How To Make Being A Giver Work For You

Are you a giver?

I’m a giver, it’s one of the most natural things I do and I love it. It’s a beautiful trait to have, but to get the best value from it requires a level of responsibility and discernment.

Professor Adam Grant is a leading expert on the topic of giving and he says “There’s three types of people in life, Givers, Takers and Matchers. Givers are the people who give to others without expecting anything in return. They are focused on what others may need from them. Givers never seem too busy to help out, they give credit to others, mentor generously, and actively share their time, knowledge, ideas, and connection. Takers are the complete opposite. They consistently place their interests above others and are always focused on themselves. They are constantly on the lookout for opportunities where they can get the best gains while outlaying the least effort. Matchers on the otherhand, are interested more balanced exchanges. They prefer to engage in the equal exchange of favours. They give when someone gives to them and just as easily take when someone takes from them”. I’ll be talking more about Matchers and Takers in a later post. If you’re not sure about what type of person you are, try Adam’s online ‘give and take’ assessment, it’s sure to help you get clear on this.

There’s a lot of joy to be found in giving. But, as with any gift, you have to learn how to use it wisely, if you want to enjoy its’ benefits. One of the most important things a giver can do is to choose their friends wisely.

Choosing your friends wisely.

Being a giver myself, I’m pretty fussy about who I let into my inner circle of friends. I like to take my time to really get to know someone before I jump into a relationship with them. Making new friends is not easy, especially finding people that add value to your life. When I’m considering a new friendship, I figure out pretty quickly if someone is a giver, matcher or taker. That being said, this isn’t the bottom line for me. I have different friends that fit into all three categories. It’s more about being aware of what I’m getting myself into before I invest time and energy into the friendship.

Here’s a few of things that I consider about the other person before I take the plunge into a new friendship. They’re pretty much deal breakers for me:

  • do they listen to and hear me
  • are they really interested in what’s going on in my life
  • do they follow up on their intentions, in other words do they ‘talk the talk and walk the walk’?
  • do they have my best interests at heart
  • are they honest, open and caring towards me
  • do they make regular time for me
  • are they needy, chaotic or someone who thrives on drama
  • what do they have to offer to our friendship
  • will they value add to my life.

We all need friends. So it’s a matter of figuring out what your negotiables and non-negotiables are in your friendship arena, and then sticking to them. Another very useful skill is discernment. Practising discernment can mean the difference between having a lot of friends who drain your energy or having a few good friends that restore your energy. I know which scenario I prefer.

Setting personal boundaries with new friendships.

Being a giver can be both a blessing and a curse. Giving is a beautiful trait, but some people will try to take advantage of your generosity.

Probably one of the most important things a giver can do, when it comes to relationships, is to set personal boundaries. With an emphasis on sooner rather than later. Often, givers can be too giving of their time and energy, so setting up personal boundaries from the get go helps both parties know exactly where they stand. I personally think it’s a win-win situation. Here’s some examples of personal boundaries I find useful when establishing new friendships:

  • always be honest
  • don’t make yourself indispensible
  • don’t encourage other’s dependency on you
  • redirect and encourage people to work through their issues and make their own decisions
  • let people know how much time you have to spend with them
  • say “No,” to people if you feel like it
  • don’t be on tap 24/7
  • don’t invest in relationships that don’t serve you
  • limit the time you spend with the matchers and takers, and
  • attend to your needs first.

Personal boundaries lead to healthy relationships and provide us with a level of protection against the takers of this world. I use personal boundaries to help manage my time better. This way I have plenty of energy to give to both myself and others.

Some key issues for givers.

One of the problems with being a giver is that we love to give to a worthwhile cause. The thing is, there’s thousands of worthwhile causes out there, so it’s hard to know which one you should invest your time and energy in. I honestly try to limit the amount of causes I give myself to. That way, when I do get involved I can totally give of myself. It’s important to remember, everything you do comes down to personal choice and a solid understanding that your time and energy are expendable commodities. Without them, you’re not able to give to anyone or anything, that includes you.

Giver’s also have to contend with feeling responsible for other people’s well being. Givers have a tendency to think that they need to ‘fix’ everyone. Of course, this is totally untrue. But, believe it or not, this responsibility can weigh heavily on a giver’s mind. It’s a wonderful thing when a giver realises that their only real responsibility, is to look after themselves first and foremost. This epiphany has the capacity to be absolutely life changing for a giver, in the most positive way.

The golden rule, give to yourself first.

If you’re a giver it’s very difficult not to want to give on a regular basis. In fact, giving is core to your happiness. But how much time does the average giver regularly have to give to themselves? I couldn’t find any statistics on this, but it’s my opinion that a lot of givers would say, “Not as much time as I’d like to.” It almost doesn’t feel natural to make the time to give to yourself when you’re a giver. Our focus seems to be on giving to the external world. This is the way we’ve been taught to operate. As a child, I don’t ever remember being told that it was important to give to myself. I do remember however, being congratulated about how kind I was, and being rewarded for random acts of giving to others. That way of behaving stuck with me for many years, until I figured out it wasn’t healthy for me to do my life in this way. So I changed it.

Anyway, with that being said, the bottom line is, if you don’t take care of yourself first and foremost, then you’re not going to be of assistance to anyone. Taking time to care for yourself helps you to get refreshed and reenergised. Giving back to yourself should always be one of your top priorities if you want to live your best life.

One of the things we do well at the FEEL Collaborative, is encourage women to get their priorities right. We know that looking after yourself and your wellbeing is the most important thing in your life. So we suggest your make your number one priority, undeniably YOU.

“When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed”

Mary Angelou


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