Givers and Takers

        Being done with my grad school program has provided a liberation of sorts when it comes to my education.  What I mean is I now have complete choice over what I read, what I write, and the experiences I have in order to better help people.  The liberation of choice hasn't come without a downside.  There was something comforting about being told, at least in general, what to read and write.  It provided some direction toward a final destination of the course or the degree.  For a little while after my completion of the degree, I found myself struggling to find new resources.  I'd exhausted much of the obvious "sport psychology" books out there already.  Fortunately, I stumbled across a podcast series done by Dr. Cindra Kamphoff from Minnesota.  The series had a few I was interested in because they involved people working in professional baseball.  Those who know me well and/or read the blog regularly know that is a goal of mine.  People say to learn from those currently doing what you hope to do so I try to whenever possible.  Among other great advice offered by both Dr. Kamphoff and the interviewees are book recommendations.  I bought several, and a book described by Ceci Clark is the one I started with over my winter break from school.  That book, entitled Give and Take:  Why Helping Others Drives Our Success provides the inspiration for today's post.  If you get the chance, I'd encourage you to check out the podcast series.  It helped to provide me with guidance on what to read next, and I'm grateful for that.

        Give and Take, written by Adam Grant, is a book about how we treat others.  Grant splits people into three categories: Givers, Takers, and Matchers.  Givers are people who do things for others for the sake of helping them.  There is no expectation of anything in return.  Takers do the opposite.  They constantly look for what they can get from other people.  Matchers look to "match" in their interactions.  Doing something nice for another person comes with the expectation of a favor in the future.  Getting something done for them leads to a feeling of having to make up for it.  I'm reminded of an episode of The Office where Dwight tries to get Andy to owe him something, but Andy is too much of a Matcher to allow that to happen.  The book goes into much greater detail about the three categories of people and even breaks them into sub-categories, otherish behaviors, fakers, and much more.  Grant does a great job of providing plenty of examples that somehow left me feeling like I was clueless at some points before putting it all together by the end of the book.  Cognitive dissonance again, perhaps?

        Although there are many possible applications from the book, I thought of one about the role of coaches.  More specifically, it got me thinking about the relationships coaches create with the athletes they coach.  There are Givers, Takers, and Matchers.  Givers give their time and effort fully to the athletes they coach.  They coach because they want the athletes to be successful or a love for the game and wanting that love to be paid forward.  No expectations are created by the coaches for the athletes to then give back to them.  Tim Corbin at Vanderbilt comes across as a Giver to me.  You can see it and hear it in most everything he says.  There are plenty out there, and the sports world is better for them.  Then, there are Takers.  Takers look to use their athletes and others as a means to advance their own personal interests.  "I" made you into a Division-1 player.  "I" made you gain 7 MPH on your fastball.  Me.  Me.  Me.  Although there are a lot of coaches and programs who would not fit into this category, the world of travel baseball seems to be disappointingly rampant with Takers.  Finally, there are Matchers.  I've given to you.  Now, what do you have for me?  Something I've discussed before with one of my friends in coaching is that coaching really can't be something that you do in hopes of people expressing their gratitude to you.  If you're constantly looking for "Thank you's," the unfortunate reality is you will be disappointed.  I'm not saying players are not grateful.  On the contrary, I think the majority have a great deal of gratitude for their coaches.  What I mean is you shouldn't do something for the "Thank you."  Matchers may expect players to play "for them."  "I've spent my time with you.  You owe me your best effort."  Although that certainly seems reasonable, it can create an unhealthy dynamic.

        Reading the book forced me to do some tough reflection.  I thought back to moments or relationships in my life where I've been a Taker.  It's not something I am proud of, but it's the truth.  Likewise, I have been a Matcher doing things for others with the expectation of something in return in the future.  I'm also proud to say I have been a Giver too.  Maybe it hasn't been quite as often as it could be, but I think it's been more and more as I've become older and more mature.  I can also say with confidence it will continue to increase now that I am more aware of my own behaviors in interactions.  Just becoming more aware, like all of self-awareness, is not enough though.  What do you do with the information provided through reflection?  That is a question I hope you'll now ask yourself.  Are you a Giver?  Are you a Matcher?  Are you a Taker?  Then, most importantly, "What will you do moving forward?"

Side Note:  I feel almost guilty trying to simplify what was a fantastic 250+ pages of concepts and studies into a blog.  If you interact with people and it's important to you to leave the world a better place than you found it, I'd encourage you to buy the book and read it.  It's one of the more eye-opening experiences I've had in a long time, and I feel strongly enough about its principles that I have bought it for several others.

Also, here is a link to take Adam Grant's assessment of whether you are a Giver, Matcher, or Taker.  If you are brave, you can also have others fill out the assessment about you.  That would give you the most accurate picture of yourself.



  1. Good Morning Ben, I am so pleased to say "My Nephew provided my morning meditation". Like you I can see myself in the giver, the taker, and the matcher. I think that is probably a healthy thing. I am thinking the trick lies in the balance and we get in trouble when one characteristic takes over the others. I will order Adam Grant's book when I finish this message to you. I have read the book The Return Of The Prodigal Son by Henri J.M. Nouwen. In it he suggests that we all at times act like the younger son, the older son and the father. I have also had many workshops on the Enneagram "the Ancient System for understanding Yourself and the others in Your Life". I should be so healthy by now considering all the retreats and books I have purchased instead I still struggle and still search for ways to live as a better person. I start a new six week course on Wednesday titled Living Free. I will let you know how that turns out. Pride is not a good thing but I have to admit I am proud to call you my Nephew. You are a great guy striving to be better in spite of the challenges set before you. Thanks for including me in your loop. I will let you know how I like the book. I also want to tell you I read and enjoyed the tribute to your mom. She is a lucky lady to have you for a son. Also I want to suggest friending Philip Chirop. I have had the opportunity to attend two of his week long retreats and he is fabulous. I know you would love him too. Check out his piece on resolutions and think about what your word for the year might be. Let me know if a word does come to you. Enjoy your week-end. Thanks again. Love you, Aunt Marie

    1. Thank you for the kind words Aunt Marie! There is certainly a lot more to the Giver/Taker/Matcher idea, but the real concept in the book is that Givers can be, and often tend to be, very successful. I think you will like the book a lot.

      Just my opinion, but I think it is a good thing to always look towards being a better person. Definitely keep me posted. I'm proud to call you my Aunt too. I'll check out Chirop. Happy New Year to you and everyone else in Wilmington. Love yall too. Thanks again.

    2. Happy New Year to you too! Keep in touch Coach!


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