The helping professionals I train in self-care often have long-standing patterns of accommodating, people pleasing and over-extending themselves to the point of burnout. I equip them with skills and information and help them create personalized self-care plans to support optimal health.

But life-long relational dynamics frequently sabotage self-care efforts. We know what we want to do, make a short-lived success at it, but then get pulled off track and back into self-neglect.

Adam Grant’s book Give and Take: Why Helping others Drives our Success took my understanding of the costs and rewards of giving to a new level. His identification of three types of reciprocity styles–givers, matchers and takers–gave me a conceptual framework for thinking about how to work with myself and other helpers who are blessed and cursed with the “giver” style.

A Revolutionary Approach to Success

A Revolutionary Approach to Success

- Takers strive to get as much as possible from others–it’s all about them!

- Matchers seek to give evenly with others–tit-for-tat!

- Givers contribute to others without expecting anything back!

Interestingly, givers are both the champs and chumps when it comes to professional success. When we make others better off at our own expense we end up at the bottom of the success ladder. “It appears that givers are just too caring, too trusting, and too willing to sacrifice their own interests for the benefit of others.” But when we learn what Grant calls the skill of “sincerity screening” we can create value for ourselves while maximizing opportunities to give to others.

Sincerity screening involves learning “to distinguish genuine givers from takers and fakers. Successful givers need to know who’s likely to manipulate them so that they can protect themselves.” To learn more about assessing motivations check out Adam’s presentation at Google.

Give and Take is full of research and examples of the many factors involved in assessing reciprocity styles. Illustrations from business, education, sports and health professions along with fascinating studies of corporate dynamics makes the book entertaining as well as information.

My reading in Henri Nouwen’s The Inner Voice of Love this morning brought spiritual insight about how to give without burning out:

When you get exhausted, frustrated, over-whelmed or run down, your body is saying that you are doing things that are none of your business. God does not require of you what is beyond your ability, what leads you away from God, or what makes you depressed or sad.

I want to follow Jesus’ revolutionary call to “give to everyone who asks…”  I don’t know what Jesus would have said about giving to the takers and fakers. I suspect it’s related to what he said to the Scribes and Pharisees about the dangers of hypocrisy. It’s a matter of discernment that I’ll continue to ponder and pray over as I seek to give to those who ask as I do what is within my ability to do.

I give thanks in advance for the good that will come as I listen to the inner voice of love and deepen my understanding of how to identify the takers and fakers who aren’t operating from the same value system.