Every time you meet someone new, which happens all the time in a new environment following a great transition, people are trying to figure out what kind of person you are. Are you the kind who reaches out and adds value? Or are you going to hold back and subtract value? Successful people add value.
Many years ago, I remember coaching a young woman who was searching for a prospective partner. It had been a frustrating experience, with many false starts. As we talked, she said something that I have not forgotten. “Perhaps my expectations are too high,” she said. “Perhaps I can learn to be more flexible. But there’s one boundary that’s nonnegotiable. I would rather be single for the rest of my life, than to end up married to a taker.”
It’s been said that there’s two kinds of people in the world: those who divide the world into two kinds of people, and those who don’t. I’m among those who don’t. I find the world to be much too rich, complex, and multifaceted for simplistic schemes.
Still, there’s something to be said for simplistic schemes when they make you think. And this young woman, based on far too many negative experiences, had simplistically decided there were two kinds of men in the world: givers and takers. She was working with me to learn how to attract a giver, for a change, because the takers had worn down both her patience and her confidence.
What kind of person are you? Are you a giver or a taker? It’s really not hard to determine. Most people know the answer immediately about everyone except, perhaps, themselves. Givers and takers are not mental ideals. If you think you’re a giver, but you never actually give, then you’re a taker. That’s why other people can tell immediately who you are. Either you reach out and add value, or you hold back and subtract value.
If ever there was a time to reach out and add value, it’s when you find yourself in a new environment or changed circumstances, on the back end of a great transition. As you meet people for the first time, they are sizing you up as a giver or a taker. And, as the old saying goes, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. “Once a taker always a taker,” my young coachee observed about men, “there’s no way to change them.”
What kind of person are you? Good things come to those who give. This goes far beyond the cheap appeals of some religious personalities, who promise you fame, fortune, and eternal life if you will just send them $20, $50, or $100. Giving is so much more than money, although money is part of the equation.
Consider the following opportunities for giving, which have come my way in the past two weeks.
- One day I met the President of a local company at a party. Two days later, I recommended him as a speaker at a Rotary club I was visiting. Suddenly both the company President and the Rotary club thought I was a giver. Why? Because I had given freely of my connections. That simple act also established me as more of a player than a newbie. It was a win-win-win proposition that will be repeated over and over again as time goes on.
- Another day I ran with someone on a long run who told me his life story, including the way alcohol had ruined his life, how he had turned things around, and what resources in the community were most helpful in his recovery. By the time we ended the run, this person thought of me as a giver. Why? Because I had given freely of my attention. The simple act of listening to him was enough to motivate us both to take our health and well-being more seriously. Another person offered to pay me for such “coaching on the run.” I laughed and replied that having a running partner was payment enough.
- On a different occasion, I came across a tree which had fallen across a well-used bike trail. The tree was blocking the way. After finishing my six-mile run, I grabbed a saw and ran back to the tree in order to cut it up and move it out of the way. On the way home, someone called out and asked if I always ran carrying a saw. Once again I laughed, said no, and indicated I was clearing the bike trail. Suddenly that saw (with a covered blade, I might add) was seen in a different light. Suddenly I was viewed as a giver. Why? Because I had given freely of my time and energy. I wasn’t just using the resources of my new community; I was caring for them as well.
- As my wife and I visit different religious communities in the area, we find ourselves not only leaving a financial contribution but also asking about other opportunities to serve. It’s not enough to have great music or a great message. It’s also important to have great opportunities for community service, education, and fellowship. These questions make people think of us as givers. Why? Because we freely give of our availability. Instead of remaining anonymous, we sign the guest pad and write a check, so people can readily find us. It’s an exposure worth having.
This list could go on at length. Coaches are natural givers. We are in the business of adding value both to our own lives and to the lives of others. But anyone can adopt the same life position. It works as well in the workplace as it does at home or in the community. Adding value to the lives, projects, and concerns of others adds value to our own life, projects, and concerns. Choosing to be twice as interested as we are interesting makes people irresistibly attractive. Being a giver rather than a taker is one habit worth developing.
Even if it is rather simplistic, to frame every situation in terms of giving and taking, it’s worth thinking about. Are you more of a giver? Or more of a taker? The best marriages, partnerships, teams, and companies are those with an abundance of givers. They look out for each other and make things happen, far beyond what takers will ever know or realize. For my money, I choose to be a giver. What about you?
May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.
Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC
President, LifeTrek Coaching International, www.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformation, www.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coaching, www.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a Time, Online Retailers
Address: 121 Will Scarlet Lane, Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043
Phone: (757) 345-3452 • Fax: (772) 382-3258
Skype: LifeTrek • Twitter: @LifeTrekBob
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