Many of us were raised with the charitable notion that “it is better to give than to receive.” Recently the Biblical concept was tested scientifically to look at the world of givers and takers. First presented at the American Psychological Association by Adam Grant, Ph.D., of the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, recent studies are validating his theories presented in his book: "Give and Take."  While tested in a business environment, the personality of givers translates easily into personal relationships.  

An interesting point is that givers appear to have an inherent generous spirit, expecting nothing in return. Although it is taking a leap to suggest that those who are generous with kind words and kisses help relationships thrive, taking a closer look at the business model reveals that givers are more successful than matchers and takers. Grant’s research focuses on motivation and prosocial behaviors.  Through his unique teaching methods, his students raised close to $60,000 for Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Giving vs tit-for-tat

In further research from the University of Tübingen, givers, matchers, and takers were defined. Givers were found to share not only more important information but also resources, whereas takers keep it all to themselves. And the matchers essentially believed in tit-for-tat according to this large-scale study. Additionally it was found that givers often give more than they receive without expecting anything more in return.

How about withholders and the silent treatment?

If we apply the business model to relationships, it seems obvious.  But what about the flip side of generosity, which we see with hostility and the silent treatment?  Based on meta-analysis of 74 studies, which included some 14,000 participants, a key symptom of a distressed relationship becomes evident in the withdrawal pattern.  This pattern is created when one person in a relationship shuts down – there is no giving, there is only withdrawing.

Researchers from Texas Christian University in Fort Worth,Texas, tell us that those who cling to “the silent treatment” as a way of avoiding a confrontation walk a dangerous line.  Nonetheless it is considered one of the most common ways that couples deal with conflict.

The value of “we” might mitigate conflict

In a love relationship, learn the value of “we” to help strengthen connections as described in Positive Couple Therapy: Using We-Stories to Enhance Resilience, Jefferson A. Singer, ‎Karen Skerrett. They state that couples who create and share their mutual stories and carry them forward to family and friends, develop “a sense of mutuality” that facilities positive relationships.


Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success, Adam Grant, PhD

Adam M. Grant, Motivating creativity at work: The necessity of others is the mother of invention, Psychological Science Agenda | July 2011

Sonja Utz, Nicole Muscanell, Anja S. Göritz. Give, match, or take: A new personality construct predicts resource and information sharing. Personality and Individual Differences, 70 (2014) 11–16 

Paul Schrodt, Paul L. Witt, Jenna R. Shimkowski. A Meta-Analytical Review of the Demand/Withdraw Pattern of Interaction and its Associations with Individual, Relational, and Communicative Outcomes, Communication Monographs, Volume 81Issue 1, 2014: 28-58

Copyright 2014 Rita Watson

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