Giving inspires me, not in the usual way people think. The act of giving without expecting anything in return is not hard. Many a time, the good intentions of the giver are doused by the reaction from the receiver-sometimes the receiver’s reaction is really hard for the giver to deal with. That is the code I would like to crack. Here is my story.
Whenever conversations with family, friends and even co-passengers in flights centers around giving, especially altruistic giving — interestingly, many share their personal experiences at the grocery store- paying for somebody ahead in the queue. The tales of givers start very similarly.
One Tale, Three Reactions
In the words of givers: I was standing in a checkout line at a grocery store. I noticed that “the person”, ahead of me, is about to pay for their groceries and they are fumbling into their wallet with redness in their cheeks — it is quite clear that they have misplaced their cash/credit card and are at their wits end. I noticed that the cashier is impatiently waiting, the line is getting longer and the items checked out are few; the good samaritan in me steps forward and pays for it.”
Where the three stories diverge is the reaction of “the person”, the receivers.
Breeding Success: Triumph of Smart Givers in the Receiver’s world
The beautiful moments with the old lady reinforces the faith in humanity. Many a time, it feels like such reactions are as rare as spotting the endangered Bengal tigers. Is universal acceptance of altruistic giving a utopian dream mostly fit for fairy tales, fables and folk tales? Not necessarily. Adam Grant, one of the youngest tenured Wharton Professor, in his cult classic book, “Give and Take” shares research that “roughly” divides the populace as:
Looking at the same distribution, what is the takeaway? There are other givers in this world who can appreciate a fellow giver- they just happen to be a minority. In the same vein, we all understand barter — give something in return for taking something — charitable giving for mental peace etc. If we re-look at the distribution, most folks are natural matchers- they would like to repay for the good deed. Pay it forward would make them more comfortable.
Better still, I found my father’s advice of just being human, most practical in ensuring positive deeds multiply. Ensure that you have a contract- implicit or explicit, it is very therapeutic to most people. Just make sure, your copy of the contract is written in water — you write it off. This way, the essence of giving- what is of great value to others, but less cost to you — is made practically easier in the real world dominated by matchers.
The perfectly synchronized moments for both givers and receivers are rare. When they happen, let us savor them. In other times, my father’s advice seems to work.
What are your experiences? Please share them in the comments section.
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I enjoy writing at the intersection of analytics and human relationships.
Originally published at medium.com