give-and-take

Why Giving Can Be More Rewarding Than You Think

Emotional Intelligence

Giving has a bad reputation. We often equate generosity with being weak or yielding to pressure too easily. Givers are sometimes seen as doormats who will concede to any request to avoid conflict or gain others’ approval. But that’s not always the case. Giving can be very rewarding. Here’s why:

1. Giving makes you feel good

Yes, helping others can drain you. But it can also energize you.

Business professor Adam Grant makes the distinction between selfless, selfish, and otherish givers.

Selfless givers put other people’s interests above their own. This makes them feel burned out, disappointed, and like they can never give enough. 

Selfish givers help to get something in return. 

Otherish givers look for ways to help others that are either low cost or even high benefit to themselves — “win-win,” as opposed to “win-lose”. They choose their causes carefully and make sure that giving enhances their self-worth. As a result, they feel energized and motivated to give even more.

To maintain the balance of being generous with taking care of yourself, become an otherish giver, helping in ways that are meaningful to you, and that benefit more than hurt you.

2. Giving helps you achieve more

You accomplish more through collaboration than through competition.

Imagine the following scenario: ten people enter a contest to solve a puzzle for the prize of one million dollars. They are told to use any resource available in the room.

They look around and notice that there aren’t any books, computers, or calculators. Immediately, some of them start working on their own. The others rearrange their chairs in a circle and start sharing their ideas.

Four hours later, the participants who worked together are the ones who arrive at a solution and share the prize. The remaining contestants have either given up or are still struggling on their own.

In Grant’s terminology, the competitors were takers, while the collaborators were givers. Takers focus solely on rewards. Givers focus on finding solutions. 

Though givers aren’t thinking of rewards, they ultimately are rewarded as a consequence of helping others. Collaborate more, compete less, and you’ll reap more benefits in the long-run.

3. Giving helps you build and maintain relationships

Giving establishes powerful connections between people.

When someone is generous, word spreads about it quickly. A generous person’s network expands as others discover their role as a giver. Those who aren’t in their network want to become a part of it. Those who are go at great lengths to remain.

Eventually, giving spreads as the norm. By giving, a generous person eventually creates a community of givers on which he or she can rely in times of need.

So be generous. You’ll inspire others to do the same. Which essentially means you’ll have generous people to turn to should you need support in the future.

Sum up:

  • Find a meaningful cause. Give your time and energy to support something you feel strongly about. 
  • Collaborate more, compete less. Find opportunities to combine skills and resources with others rather than reaping individual rewards in every situation.
  • Be kind. Ask a friend how their day went. Help your new coworker figure out software they’ve never used before. Give someone your undivided attention. 

Already a giver? Let us know how you give and how has giving has helped you in the comment section below.

Sonia Codreanu
Sonia Codreanu
Psychometrics Analyst at Wonder
Sonia Codreanu is a psychology student at the University of Bath and a psychometrics analyst for Wonder. She's passionate about personality testing and investigates innovative ways in which it can be used to improve human performance and connection. In her spare time, she loves dancing.