Adam Grant, a professor of organizational psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, has studied the affect of interpersonal styles on professional success. He divides people into three categories, according to how they approach interactions with others at work:
- Givers are willing to help others without expecting anything in return.
- Matchers help others selectively. They try to achieve a balance, helping others only if they reciprocate.
- Takers expect other people to do all the work. Their goal is to extract as much value from others with as little personal effort as possible.
Grant’s observation is that givers tend to be either the most successful or the least successful people in any organization. Some givers are exploited and waste their energy on low priority activities. Others rise to the top, contributing far more to the organization’s success than their taker and matcher colleagues. The difference appears to lie in the confidence and assertiveness of the giver—successful givers are proactively generous. They give because they want to, not because they think they have to. (See Adam Grant, “In the Company of Givers and Takers,” Harvard Business Review, April 2013 and Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success, Penguin Books, 2014.)
Rebekah impressed Abraham’s servant by demonstrating the qualities of a proactive giver. As she filled her pitcher from a well, the servant asked for some water. Rebekah not only fulfilled his request, but she volunteered to do more. Seeing that he had ten camels who were also fatigued and thirsty, she drew water multiple times and filled a trough for them. Abraham’s servant was impressed and saw in her a suitable companion for his master’s son, Isaac.(See Genesis 24:15-25, 45-48.)
Ammon was also a proactive giver. Arriving as a missionary in the land of Ishmael, he told the king that he was willing to be his servant and that he intended to stay for a long time (Alma 17:21-25). Three days into his service taking care of the king’s flocks, he encountered a significant issue. Unlike the other servants, who became discouraged and stopped trying, Ammon devised and implemented a strategy which led to the recovery of the flocks (Alma 17:26-38). After this miraculous outcome, the other servants went straight to the king to tell him what had happened (Alma 17:39), but Ammon unassumingly carried on his work, feeding the horses in preparation for a journey the king was about to make. The king was astonished, exclaiming that he had never had such a faithful servant (Alma 18:9-10).
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus advises us to give not only our coat but also our cloak to those in need. He further said that if we are required to go a mile to help someone, we should voluntarily go two. (See 3 Nephi 12:40-41, Matthew 5:40-41.) His point seems to be that we should be agents, recognizing and fulfilling needs, not merely reacting to requests, giving and serving generously, not reluctantly.
Today, I will be a proactive giver. I will identify needs and help meet them willingly, without asking what’s in it for me. Like Rebekah and Ammon, I will do more than is expected of me, taking the initiative and acting as an agent.