When you learn the law of reciprocity in your life, you will realize as I have that you cannot out-give your network.

I don’t expect everyone who reads this post to agree! In fact, the world is filled with takers who have amassed enormous amounts of wealth. I just happen to believe givers are better in the universe. Call it Karma, servant leadership or just people having good hearts.

Does the Law of Reciprocity Work?

In his book, Give and Take, Adam Grant, Ph.D., lays the foundation for pondering the concept “why givers do better in almost every way.” The author lays out study after study and example after example of successful individuals who care more about helping others than they do gathering mantles of success for themselves.

A Real Taker

Early in the book, Grant uses several examples to compare and contrast givers and takers. One illustration in the book is of Kenneth Lay, former Chairman of Enron. Grant describes Lay as a faux “giver”. Grant contends that Lay was really looking out for his own best interests above all others, which ultimately caused the Houston company’s failure; indicative of a real taker. From the size of his full-page portrait in Enron’s annual report, to the use of company assets for
personal gain, Lay took and took until it destroyed the company.

A Real Giver

In contrast, Grant talks about the successful billionaire, Jon Huntsman, who lived his entire life as a contributor. For those who don’t know of Jon Huntsman, he is an outstanding businessman and politician.

Huntsman gave generously throughout his career, but he is also known for not taking the last dollar in a negotiation. In one story relayed by Grant, Huntsman was negotiating a multi-hundred-million-dollar divestiture while the wife of the CEO he was negotiating against was dying of an illness. While Huntsman knew there was still more that he could get in the negotiation, he decided that he didn’t want to expose the opposing CEO to greater stress, so Huntsman ceased negotiations and finalized the deal.

Integrity & Giving

Moreover, there is a story where Huntsman made a handshake deal with a divisional president for this individual to purchase a portion of one of the companies for something in the mid-fifty-million-dollar range. Over the next six months while they worked out the details, the market turned positive and the division grew in value to $250 million. Even the buyer went back to Huntsman and offered to split the difference because it was inequitable to Huntsman. Huntsman
refused and declared, “A deal’s a deal.”

It would seem that integrity and giving are connected although Grant doesn’t delve too deeply into that topic. What is evident in the data is that givers are typically more successful and lead fuller lives.

Be A Giver

In his timeless book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie outlines basic tenets that all givers should live by. Everyone would benefit by reading this book each year to absorb its simplicity. It is fascinating to ruminate that this advice was conveyed to the world in 1936.

A few examples of topics from the book are:

•Fundamental Techniques in Handling People
•Six Ways to Make People Like You
•Win People to Your Way of Thinking
•Be a Leader: How to Change People Without Giving Offense or Arousing Resentment

The prescription is timeless and simple. Whether encouraging us to simply smile or to recall that the sweetest sound to anyone’s ear is the sound of his or her own name, Carnegie’s instruction is abiding for all generations. Carnegie chronicles his options from the other person’s perspective, and his advice applies even more so today. In fact, the book has sold over 30-million copies worldwide, has been translated into multiple languages, and in 2011 was put on the list of the top 100 most influential books of all time.

Givers treat everyone with respect and work on ways to help and encourage others and this advice from Mr. Carnegie shows us how.

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