How to Give So They Will Receive

As the old adage goes, it’s better to give than to receive. And, the best networking advice I’ve ever given (or received) is to give first and then give some more. With all that giving going on, it’s also important to know how and when it’s time to receive.

I recently asked a group of managers, “Is it more difficult for you to give or to receive?” and “What percentage of your time is spent giving versus receiving?” The overwhelming consensus was that it’s harder to receive than to give, and most felt that they give far more than they receive.

“RECEIVING–until recently I was very uncomfortable asking for help and letting others see my vulnerabilities.”

“Probably it is more difficult to receive. Sometimes I expect that a person would do something for me since I would do the same thing for him/her if asked, but often it does not happen.”

“At work, I always feel the need to prove myself so I always give, give give (85% give, 15% receive).”

“When someone does something nice for me, I feel like I need to immediately pay back that debt and feel uncomfortable when I have received more than I have given.”

Part of the gift of giving is to give in a way that supports receiving.

4 Ways to Give So They Will Receive

1. Give and Forget

In 20 Ways to Give Without Expectations, Lori Deschene lists great examples of how to give help and support with no expectations in return. Such self-less giving can go a long way in opening hearts to receiving.

2. Model it

“Giving opens the way for receiving.” -Florence Scovel Shinn

If you’re an over-giver, lead by example. Be willing to ask for and receive support.

3. Respond Enthusiastically

If someone asks for help, know that it’s likely not easy for them to do so. Say “yes” or “no,” but don’t say “yes” after listing the litany of reasons why it’s hard for you. That just adds to the guilt. Words such as “I’d be honored,” “Happy to,” or “Sure, glad I can support you” don’t make the task you’re doing any more difficult.

4. Ask What Will Be Most Helpful

Just jumping in and giving can be a waste of time at best and potentially do more harm than good. Ask what you can give that will be most helpful.

The truth is the world functions best when we know how to (and are willing to) both give and receive. Where can you be giving or receiving more?

Posted in Authenticity & Transparency, Communication and tagged , , .

Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt, Founder of Let’s Grow Leaders, helps leaders around the world achieve breakthrough results, without losing their soul. A former Verizon Wireless executive, she has over two decades of experience in sales, customer service, and HR. She was recently named on Inc's list of 100 Great Leadership Speakers and American Management Association's 50 Leaders to Watch. She’s the author of 3 books: Winning Well: A Manager's Guide to Getting Results-Without Losing Your Soul, Overcoming an Imperfect Boss, and Glowstone Peak.


  1. Another great article. I too like the idea of not giving reasons, “Just say yes.”

    I think that # 2 on modeling is key. I used to think it was mostly women who had been raised to be the givers, but then I realized that though the men in my world tend to do their own thing more often, they still have a hard time asking for what they want. (Perhaps that’s why they do their own thing…)

    As I have paid attention to this over the last few years, I think it’s one of the key things underlying meaningful communication and therefore strong relationships. Knowing what we really want underlies that. It means being courageous enough to leave our programming behind.

    And, your closing advice of being sure assistance is appropriate – priceless!

    Thanks again Karin.

    • Lisa, Thanks so much for expanding the conversation. I love your insights on the gender differences/similariites.

  2. Karin, this point was interesting to me:
    “Just jumping in and giving can be a waste of time at best and potentially do more harm than good. Ask what you can give that will be most helpful.”

    It’s a way to adapting marketing/sales principles to management and work generally. Ask ‘what does the customer want?’ instead of ‘what do I have that I need to sell/give?’

  3. I am part of my school’s Instructional Leaders team and your advice about giving AND receiving could not come at a better time in my life. Thank you so very much for those words of wisdom. I will share them with my team as we work together to build capacity in our school.

  4. Great leadership question, Karin.

    Like many others in this stream, I find it easier to give than to receive. I’ve found that emotional intelligence allows me to understand the reasons why this is the case.

    It’s important to understand our own emotions so we can correct behaviors that hold us back. Often, these behaviors are the same ones that prevent us from being vulnerable and accessible to team members.

    When we do not allow others to give to us, we are depriving them of a basic human need to express gratitude and appreciation.

    By the same token, we need to give to others in a way that expresses dignity and wholeheartedness.

    Great post, Karin.

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