When it comes down to it, we all like to think that we are pretty generous people. We hope that if someone needed help, we’d be there for them. But one expert disagrees. In fact, he believes that there are two types of people in this world – givers and takers.

Adam Grant is a sociologist and author of ‘Give and Take‘. He classifies people into givers and takers.

Traits of Givers and Takers


Givers help people because they enjoy doing so. These are the altruists of the world. The volunteers, the charity workers, people who always give their time, money, or advice.

Givers don’t think about themselves, instead, they put others first. Givers don’t expect anything in return. Their priority is other people.


Takers are the complete opposite. They are out for themselves and don’t give anything back. These people are selfish, conniving, and manipulative. They will exploit others for their own gain.

Their focus is entirely on themselves; what they can get from a situation or person. They give as little as they can for maximum benefit. They see no point in giving back once they have benefitted.

The third type: the matchers

There are also matchers. These are the ‘tit-for-tat’ people that will help you and expect a favor in return. ‘You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours’ kind of thing.

People do tend to fall into one specific category of givers and takers, however, they can occasionally behave in a different way.

“Depending on the situation, people can adopt different behaviors—they can take, give, or exchange. But usually, everyone has a dominant model that determines their behavior.” Adam Grant

Givers, takers, and success

So why is this important? You might ask yourself, ‘So what’? Some people will always be doormats and others will always exploit them. It’s the way society works. There will always be givers and takers in life, we just have to accept it.

But the interesting thing is how givers and takers fare when it comes to success in the workplace. Most of us attribute our success to hard work, ambition, and the right opportunities. But Grant identifies another key factor – interaction with other people, or, your reciprocity style.

This is where the psychology of givers and takers is important. Grant’s research identified a key fact when it came to actual earning power. When incomes were calculated across all three groups, givers were the best and the worst performers.

But why was this?

How can givers be at the top of the scale and the bottom at the same time? Historically, when we envisage both givers and takers, it is easy to understand how those that give might be viewed in a better light in society.

However, we can also see that the takers of the world might also fare well due to their self-promotion over others. So what exactly is going on?

Further research revealed two types of givers:

Selfless Givers and Otherish Givers

Selfless givers are the ‘Yes people’ of the world. The ones that drop everything at a moment’s notice for others. These types of givers are often taken advantage of, or known as a bit of a soft touch. As a result, the selfless giving of their own time and effort can become detrimental to their own prospects.

Selfless givers are the worst performers when it comes to earnings.

Otherish givers are a little cannier about their altruistic acts. They give as much time and effort as selfless givers but are no pushovers. Otherish givers are not taken advantage of in the way that selfless ones are. This type of giver plans when and how to help.

Otherish givers tend to perform better than all other groups. As for the takers and matchers, in terms of success, they tended to land in the middle ground.

So what’s going on here? Why are the selfless givers such bad performers yet otherish givers do so well? It all revolves around human nature.

Why Some Givers Succeed and Takers Don’t

We naturally gravitate to people that are helpful and kind. We admire altruistic acts in others. We feel good about these kinds of people. As such, we celebrate in their success when they themselves are successful. We want good people to succeed.

But there has to be just the right balance. There’s a limit to our goodwill. We don’t like weak people that are easily taken advantage of. We see them as pushovers; people we can control and use. We tend to look down on people like this. ‘Grow a pair‘ we think to ourselves. This is why selfless givers fare poorly.

Then you have the takers. Takers do typically get to the top of their profession. Actually, many takers start off earning big money. After all, they’ve manipulated and climbed over others to get there.

But society doesn’t like people like this. We don’t tolerate those that have to put others down in order to get ahead themselves. So, whilst they might have got to the top by self-promotion, they’re easily toppled off once we’ve figured them out.

There’s another reason why takers don’t tend to stay at the top of their game. You cannot keep taking advantage of people and not be noticed. Takers are pretty short-sighted. They’ll use and abuse contacts and move on. Once this happens, there’s no going back.

As for the matchers, they want the givers to succeed because if they help them, they might get something in return.

So, when it comes to givers and takers, which type are you? If you have identified yourself as a selfless giver, you might want to find out how to change your behavior into an otherish giver.

3 Ways to Change from a Selfless Giver to an Otherish Giver

1. Learn to say NO

The first thing you might want to do is say no to requests that are inconvenient for you. No one expects a person to say YES all the time. You are not a superhero. You have your own responsibilities and time constraints as everyone else.

If you can help then do, but if you genuinely can’t, then don’t.

2. Ask for help

This might seem counterintuitive after reading my first piece of advice, but bear with me. Human beings love to feel needed and valued. And one way for them to feel like this is when they help others.

I’m not suggesting you get your neighbor to help construct your new conservatory. But asking for advice or a small favor will make them feel good about themselves, and in return, you.

3. Do small favors

People who are natural givers find it difficult to adapt their behavior. But you can still be a giver, just concentrate on doing the smaller favors people ask for. People will value your time more and you as a person.

Final Thoughts

We can see that givers and takers vary in their behavior and their successes. So, which one are you? Did you know which one you were before you read this article and are you surprised at what you’ve discovered?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments box below.


  1. www.psychologytoday.com
  2. knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Nancee Tanner

    Brilliant article. I am a giver but am learning to use wisdom. This was a warning that I needed years ago, before being drained by sociopaths and narcissistic personalities! It is so commendable that you used your disability as an attribute to inspire you to help humanity. I changed from that of a used-up “musician” to write my story in two volumes because it took 27 years to learn what you have learned! Again, BRILLIANT!

    1. Janey Davies, B.A. (Hons)

      Thank you Nancee for your kind words. They are very much appreciated.

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