Some days take significantly more time to illicit enough inspiration to propel me to write. Today happened to be one of those days. This week’s #thoughtfultuesday emerged from a podcast between Sam Harris and Adam Grant. Prior to this podcast, I had not heard of Adam Grant. After one interview, I was intrigued by his work in Organizational Psychology, leading to an exploration of his research. One topic of his extensive research which resonates with me deeply is his depiction of the human condition. Adam suggests that there are three different characteristics, one of these three is akin to a person in their natural state (more simply stated, each individual operates from or employs one characteristic most of the time). These include: the taker, the giver, and the matcher. Takers are self-serving in their interactions; their intent is to determine how you can benefit them. Givers lie on the opposite end of the spectrum and approach interactions with the objective of serving or benefitting the other. In the middle of this spectrum lie matchers, who strive to mirror the other, creating a blend of giving and taking. The majority of people are matchers. Since I am only briefly referring to these characteristics, I have attached Adam Grant's TED Talk, which can be found at the bottom of this post. In Adam's TED Talk, he delves into each of these characteristics in greater detail, speaking to the utility of each of these characteristics and how they can be optimized in the workplace.
It was of no surprise that I strongly identified with the giver category. As a giver, I find it challenging to be self-serving, especially in the presence of another. I enter each relational transaction with harmony in mind. If my objective seemingly clashes or opposes another, I default to putting it aside and allowing the other to preside. Although this may seem honourable from the periphery, I can assure you that this act of “selflessness” is not without cost. The act of selling-out on the regular creates a state best explained as an empty vessel, leading to distrust, resentment, and burnout. The fallout is an all too familiar existence for me. With time, I find myself increasingly attuned and sensitive to relationships which are founded on the other operating from the stance of a taker. If I am not aware of this during the time of the interaction, my body or mind speaks for me, landing me in a two-day (or more) hibernation. Although this feels unfair and often leads to despair, I recognize that this fairly recent bear-inhabited activity is a gift. If not for it, I would likely continue on the path of the giver until all of my organs are auctioned for charity and I move about as a marionette, only when the puppet-master sees fit.
This is where my true work has taken place over the past year. A giver doesn’t always have to say “YES”, they can say “NO” and still remain a giver. For many this may seem straightforward, but for myself, I have to work against my nature to honour myself. Through my work, I have grown to realize that the hurt left from the taking of others does not compare to the wound of self-betrayal. I will be the first to admit that I have lost count of the number of times I have called my supports in disarray, complaining about how I have been treated and hurt, yet I allow it to happen again and again. Obviously, I like to take the most difficult path to self-discovery. These collective experiences have demonstrated that the greatest disservice I can do to myself is to act outside of my internal honour and integrity. I was once told that we must teach people how to treat us; I parrot this with absolute belief. The only thing prolonging my suffering in each of these experiences was myself; not only was I allowing the taking, but I was spending countless hours obsessing over how hurt I was. I suppose in some shape or form this post is a reclamation of myself and my circumstances. George Horne says it best, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”
I am sure as I take responsibility for my role in this play, all of you matchers and takers are thinking you’re off the hook. Newsflash: you are equally responsible for your role. If you are in a taking mood, be cognizant of that mood. Of similar importance, know who you are interacting with. I am fairly certain that takers have a keen sense when they are around givers; these relationships likely flow pretty smoothly (at least in the short term). Just as I advise givers to recognize when they are default-giving, I advise takers to recognize when they are default-taking.
Evidently, it takes all sorts of folks to make the world go ‘round; how cliché, I know. As this week progresses, I invite you to step into self-accountability with me. Find a way to honour yourself in a space that elicits discomfort.
Carry on bravely,