Give & Take by Adam Grant
Give & Take by Adam Grant

Reading Adam Grant’s book “Give & Take” reconfirmed me the old saying that “what goes around comes around”. To be honest, I did not need confirmation. This is a strong belief I had it imprinted in my genes from an early age, being raised in a family where giving to others and sharing were unwritten principles of life.  I never questioned their value or validity as they felt true to myself and they still do. But, you may wonder, what these principles have to do with Grant’s book, so allow me to explain in one simple phrase. “Give & Take” provides a great amount of ground-breaking research which demonstrate how giving more to others rather than competing against them is the key to a much more profound success and personal fulfillment.

Like any professional, I have done some reading on the theory of success and many times I found it closely connected with drivers such as passion, hard work, talent, and luck. On the other hand, I did have clear evidence in my life that success depends a lot on how we interact with others.

The governing style – givers, takers and matchers

Everybody has a governing style of either giving, taking or matching, each one of them having its won specific particularities. Yet, the truth is we cannot act 100% and all the time as givers, takers or matchers. We adapt our behavior to suit specific people It is part of our nature to respond to social pressure and to conform to what we believe is expected of us in a group situation. As Adam Grant says, even takers display a more generous behavior when in public circumstances. In addition, we are more likely to give to those who seem like us and brings convincing proof. To conclude, how much we give or take is shaped by who we interact with.


Givers are driven by the desire to help others and create meaningful success for those around them whether they may be colleagues, friends, relatives or the community they live in.  They often achieve the top positions in society because they focus on the greater good, not on the personal selfish wins.  Claiming their personal credit for the work they do is not their main concern instead they rather inspire, collaborate, encourage and support, sometimes even putting themselves at the risk of burning out or exhaustion. They have an incredible talent of cultivating and using their networks to benefit others as well as themselves. Givers look for and see the potential in each person they meet, so they are champions of finding and nurturing talent.

There are many examples of great givers, but there are few examples that really touched me — George Meyer, (Emmy Award-winning writer for The Simpson), David Hornik (investor at August Capital, the author of VentureBlog, & the executive producer of The Lobby Conference), Adam Rifkin (Fortune’s Magazine’s 2011 best networker and co-founder 106 Miles network) or C. J. Skender (an award-winning accounting professor teaching at both rival universities, Duke and North Caroline), Stu Inman (basketball player and coach of Blazers) or Conrey Callahan (Teach for America Professor).  I shall not reveal more on the reasons why these stories touched a deep chord in my heart, but let you find on your own.

“Successful givers are every bit as ambitious as takers and matchers. They simply have a different way of pursuing their goals.”

“Being a giver is not good for a 100-yard dash, but it’s valuable in a marathon.”

“the worst performers and the best performers are givers; takers and matchers are more likely to land in the middle.”

Takers and matchers

Takers are self-centred and only focused on what benefits they can get from others. On the short run, they may get high up in the social or business hierarchy, but when persisting in such behavior they lose respect and damage their reputation. Their behavior is grounded in the personal belief that the world is a competitive place, therefore to be successful you must take whatever you want. To them helping others is fine as long the personal benefit of doing so outweighs the cost.   Flattering influential people, frequently using words such as “I” and “mine” rather than “we” or “ours”, tendency to be domineering, using forceful language to persuade others are all characteristics by which you’ll recognize a taker.

“Takers have a knack for generating creative ideas and championing them in the face of opposition. Because they have supreme confidence in their own opinions, they feel free of the shackles of social approval that constrict the imaginations of many people.”

According to Adam Grant, matchers are somewhere in between givers and takers, as they strive for equal, fair exchanges with others. You can recognize them for their tit-for-tat mentality. To them, the world is a playground where people exchange knowledge, skills and resources equally.  When helping others, they expect reciprocation otherwise they will feel disgruntled.

“We become matchers, striving to preserve an equal balance of giving and getting. Matchers operate on the principle of fairness: when they help others, they protect themselves by seeking reciprocity. If you’re a matcher, you believe in tit for tat, and your relationships”

Ideas  I really loved …

Of course, Adam Grant’s book is more than just about distinguishing between givers, takers and matchers. There are plenty of great ideas and advice and most probably every reader has its own favorites. Personally,  there are some ideas, in particular, I resonated well with or found fascinating, so here there are:

  • the five-minute favor rule governing Adam Rifkin’s giving
  • dormant ties and how their advice can add more value than the advice from current ties
  • the power of powerless communication
  • the value of vulnerability
  • dominance versus prestige, the two paths of building influence
  • advice on avoiding burnout — it gave me the answer to questions such as “how come you are not tired” or “where does this energy come from”
  • the reciprocity ring

Favorite Quotes @“Give and Take” by Adam Grant

Here are a few of my favorite quotes from Adam Grant’s book:

“When we treat man as he is, we make him worse than he is; when we treat him as if he already were what he potentially could be, we make him what he should be.”

  • “Success depends heavily on how we approach our interactions with other people.”
  • “Giving and taking are based on our motives and values, and they’re choices that we make regardless of whether our personalities trend agreeable or disagreeable.”

“giving has an energizing effect only if it’s an enjoyable, meaningful choice rather than undertaken out of duty and obligation.” 

  • “receiving is accepting help from others while maintaining a willingness to pay it back and forward.”
  • “advice seeking is a surprisingly effective strategy for exercising influence when we lack authority.”
  • “Regardless of their reciprocity styles, people love to be asked for advice.”

“When people know how their work makes a difference, they feel energized to contribute more.”

  • “It’s not what a player is, but what he can become… that will allow him to grow.”
  • “identify high-potential people, and then provide them with the mentoring, support, and resources needed to grow to achieve their potential.”

An unexpected outcome …

I had friends, colleagues and even people who entered my life for just brief moments, encouraging me for years to start writing about the things I experienced in my professional or personal life. I did know even then that others might find useful reading about these experiences. I even promised years ago to my former colleagues and friends at Grapefruit, that I would start writing. It did not happen. What I did not know then, but I do know, is that I needed some kind of push. And, that’s something I  strongly felt while reading Give and Take, so thank you Adam Grant!

Online Resources – Adam Grant

For those of you who are curious to discover more about the book and Adam Grant’s ideas, here are few useful external links:

This article was initially published in July 2015 on Ana Maria Bogdan’s personal blog. What you have just finished reading is an updated version.   

Photo Credit: Photo by Poranimm Athithawatthee from Pexels

Takeaways from the Book ‘Give & Take’ by Adam Grant
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