by Adam Grant
Finished 3/23/16
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It is often hard to judge people’s interaction style. Most are matchers: tit for tat. Some are takers: they act only for personal gain. Givers are the least successful, but also the most successful. Selfless givers only consider others’ interests and not their own. They are the least successful. Otherish givers value others’ and their own interests equally. They are the most successful. Around takers, givers will act like matchers.


1. Good Returns: The Dangers and Rewards of Giving More Than You Get
– According to conventional wisdom, highly successful people have three things in common: motivation, ability, and opportunity
– But there is a fourth characteristic that may be overlooked:
– Success depends on how we approach our interactions with other people
– People differ drastically in their preference for reciprocity: takers vs. givers
– Takers are self-focused while givers are other-focused
– Takers help others strategically when the benefits to them outweigh the personal costs
– Givers help when the benefits to others exceed the personal costs
– Or they don’t consider the personal cost at all
– Professionally, most of us are neither givers nor takers
– We tend to be matchers, preferring an equal balance of giving and getting
– But people tend to develop a personal reciprocity style
– Givers are at a disadvantage compared to matchers and takers
– But givers are also at the top of the success ladder. Takers and matchers more likely to land in the middle
– Givers are every bit as successful as takers and matchers, they just have a different way of achieving their goals
– Giver success creates value in others, as a ripple effect
– Lincoln was one of the biggest givers in the presidency
– In most cultures including the U.S., giving is the most important guiding principle, over power etc.
– Many Givers prefer to be matchers at work, especially in a zero-sum environment
– We must understand what makes giving both powerful and dangerous
– Successful Givers have unique approaches to interactions in 4 domains:
– Networking
– Collaborating
– Evaluating
– Influencing

2. The Peacock and the Panda: How Givers, Takers, and Matchers Build networks
– Networks come with 3 major advantages:
– Private information
– Diverse skills
– Power
– By developing a strong network, people gain invaluable access to knowledge, expertise, and influence
– People with rich networks get higher performance ratings, get promoted faster, and earn more money
– People build up networks with breadth and depth despite different reciprocity styles
– While givers and takers can both have extensive networks, givers create far more lasting value through their networks
– When takers encounter powerful people, they tend to use their charm successfully
– Takers can pose as givers, but they leak (or lek – like peacocks) clues
– CEOs tended to use first person singular instead of first person plural
– Pay discrepancies were higher
– CEOs glorified themselves
– Takers and matchers offer to do unrequested favors for people they know will help them down the road
– Downsides of reciprocity:
1. People on the receiving side often feel manipulated
2. Matchers tend to build smaller networks than either givers or takers
– Givers seek actively to help a wider range of people
– Takers often find themselves expanding their networks to compensate for bridges burned in previous transactions
– Matchers tend to operate on the principle of I’ll do something for you if you do something for me (immediate benefits)
– We can’t always predict who can help us
– There is strength in weak ties
– But it’s tough for most to ask weak ties for help
– It’s possible, though, through reconnecting
– Just as matchers go out of their way to punish takers, they go out of their way to help givers
– Dormant ties: people you used to see often or know well but have fallen out of contact
– Advice from dormant ties is more valuable than current ties
– If the dormant ties are fellow takers, they’ll be suspicious and self-protective
– If the dormant ties are matchers, they may be motivated to punish takers
– If the dormant ties are smart givers, they won’t be so willing to help takers
– If a taker’s self-serving actions caused the tie to become dormant in the first place, it may be impossible to revive the relationship
– Matchers have a much easier time reconnecting but have trouble reaching out for help because of their fidelity to the norm of reciprocity
– If they ask for a favor they’ll feel they owe one back
– If they are already indebted to the dormant tie and haven’t yet evened the score, it’s doubly difficult to ask
– For many matchers, dormant ties haven’t built up a deep reservoir of trust since they’ve been more like transactions than meaningful relationships
– Reconnecting is different for Givers. The contact is usually thrilled to hear from them and help
– We should see networks as a vehicle for creating value for everyone
– 5 minute favor: we should be able to do something that will take us less than 5 minutes for everyone
– Giving, especially when consistent, shifts people’s reciprocity style within a group
– The presence of a single giver is enough to establish a norm of giving
– Some Givers paid a price in terms of productivity if they gave only infrequently
– But by giving often, they established more trust and were more productive

