Career Guide

Give without burning

“Being a successful giver means being helpful while not sacrificing your own goals.” – Adam Grant

Merriam-Webster defines the term ‘give-and-take’ as the practice of making mutual concessions. In other words, it involves compromising or reciprocating the circumstances we are in.

Wharton University of Pennsylvania professor Adam Grant, also author of Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success, gives insight into the dichotomy of behavioural styles people adopt in pursuing success.

There are the takers which he explains as having a distinctive signature in that they like to get more than they give.

Takers tilt reciprocity in their own favour, putting their own interests ahead of others’ needs. In short, takers attempt to maximise profits and work solely for themselves.

The other group are called the givers, considered a relatively rare breed.

Givers tilt reciprocity in the other direction, preferring to give more than they get. They are more other-focused, paying more attention to what other people need from them.

Take, for example, someone who is willing to help others by making an introduction, giving advice or even imparting some knowledge without any strings attached.

However, there is also a third category, i.e. the matchers, and here is where majority of the population is categorised.

Matchers strive to preserve an equal balance of giving and getting. They operate on the principle of fairness, that is when they help others, they protect themselves by seeking reciprocity. It’s more of a tit-for-tat relationship.

According to the study by Grant, givers are considered the most successful.

Despite also representing most of the bottom tier after takers and matchers, givers who are wise enough to manage their time and efforts slowly find themselves at the top most tier.

How can one be a successful giver without burning out?

1. 5-minute favour

Adam Rifkin, named Fortune’s best networker on LinkedIn believes you should be willing to do something that will take you five minutes or less for anybody without thinking about being repaid.

After retiring in his 30s as a successful entrepreneur, Rifkin began doing favours by introducing and connecting people to jobs or business opportunities, starting with three introductions every day.

The essence of this is to pick a favour that take at least five minutes and excel at it.

This could even be asking someone what they’re working on so you’ll have a better understanding on what help they might need.

2. Prioritise

As much as we want to help everyone, this is very much impossible without sacrificing yourself.

A great rule of thumb to live by is this line-up: family, friends, colleagues and everyone else, although there is, sometimes, a fine line between friends and colleagues.

The question to be asked before lending a hand is: Will this affect my time/relationship with my family? If not, then go ahead and help the person.

It’s a great way to keep one’s self-balance without having to jeopardise other relationships and burn out.

Food for thought

How else can you become a successful giver in a world perceived as full of takers?

- Rohini is a law graduate and freelance writer. Her areas of interest are personal development, social rights, and reflective writing. Share your thoughts with us at

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