Each Friday, the another jennifer blog shares stories of those who incorporate philanthropy into their everyday lives – personally and professionally – in a creative and unique way. If you have a story you’d like to share, please contact Jennifer. You can view past posts from the series here.
Note from Jennifer: The following article is part two of two on the subject of why giving feels good by Greg Evans, PhD. I was connected to Greg through The Smile Epidemic and am elated that he wrote this article for another jennifer. Because of the length, I decided to divide his post into two. Greg is a positive psychologist and happiness expert. If you missed part one of this post, you can read it here. It’s a great post and the leaf blower reference will make more sense.
In a famous ultimatum experiment led by Werner Guth, now of the Max Plancs Institute of Economics, a participant is given $20 dollars and must split it with a partner. It is an all or nothing experiment, meaning if the partner accepts the deal you both get something. If the partner rejects the deal, you both get nothing.
One might rationally expect the person to divide the pot with $1 going to the other person and $19 dollars for themselves. Since one dollar is better than no dollar, we might also expect the partner to agree. However, this is not the case. On average, the partner refuses the offer if it is below 7 dollars.
The researchers suggest this is an act of tough love designed to prevent the other person from selfishness in the future, and that such punishment is entirely rational in the development of a kinder world. Tough love ensures that there is no advantage to cheating, and this punishment may be an equally important component to kindness in creating a caring and civil society.
Sometimes the kindest thing to do is not to give to those that do not give in return. Ostracising antisocial behavior can lead to increasingly civil societies by decreasing any advantages to selfishness.
The work of Adam Grant, the author of Give and Take, may help us to understand the importance of giving in our work life. Grant found that givers are both the most and least successful people in organizations. Givers are the doormats and burnouts, but they are also those leaders that harness the increased motivation that can come from a desire to help others, while also reaping the benefits of reciprocity.
So, what’s the difference between productive and unproductive givers?
The difference, according to Grant, is that successful givers surround themselves primarily with other givers; they give in ways that increase social bonds; and they really invest in others in ways that actually make a difference—making their contributions more gratifying.
Grant suggests that people do not burn out because of more work, they burn out primarily because they cannot see how their contributions have made any difference. So successful givers do not just go through the motions, they go the extra mile, in doing so they also feel less burnt out by their efforts. Successful givers also do not get taken to the cleaners, while giving freely to other givers and being cautious of takers.
This willingness to help may not always pay off, but givers capitalize on opportunities takers miss out on and they take joy and energy from kind deeds.
Now if you will excuse me, I am going to kindly steal my leaf blower back.
Greg Evans earned a PhD researching the area of Positive Psychology from the University of Queensland, and is a current board member in charge of strategic partnerships for The Canadian Positive Psychology Association. Greg is the Director of The Happiness Enhancement Group (HEG) which attempts to promote and increase happiness and human flourishing in individuals, couples, families, organizations, schools, and communities through the applied use of Positive Psychology. Read more about Greg