When you do someone a favor, do you expect them to reciprocate? Or do you give freely, without expecting something in return?
Some people expect to benefit every time they do something. It doesn’t matter whether they go out of their way for a friend, perform a chore at home, put in extra hours at the office, bend over backward for a customer, or console a neighbor in a time of need. And even though they might not express their expectation right away, you know it’s coming. That’s because they’re keeping a mental tally — and they have VERY good memories.
Not just that, some folks manipulate others by using The Law of Reciprocity. This powerful psychological principle states that if you give someone something, the recipient will feel compelled to return the favor. It doesn’t matter if you give someone a gift, a kind gesture, or a material possession. The result is the same — they’ll feel that they owe you! If you think this type of giving is disingenuous, it is.
When you give something with strings attached, your focus is on how you’ll benefit personally. On the other hand, when you give of yourself without expecting something in return, your entire focus is on pleasing the recipient.
You’re not really giving if you expect something in return.
Giving with Strings Attached Isn’t Really Giving
Selfish people have one eye on giving and the other eye on calculating the return. That’s unattractive. How would you view someone who…
- Thinks “What’s in it for me?” every time you ask her to do something?
- Wants a medal for doing extra work or for putting in extra time at the office?
- Asks for a favor the first time you meet him? (He calls that networking.)
- Keeps score every time she does something?
- Goes out of his way for you, but says “you owe me”? (And he means it.)
- Compares her level of effort to others, just so she’s not doing more?
- Says, “What will you give me?” when you request help?
- Does something really nice? (But never lets you forget it.)
- Gives you something? (But expects to be paid back in spades.)
- Performs an act of kindness? (But makes you feel guilty about it.)
A guilt trip isn’t a great gift.
Give with No Strings Attached
People who adopt a “What’s in it for me?” attitude are obsessed with benefitting every time they do something. This mindset has significant consequences.
First, this attitude is unproductive. Some folks get frustrated if they don’t benefit from their efforts. This can lead to anger and resentment — causing friction in the best of relationships.
Second, this attitude is ugly. If you think being selfish isn’t blatantly obvious to others, you’re kidding yourself. Think about folks you can trust or count on. Do selfish people come to mind?
Third, this attitude is depressing. When everything you do has strings attached, you never experience the uplifting feeling that comes from giving without those strings attached.
Give for the Right Reason
If you think people benefit from a selfish mindset, you’ve got it all wrong. Giving shouldn’t come with demands, conditions, a hidden agenda, or a scorecard.
When you give of yourself and expect something in return, it’s a transaction not a kind gesture. You have one eye on your actions and the other on what you’ll get in return. That not only takes you away from the moment, but you can’t do your best or be your best when you have a hidden agenda.
You might not always benefit from giving of yourself. But you can take great pride in knowing that you’re making a positive difference in the world. While takers may accumulate a lot of things in life, they’ll never experience the joy of being a giver. Here’s the secret: Give for the right reason — and that is, give for no reason at all.
Are You a Giver?
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