Your critique partner asks for a “quick edit,” of her manuscript even when she knows you’re packing for a class reunion; a mechanic gives you an estimate you know is two-times higher than he’d charge any man; your first-born expects you to drop everything and just listen, then cancels on your celebratory lunch at the last minute; a friend makes a snarky remark about the “girls’ day” you spent hours planning… BTW, these are just examples and none of these things happened to me. I’d never list the actual things that prompted this blog because I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. Geez, guess I really am a doormat.
Even so, as women, and writers, it seems everyone wants a piece of us. All the time! We give, and give some more, then, when we need something—and usually it’s something really small—the entire world seems to disappear. Is it any wonder we feel like doormats?
Which prompted me to (what else?) google doormats. During this research I happened upon the book Give and Take, by Adam Grant. According to Mr. Grant people differ in their preferences for reciprocity and he places people into three categories: givers, takers and matchers.
The definition of givers and takers is pretty obvious, but to recap, Adam Grant says “takers are people who, when they walk into an interaction with another person, are trying to get as much as possible from that person and contribute as little as they can in return.”
Givers are at the other end of the spectrum and according to Grant, “It’s not about donating money or volunteering necessarily, but looking to help others by making an introduction, giving advice, providing mentoring or sharing knowledge, without any strings attached. These givers actually prefer to be on the contributing end of an interaction.”
As with good and evil, most of us are not always givers nor are we complete takers. For example, by whining about being a doormat, I become less giving and more taking. Thus individuals are a mix, but most people are predominantly one or the other.
There are, however, people who strive to be fifty percent giver and fifty percent taker. Grant defines this group as the matchers. To quote the Give and Take author, “A matcher is somebody who tries to maintain an even balance of give and take. If I help you, I expect you to help me in return. [They] keep score of exchanges, so that everything is fair and really just.”
You are saying, “All right, already. What does any of this have to do with doormats?” And I did promise you a perk, didn’t I?
IMHO, both givers and takers can feel like doormats, and justifiably so. Sometimes, it seems the entire world is absorbed in a big ole pool of self-interest. Doesn’t it seem like the takers get more and more while the rest of us get…well, stepped on?
Not necessarily. Adam Grant’s research yielded some surprising results. When he analyzed a wide range of industries, he found the three styles exist everywhere. As you might expect, the givers are overrepresented at the bottom of most “success” chains. Putting other people first, they often put themselves at risk for burning out or being exploited by takers.*
“Well, duh,” you’re saying. “That no perk.”
And you’d be correct. But there is surprising good news. According to Grant: “Givers are overrepresented at the top as well as the bottom of most success metrics.”
So if you’re (mostly) a giver (aka doormat), take heart. The law of averages indicate that if you don’t burn out, you'll get the success you deserve. So, keep helping other authors with craft, keep critiquing, continue to judge those contests, but mostly, keep feeling good about your generosity.
For the rest of you, get with the program.
*A quote by Adam Grant