Happy new year. Over the past four years, I’ve had too many conversations like this:
Stranger: That’s not new. When I was a kid my grandmother told me that there were givers and takers.
Me: Did she tell you about matchers? Sure, there are selfish and generous people, but most are in the middle—they try to be fair and trade favors evenly.
Stranger: How many people are givers, matchers, and takers?
After getting over 30,000 people around the world to rate themselves and each other, I finally have an answer. About 56% of people say their default approach to work interactions is matching—compared with 25% givers and 19% takers. Most people choose matching because they think it’s the way to play it safe. It is… when you’re dealing with takers. But the rest of the time, it can rub people the wrong way.
Years ago, I wrote a paper on a new topic and asked an expert colleague for feedback. Three days later, the comments came in. They were excellent and thorough. I was thrilled and grateful, until I read the rest of his note: “Attached is a paper I wrote. You have three days to send me your feedback.”
I would’ve been happy to help him, but it felt so transactional. He didn’t care about me; he was just doing me a favor so he could ask for an equal one back. I wanted to tell him that unless he was the Godfather, he wasn’t entitled to my help. Instead, I wrote a book on the topic. Which I don’t want him to read one day, because then he’ll think I’m obligated to read his.
In lieu of that, I gave a new TED talk on how we can build cultures where givers succeed—and spot takers before it’s too late. You can watch it here, and maybe he will too: