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Trust but verify

My grandfather is the kindest person I know in my life. He always gave without hesitation and expectation of return. He was always happy when life was hard or easy. So, I assumed giving is a secret to having a happy life, just like him.

Back then, I didn't know life is hard as it is now. I was a kid. What did I know about the world and society? My perspective about life was solely learned from my grandparents at an early age, and it seems not complicated at all. You give, and you also get.

Now, both of them passed away. But, the memory stays with me forever. I give and also get. And because I know I deserve it, I won't feel like an imposter when something good happens to me. Life itself works as a positive cycle when I give. The opposite is the same, the more I get, the more I give because I believe happiness can be maximised when I share with others.

Until the day I realised that some people started taking advantage of me. They were my friends, but unfortunately, they were also takers. Sometimes, they came to me for help because they knew I would always do them a favour at the expense of my own time and energy. However, takers are always takers. Their goal is to take more than they give. That's how they maximise their benefits. This type of thing can also happen in the workplace with colleagues and relationships with family and spouses.

In Adam Grant's book "Give and Take", he mentioned that many givers have been exploited by takers and ended up being mediocre in their careers even though they worked much harder than their counterparts.

My grandparents didn't teach me how to cope with this situation. In their defence, I don't think I was mature enough to get it even if they did. But I remember my grandfather once told me: A hedge between keeps friendship green. We must create a safe zone for self-protection to avoid being exploited by takers.

Adam Grant points out that a sincerity screening can be handy for givers to detect potential takers or fakers (takers who pretend to be givers). He emphasises that givers should act genuinely and with an open mind when facing someone new for the first time. But they also need to verify the reciprocity styles of the candidate, so they can change to a tit-for-tat strategy if they identify a taker or faker.

Like the Russian proverb: Trust but verify.

Some key takeaways from my practice:

Walking away. When you identify someone is exploiting your energy and time, and there is a choice for walking away, you can always walk away. Neither of us is important enough to impact the universe. So, letting go.

Advocate for yourself. Sometimes, givers proactively put other people's benefit on theirs. So they find it hard to say no to other people and barely ask for what they deserve. Imagine you act on behalf of your mentee or your team, so you will hold a responsibility to fight for their benefit as well.

Do the right thing. We need to put our empathy aside when counteracting a taker. Make the right and rational decision because we are also accountable for our family, team and company.


Book to read: ”Give and Take” ------ Adam Grant

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