (2) endeavor. It has its downsides, however. It can be dangerous on the high road of giving.

Adam Grant writes in Give and Take that givers are some of the most successful people. There is more. Givers are on the other end of the spectrum, too. They are the least successful.

If your time, money, and creativity are flowing in only one direction, away from you, it’s a set up for burnout and depletion. To do your best work, you cannot be operating on an empty tank.

When I think of giving, I am reminded of my dear friend. She looks for ways to give just because she can. It is her nature. Plus, she is brilliant at her work in the field of communication with a lot to offer. She takes giving to an extreme. So much so her bank account is on life support; her health is at risk; she is baffled. It is so natural to her she does not understand why everyone else does not operate with the same generosity. Well, they don’t.

And, that’s the problem. People interact in different ways. Using Grant’s model, there are three types of social interaction: 1) giver—expect no payback; 2) taker—get more than they give; and 3) matcher— keep the exchange even. The lines between these approaches to interacting with people are blurred. In the work place the takers are the norm. It’s mostly a zero-sum game. For you to win, someone must lose.

To me, giving seems the best way to go. Especially because some of the most successful people I know and admire are givers. Why not minimize the risks of giving and maximize its power?

In the first place, it’s easier to give freely because someone needs your help. Or asks for your help. To have to keep score of what they owe you in return takes a lot of effort. By the same token, to be vigilant to take every opportunity so the deck is always stacked in your favor is draining.

To be smart in giving, be alert to takers cleverly disguised as givers. Agreeableness is not the same as giving. A cranky curmudgeon can be a giver at heart with the behavior to back it up. Remember the wisdom of Maya Angelou, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”

If you are not at the level of generosity you would like to be, start with a few small steps for little or no cost. Build your giver muscles. Make it a habit to be generous. The more you do the easier it will be to do more. Here are some simple steps to get you going:

  1. Give anonymously a $25 gift card to someone you know could really use it.
  2. Find a task “that’s not my job, man” and offer to do it for a colleague.
  3. Pay the toll for the car behind you.
  4. Go to an event with the goal of connecting someone you meet to a resource of value to them.
  5. Let Whole Foods keep the $.05 rebate when you bring a reusable bag. Those nickels add up.
  6. Ask for help. It starts the flow of giving by providing the opportunity for someone to give to you.

Consider this revolutionary approach to success. While giving can be dangerous, the benefits of giving far out way the risks.

PS. In Give and Take, Grant provides 10 Actions for Impact. It’s an excellent read. I recommend this book.

© 2016 Ann Elliott All Rights Reserved

2 comments on “Why Giving Is Risky But Worth It”

  1. Hi Ann,

    Another wonderful article, thank you!

    A little story, my local gym went through a huge renovation last year. John, the manager, dedicated himself to providing the members with a beautiful new facility (and getting it open on time). He actually performed a lot of the work himself and was even laying carpet in the middle of the night before opening day...so as to not miss the deadline.

    On opening day I handed him a $20 bill and I said "This is just a little gift for making my life nicer." He was so surprised. It was only $20 but it had significance...his hard work was appreciated and he got some extra money, too.

    From that time on whenever I go to the gym, he gives me a big hug and kiss. I need any help...he's right there for me.

    My blog post this week is entitled, "How To Make Blogging Easier: Procrastinate More!" and was actually inspired by an Adam Grant article in the NY Times!
    Interesting coincidence!


    1. Thanks, Betsy. It is amazing what a small gesture of generosity can do for a relationship. I loved reading about your experience.

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