3. The Ripple Effect: Collaboration and the Dynamics of Giving and Taking Credit
– Geniuses tend to be takers
– To promote their own interests they drain intelligence, energy, and capability from others
– Genius-makers tend to be givers.
– They use their intelligence to amplify the smarts and capabilities of other people
– Creatives tend to be more hostile than ordinary people. More likely to be takers
– But givers can be every bit as creative as takers
– Takers often have the confidence to generate original ideas that buck traditions and fight uphill battles to champion them
– In seemingly independent jobs that rely on raw brainpower, interdependence is powerful
– Hiring stars is advantageous neither to the stars themselves nor the hiring companies in terms of their market value.
– But if the stars moved with their teams, there was no loss of performance
– Givers more likely to believe that interdependence strengthens, while takers value independence
– The more group members give, the higher the quality and ratings of their good and services
– The people who give their time to help others benefit from more raises and promotions
– Highly talented people tend to make others jealous
– But if these people are also givers, this is not the case. They are appreciated for their contributions to the group
– Givers get extra credit when they offer ideas that challenge the status quo
– Responsibility bias: people overestimate their own contributions relative to others, and takers tend to do this more
– Information discrepancy: we have more info about our own contributions than others’
– “Meh”: expression of boredom or apathy, introduced by the Simpsons
– But George Myer, one of the Simpsons writers and a major giver, did not remember even creating meh
– Sharing credit, consoling fellow workers, and creating psychologically safe environments are what givers do
– Perspective gap: when we don’t feel a psychologically intense state, we underestimate how much it will affect us
– Takers rarely cross the perspective gap and don’t understand how their ideas resonate with others
– When we take others’ perspectives, we tend to stay within our own frame of reference
– To effectively help colleauges we need to step outside our own frames of reference

4. Finding the Diamond in the Rough: The Fact and Fiction of Recognizing Potential
– Beliefs in people’s potential catalyze self-fulfilling prophecies
– Takers frequently fail to support others by monitoring for signs that others might harm them
– Matchers support others, but wait for signs of high potential
– Givers don’t wait for signs of potential. They are inclined to see the potential in everyone
– Identification of talent may be the wrong place to start
– Motivation and interest precede talent
– Expertise typically takes 10,000 hours, but givers often support the motivation in the first place
– Grit: passion and perseverance to achieve a long term goal
– Givers focus on gritty people and try to cultivate grit in the first place
– But sometimes givers’ investments don’t pay off. People may either lack the talent or grit
– In many organizations, making a bet on one individual means dropping the others
– Givers are least vulnerable to the mistakes of over-investing in people
– When an investment doesn’t pay off, we tend to keep investing: sunk cost fallacy
– But 3 factors are more powerful than sunk costs for holding on to old investments:
1. Anticipated regret
2. Project completion
3. Ego threat
– Due to susceptibility to ego threat, takers are more vulnerable to escalation of commitment than givers
– Takers felt more responsible for decisions gone bad, so they worked more to save face
– Givers were more concerned about others, so they focused on admitting their mistakes and moving the organization on
– Givers prioritize more what matters to others
– A major reason givers are less vulnerable than takers to escalation of commitment has to do with responses to feedback
– Takers tend to discount unfavorable performance feedback whereas givers may be more apt to act on social information without carefully evaluating the personal consequences
– Givers accept a blow to their pride and reputations in the short term to make better choices in the long term
– Givers are willing to work harder and longer out of a sense of responsibility to their team
– Takers like to make independent decisions while Givers are more open to outside advice
– Givers don’t excel only at recognizing and developing talent, they are also good at moving on when they don’t work out

5. The Power of Powerless Communication: How to Be Modest and Influence People
– Many stutterers become successful
– There are 2 fundamental paths to influence: dominance and prestige
– Dominance: others see us as strong, powerful, and authoritative
– Prestige: others respect and admire us
– Takers excel in gaining dominance
– Dominance is zero-sum, while prestige is not
– Powerless communication: vulnerable, hesitant, and unsure. Relies on opinions of others
– Givers develop prestige in 4 domains of influence:
1. Presenting
2. Selling
3. Persuading
4. Negotiating
– Givers more inclined toward:
1. Asking questions than offering answers
2. Talking tentatively than boldly
3. Admitting their weaknesses than displaying strengths
4. Seeking advice than opposing the views of others
– Presenting: the value of vulnerability
– Takers worry that revealing weaknesses will compromise their dominance
– Givers are much more comfortable expressing vulnerability
– Expressing vulnerability is only effective if the audience receives other signals that establish the speaker’s competence
– The Pratfall effect: blunders help experts appear human and approachable instead of distant
– Selling: separating the swindlers from the samaritans
– Vulnerability is only a starting point for influence
– When we hear a powerful, persuasive message, we get suspicious
– Persuasion: the art of advocacy: getting you to my conclusions on your own terms
– Questions open the door to self-persuasion but only if the outcome is desirable
– In groups, powerless communication can be more effective than powerful communication
– In leadership, people tend to avoid talking tentatively
– By speaking with greater speed, volume, assertiveness, and certainty, takers convince us they know what they’re talking about
– Negotiating: seeking advice in the shadow of the doubt
– Seeking advice is among the most effective ways to influence peers, subordinates, and superiors
– Advice-seeking combines expressing vulnerability, asking questions, and talking tentatively
– Those who regularly seek advice are seen as higher by their peers
– Advice-seeking only works when it’s genuine

