27 September 2023

Why you should give enough, but no more

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Michelle Gibbings* says that while the world has drawn extreme benefit from those who have willingly shared their ideas, there should be a limit on sacrificing your needs for others.

There’s an old saying: ‘Information is power.’ While there is truth to that statement, so much of our life is better off when we share ideas, knowledge, insights, and our time.

For example, where would we be without open-source technology, which is based on making the design and code publicly accessible?

So many of the tech gadgets and tools we rely on today wouldn’t exist or would be far more expensive.

On a different front, much of what we associate with one culture was originally created elsewhere.

Italy is famous for pasta, and yet it first came from China; pavlova from New Zealand, not Australia; Danish pastries from Austria, so too the croissant which is usually associated with France.

Many of our best ideas are leveraged from other sources or built off the foundations of other people’s ideas.

The more we share, the more we all benefit. Our world is more exciting and progressive.

Connection, exchange and reciprocal behaviour fuels relationships and strengthens social bonds, both personally and professionally.

Yet, some people give more while others take more. In psychology, people who share and help more are pro-socially motivated.

Pro-social motivation is defined as a desire to benefit others or expend effort to help others. There is much research that outlines the benefits of being pro-social.

Wharton University’s Adam Grant found a clear distinction between givers and takers.

The most successful givers are pro-socials who balance self-interest.

In this way, they are strategic about giving, being selective about how, when, where and why they give.

Professor Grant’s research explains how it’s essential to set limits on how much you give, to know what you want (and not be afraid to ask for it), and be wary of always sacrificing your needs for others.

Giving is good for us and can be motivating and self-reinforcing, but it all depends on where you focus your energy because, like everything in life, there’s a Catch-22.

When you give too much, it can become exhausting and will deplete your energy.

Researcher, Allison Gabriel and colleagues discovered that when you continually help at work it can, over time, lead you to engage in fewer acts of helping and more actions that are self-serving.

This scenario is particularly the case when you are motivated to avoid loss and are focused on obligations instead of focusing on what you are gaining from giving.

It’s a balance. Give and be generous, but not to the extent that you feel you have given away too much and not got anything in return.

As Chinese philosopher, Lao-Tzu said: “If you would take, you must first give, this is the beginning of intelligence.”

*Michelle Gibbings is a Melbourne-based change leadership and career expert and founder of Change Meridian. She can be contacted at [email protected].

This article first appeared at changemeridian.com.au.

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