Give and Take

The path from interdependence to success

Three Words You Shouldn't Say About Yourself

What happens when famous people are asked about giving? Read More

Wow, you just put into words

Wow, you just put into words something that's been shadowing the back of my mind for a while.

I had a relationship with someone who said, from the beginning, she was a giver. But in the relationship, it felt like she was giving because she wanted to be That Person. The things she gave weren't things I needed, or wanted, or asked for, and it was stressing both of us, so I asked her to stop--but she wouldn't. Her "I'm a giver" wasn't about me and it wasn't giving things to me, it was about her. In the end she berated me for not appreciating the things she'd given and behaving in ungrateful ways after she'd given so much. Since then I've been wary of dates who announce, "I'm a giver," because I worry they'll be like that other person: someone who won't listen to me. I know I could be misinterpreting the statement, but it now feels to me like a somewhat self-absorbed thing to say.

Giver in training

This really resonated with me. I recently did something anonymously for a coworker in need. But immediately afterwards I felt the huge desire to tell someone else about it. Basically, to announce "I am a giver." I didn't end up telling anyone, but I felt a lot of shame when I realized my desire to help my coworker was, at least in part, fueled by my desire to feel good about myself and have others feel good about me too. Guess I need to work on that!

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Adam Grant, Ph.D., is a professor at Wharton and the author of Give and Take.

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