6. The Art of Motivation Maintenance: Why Some Givers Burn Out but Others are On Fire
– Success not only requires capitalizing on the strengths of giving. It also involves avoiding the pitfalls
– Successful givers are just as ambitious as takers and matchers
– Givers always score high on other-interest but they vary in terms of self-interest
– Two types of Givers:
1. Selfless Givers: high other- interest and low self- interest
2. Otherish Givers: high other-interest and high self-interest
– Teaching has the highest rates of burnout
– Burned out employees are at high risk for depression, physical fatigue, sleep disruption, impaired immune systems, alcohol abuse, and cardiovascular disease
– When givers give more, their burnout may fade
– Givers care deeply about doing jobs that matter to them. They become disappointed when they are not granted those opportunities
– Less about the amount of giving than the feedback about the impact of giving
– Chunking vs. Sprinkling
– Chunking: packing all acts of giving into a compressed set of time
– Sprinkling: distribute acts of giving evenly over time
– Chunkers have gains in happiness while sprinklers do not
– Chunking giving is an otherish strategy
– Selfless Givers tend to gravitate toward sprinkling, leading to distraction and lower feelings of happiness
– 100 hours a year (2 hours a week): optimal amount of volunteering
– Giving has an energizing effect only if it is an enjoyable, meaningful choice rather than something done out of duty and obligation
– Selfless givers feel uncomfortable to receive support. They feel they need to be in the giver role and do not want to burden others
– A lack of social support is linked to burnout
– Otherish givers recognize the importance of protecting their own well- being
– Otherish givers seek help when on the brink of burnout
– Otherish givers build support networks they can take advantage of
– People who give more go on to earn more
– Otherish givers give more than selfless givers

7. Chump Change: Overcoming the Doormat Effect
– Matchers interested in paying back. Givers interested in paying forward
– Trust is one reason givers are so susceptible to the doormat effect
– They tend to see the best in everyone, so they operate on the mistaken assumption that everyone is trustworthy
– We struggle mightily in guessing who is a genuine giver
– Agreeableness: the fundamental personality trait that distinguishes how people tend to appear in social interactions
– Can be very deceptive
– There are 4 extremes: disagreeable givers, disagreeable takers, agreeable givers, agreeable takers
– The ability to recognize agreeable takers as fakers is what protects givers from being exploited
– In general, givers are more accurately able to judge people’s sincerity
– Empathy is a pervasive force behind giving behaviors but is also a major vulnerability
– When we empathize at the bargaining table we put ourselves at risk for giving away too much
– But if we consider our counterparts’ thoughts and interests we’re more likely to make deals that satisfy our counterparts without sacrificing our own interests
– Givers avoid getting burned by becoming matchers in exchanges with takers
– It is wise to start as a giver
– But once a counterpart is clearly acting like a taker, it makes sense for Givers to switch to a matching strategy: tit for tat
– Men tend to negotiate salary more than women
– In short-term, single-issue negotiations givers do worse than takers
– But this disadvantage disappears when Givers set high goals and stick to them
– advocating for others, e.g family
– Givers often overestimate the degree to which assertiveness might be off-putting to others
– Most effective negotiators are otherish givers. They are focused on creating value for both sides

8. The Scrooge Shift: Why a Soccer Team, a Fingerprint, and a Name Can Tilt Us in the Other Direction
– Craigslist appeals to the matcher mentality while Freecycle appeals to Givers
– But Freecycle also encouraged matchers and takers to act like givers
– Even the most disagreeable takers can practice empathy.
– Empathy leads to a sense of oneness. We place our interests at the same level as the others’
– Takers and matchers may be most likely to give when they can advance others’ interests at the same time
– Common ground is a major influence on giving behaviors
– Receiving is fundamentally different in direct matching and generalized giving systems:
– Direct-matching: economic transaction
– Good deal can be chalked up to receiver’s negotiating skills or seller’s naivety
– Giving: Givers aren’t getting anything tangible
– Community is the source of the gifts you receive
– Optimal distinctiveness: we look for ways to fit in and stand out
– People only identify with a generalized giving group after they receive enough benefits to feel like the group is helping them
– People end up taking because they don’t have access to information about what others are doing
– When we try to predict others’ reactions we tend to focus on the costs of saying yes rather than the costs of saying no
– When people assume others aren’t givers they act and speak in ways that discourage others’ giving
– For a generalized giving system to achieve sustainable effectiveness, matchers and takers must contribute
– Givers equally likely to contribute when it’s public or private, but takers more likely to contribute when it’s public
– When people make the choice to give to others they start to internalize giving as part of their identities

9. Out of the shadows
– Ways to encourage and evaluate giving:
1. Evaluate your reciprocity style
2. Set up a reciprocity ring at work
3. Help others craft their jobs or craft yours to facilitate giving
4. Start a love machine: visible peer recognition programs
5. Embrace the 5-minute favor
6. Practice powerless communication but become an advocate
7. Join a community of Givers
8. Seek help