There are two great forces of human nature: self-interest and caring for others and people are most successful when they are driven by a hybrid engine of the two.

Bill Gates

Let’s start the article with story of Sampson, who had a great ambition to run for a seat in state legislature, but he failed. Then, Sampson started a business which also failed, but he paid back every cent of the loan he took in 17 years. Sampson made a second run which landed him a seat in state legislature and he earned a law degree along the way. During his law practice, Sampson was considered as an ‘honest’ lawyer and never defended any guilty person.  

In Senate elections, Sampson withdrew himself from election to let other candidate win as they had similar goals – he cared much more about people than his own victory. Sampson was pen name for the greatest president of USA, Abraham Lincoln. From emancipating salves, sacrificing his political opportunities for the cause to refusing to defend clients who appeared to be guilty, Lincoln acted for greater good. He was a true ‘Giver’.

Conventional wisdom suggests that successful people have three things in common i.e. ability to do hard work, talent and luck but a critical fourth ingredient which is often neglected or unacknowledged is ‘Networking’ or how we approach our interactions with other people.

Adam Grant, one of the youngest and highest rated professor at Wharton University and author of the best-selling book Give and Take, Why Helping Others Drives Our Success, demonstrates that why helping others is key to success. He points out that ‘Givers’ are at the top and at the bottom of the success ladder while ‘Matchers’ and ‘Takers’ are somewhere in the middle.

Book Cover

Who are ‘Givers’, ‘Matchers’ and ‘Takers’?

Takers: ‘Takers’ put their interest ahead of others and they believe that the world is a competitive dog-eat-dog place and success is a zero-sum game i.e. success comes at cost of others loss. They feel that to succeed, they need to be better than others and to prove their competence, they self-promote and make sure they get plenty of credit for their efforts. Before helping anyone, Takers will evaluate what other person can offer them and they help other strategically i.e. only when the helping others outweighs the personal costs. Self-glorifying images, self-absorbed and self-promoting conversations are some signs of ‘Takers’.

Givers: ‘Givers’ are helpful, supportive and generous person who shares time, energy, knowledge, skills, ideas and connections with others and always try to genuinely help and act in other interests. ‘Givers’ don’t use any cost-benefit analysis: they help without expecting anything in return. ‘Givers’ are often stereotyped as ‘chumps’ or ‘doormats’ because of their acts of self-sacrifices, but studies and some real life examples prove that they turn out to be surprisingly successful.

Matchers: ‘Matchers’ operate on the principle of fairness as when they help others, they protect themselves by seeking reciprocity. If you’re a matcher, you believe in tit for tat, and your relationships with others are governed by exchanges of favors.

Do ‘Givers’ succeed in life?

‘Takers’ and ‘Matchers’ network on typical norm of reciprocity, they tend to focus on who can help them in near future and their sole intent is to advance their own interest. This sort of reciprocity comes with two downsides. First, people on the receiving end, eventually, feel that they were manipulated and second, when favors come with implied strings attached, the interaction can leave a bad taste in the end.

When people reconnect with ‘Takers’ or ‘Matchers’, there is no long-lasting trust, respect or confidence and even when ‘Takers’ win, people who worked with them envy such successful ‘takers’ because there is someone who loses. But when ‘Givers’ reconnect, people are glad to help them and when they succeed, people genuinely feel happy for their success and they earn more prestige and respect by their peers.

In workplaces also, the ‘Takers’ and ‘Matchers’ often undermine colleague’s contributions and credit themselves for success which, in long run, is source of conflicts. But when ‘Givers’ collaborate, they work in group’s best interest and create opportunity for colleagues to contribute. They are more likely to harness the skills of multiple people for a greater good and act on group’s best interests which creates a ripple effect enhancing the success of people around them.

Are ‘Givers’ chumps or doormats?

Yes, selfless ‘Givers’ are susceptible to the doormat effect: they tend to see the best in everyone, so they operate on the mistaken assumption that everyone is trustworthy. They give their time and energy without regard for their own needs and overextend themselves which often leads to failure. They are often exploited and burn their own bridges.

But successful ‘Givers’ have ambitious goals for advancing their own interests and they also genuinely help and care about others benefits. They recognize the importance of protecting their own well-being and they’re willing to adjust their reciprocity styles in exchanges with someone who appears to be a ‘Taker’. Successful ‘Givers’ are self-protective, cautious and generous but act like ‘Matcher’ when dealing with ‘Takers’.


If you are looking for wealth or power in short period of time and believe success as a zero-sum game, be a ‘Taker’ in this ruthless world. But if you believe that success is win-win situation and helping others produces happiness, then be a successful ‘Giver’. You might feel like a loser in short term, but remember a good deed never goes unpunished and a long-lasting and satisfying success often takes time.

Before saying Adieu…

Giving, Taking and Matching also depends on different work, roles and relationship as it wouldn’t be surprising, if you act like a ‘Taker’ when negotiating a salary, a ‘Giver’ when mentoring someone and ‘Matcher’ when sharing knowledge with a colleague but majority of us develop primary reciprocity style in all walks of life.

Be it in business, workplace, relationships and personal life, always strive to be a ‘Giver’ because you never know, if you helped someone 5 year ago, he might come forward to help you in unexpected ways. Believe in the power of Karma.

Stay tuned for next article, till then stay safe and curious.

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