Are you a “giver” or a “taker”?

One of the topics we spend a bit of time on in my coaching process is helping people to understand whether or not they are characterized by being a “giver” or “taker”.  Likely as you read these words, many are immediately reflecting on people who fall into both of these categories.  In their simplest form when it comes to relationships, “givers” normally bring energy to your relationship versus “takers” tend to suck the energy out of you.  As I say this, I anticipate at least one person comes to mind that’s a “taker” in your life.

Inherently, I believe everyone’s nature is to desire to be seen by others as a “giver” more so than “taker”.  On the surface, one’s experience of whether or not a person is a “giver” or “taker” seems to be pretty straight forward.  That being said, the way we’re seen versus what’s in are heart can often be different.  And, we often express ourselves in subtle ways unintended which may be showing up as “takers’.

An example I sometimes use relates to picking up the bill when going out to dinner.  Let’s say that Bill invites me to dinner this evening.  It’s not necessarily a “business” meeting where tradition normally dictates Bill would pick up the tab.  As we’re finishing up our meal, the ticket comes and Bill immediately reaches for the ticket.  Upon doing so, I immediately say, “Bill, I really appreciate you reaching out and inviting me this evening, I’d like to get this tonight.”  Bill responds, “no, this ones on me!” To which I respond, “no, really, you don’t need to do that.”

Now, in this moment, am I being a “giver” or “taker”?   More specifically, looking through Bill eye’s, is his experience of me in the moment a “giver” or “taker”?  Well, if you’re like most, you immediate felt that I was being a “giver” by offering to pick up the tab.  Or, others may have taken the position, “it depends”.  So, let’s listen to the arguments around, “it depends”.

For those typically looking at the situation, they feel Bill was making a kind gesture in the awkwardness of making a decision of who pays that my offering was seen as being very generous.  I was expressing my gratitude for him reaching out, initiating a time for us to spend together, and I simply was reciprocating generosity.  I was saying “thank you” by picking up the tab.  Seems very much a “giver”…right?

Well, what if Bill genuinely wanted to pick up the bill?  It was Bill offering to get together, he too enjoys spending time together, and he always had intended to be generous and pick of the bill since he initiated the invitation.  Yes, all of a sudden, I shifted to now being a “taker”.  Think about it, in essence I’m “taking” away or attempting to rob Bill of the joy of his generosity.  While it may not have been intentionally,  what I’m say to Bill is “I can’t accept your gift of generosity.”  Make sense?

Now, what if Bill’s heart was actually as initially indicated in this story where he was simply attempting to break the awkwardness of who’s going the pick up the bill.  Actually, Bill would love it if I picked up the bill and would graciously accept if I continued to offer.  Well, in this scenario, who’s the “taker”?  Even though in my heart I have gratitude that Bill’s allowing me to pay, Bill just shifted to being a “taker” in this moment.  He initially “gave” and then “took back” his offering which, while very subtle, isn’t healthy in building trust within a relationship.

So, if you’re headed to lunch or dinner, what do you do?  Well, simply be aware that if someone offers to pickup the tab, respond with a “thank you” and allow them to be generous.  If they weren’t genuine in their initially offering, that’s not your burden to carry.  Another options might be your choosing to be generous by offering first well in advance of the time the ticket get’s placed on the table.

Again, the emphasis in this story is how we sometimes are unintended showing up as a “taker” in our relationships.  Other scenarios you might reflect upon are:

  • Who’s always doing the talking in your relationship?
  • Who’s normally the first to reach out to get together?
  • Are you always “one upping” peoples stories with your own experience?
  • Who’s always asking for help to complete a project?
  • Do you clearly understand the “needs” of another and genuinely attempt to meet these “needs”?
  • Even though it’s not your direct responsibility, do you ever cook a meal or do work around the house without being asked?

These are simply a few I offer to reflect with most being examples of our being “takers” in relationships more so than we’re aware.

Another brief story I’ll share just happened in our family.  I actually started this blog a few days ago.  Last night, however, we had an incident that made it real.  As I walked to the mailbox, I discovered an unique envelop (pictured above).  You know, most of what’s in the mail these days are direct mail pieces and bills; so, it’s fun to see unique envelops come in the mail.  As I opened the envelop, there was a piece of paper wrapped around two gift cards.  On the paper and envelop there was nothing written.  Someone in their generosity simply wanted to bless our family with a anonymous gift.

Now, in the context of “giver” and “taker” what was my response to this gift?   Well, initially, it was “wow, that was nice and pretty cool”; however, I quickly shifted toward trying to figure out who gave us the gift.  For the next couple hours, as I was waiting for Lisa to arrive home, I was attempting to figure out who would have done this and why.  Then, as Lisa arrived home, we both briefly started to go down this path together.

In this moment, was I being a “gifter” or “taker”?  Well, reflecting upon my earlier story of Bill and dinner, you should be able to see that, while very subtle and not intended, I was being a “taker” in that moment.  What someone had intended to bless us and required only a simply response of “thank you”, had started to become a “need to figure out” who’d offer and why.  No, this wasn’t an ill-willed desire to know.  But, if the individual had desired we knew, they would have signed their name.  It’s funny that with our son a few days ago, we, too, had a discussion about of how often it’s best to give anonymously.  Yet, last night, I was wrestling a bit with receiving an “anonymous” gift.

I anticipate the examples in today’s blogs raise a few questions and arguments counter to the views offered.   If you’re the one arguing with this, my encouragement is to “stop” and ask yourself “why” you’re wrestling with this viewpoint.  Is it possible that there’s something much deeper going on that needs to be worked through?  Keep in mind, most would say I’m a “giver” and I stumbled briefly as recently as last night!

Finally, if you happen to be the one who dropped those gift cards in the mail, please know that our family is very grateful for your offering and we simple say, “thank you”!  May God bless you for your heart of generosity!

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