Many of us have struggled or felt confused in relationships. What does a good partner look like? How can we be good partners? How can we ensure that our relationship will last long? In particular, the kinds of questions we ask are about our choices in a relationship. Should we give our all or hold back? Should we carefully analyze whether we are “getting back” as much as we are giving? Should we mostly focus on what we can get out of the relationship? What is the right way to approach a romantic partnership?
Most of us feel a little lost as to what is best.
Unfortunately, neither in school nor at work have we learned to answer these important questions. According to Adam Grant, author of , people fall into one of three distinct categories: . Grant’s research provides insight into romantic relationships. The category you fall into may well determine the success and happiness of your relationship! As surprising as this may sounds to some, givers are also usually the most attractive partners and more likely to have long-term relationships! However, it depends if they are “smart” givers.
are people whose primary motivation is to take care of others, to make sure others are well, and to contribute to others and society. In a relationship, these are people who are always thinking about gifts for their partner, who take their partners’ interests into consideration, and who are always thinking “What else can I do for you?”. They’re pretty awesome. As Grant mentions in his book—everyone likes having givers around because they are always happy to contribute and thinking of others. They understand the relationship as an opportunity to give and take care.
Givers often end up thinking there is something wrong with them when they are unhappy in a relationship. They are the ones who think they are not lovable or good enough because they take personal responsibility for making the relationship work (rather than blaming their partners). They can end up burned out and exhausted, from continuously giving at their own cost if they do not receive the support they need from the relationship.
It is no surprise that givers are so attractive. Several studies have shown that both men and women rate kindness as one of their most desired traits. Moreover, givers are also most likely to be affectionate, a trait which determines the long-term success of a relationship, not to mention their own longevity.
tend to keep a balance sheet in a relationship. When matchers give they do so with an expectation of getting something in return. When they receive something, they feel like they have to give something back. Matchers are the ones who are keeping tabs, and view relationships as somewhat like a commercial transaction. They are the ones who are most likely to say something like: “I did this for you, but you didn’t do that for me” or “You paid for this, so I’ll pay for that.”
are just that…takers. They usually treat people well only if and when those people can help them reach their goals. Interestingly, Grant points out that they often appear as the most charming and charismatic people on the surface. They “look” like givers at first glance. They know how to work the crowd and seduce, but under the surface they are actually motivated by self-interest. You can recognize a taker by how poorly they treat people that they believe are of no use to them. You know you’re in a relationship with a taker when you feel sucked dry for all you have (whether it’s money, affection, time etc.). Once the taker has everything they want from you, you may be relegated to the “unimportant” sphere of their life. Their primary focus is themselves.
Research shows that the happiest and most successful partners are givers. What about those who are least successful? Also givers! Why? Givers who learn to successfully navigate a world with matchers and takers make out great. Everyone loves givers, trusts them, and supports them when they are in need. So why are givers also the least successful? Because some givers don’t know how to navigate that world and, as a consequence, end up taken advantage of. If you’re a giver, you’ve been there at least once both professionally and personally.
Imagine a relationship between a giver and a taker? These end up with the giver completely worn out, having perhaps spent their savings, time and energy on someone who keeps demanding more and never or scarcely provides for their partners’ needs (unless they do so temporarily because it behooves them at that moment).
So what makes a successful giver? One of Grant’s tips that stood out to me was the idea of being a “giver with awareness.” Awareness of what? Be aware that the world has givers, matchers and takers. Watch people’s words and actions, and you will know who is who. When you navigate romantic relationships, friendships or business partnerships, investigate which category your potential partner belongs to and don’t get blown away by first-impressions (as noted above, takers are masters of first-impression charm). Then what? In a non-romantic situation, you can deal with matchers and takers by adopting a matcher-like attitude (I know, hard to do for a giver!). Start speaking in terms of “ok, we have an agreement, you do this and in exchange I will do this.”