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Give and Take

March 12, 2010

One of the trickiest, but most important things between friends, or even just colleagues, is reciprocity. It is a part of our human nature to want fairness. Whenever that balance is thrown off, we feel it. Being able to both give and take is crucial to a pleasant and cooperative relationship.

For example, if someone’s ever given you a gift completely out of the blue, don’t you feel sort of guilty accepting it? This has happened to me several times and I either feel like I don’t deserve it, or feel like I have a responsibility to return the favor. It isn’t really a physical thing, but more of a mental feeling of inequality.

Likewise, if I feel like I’m putting more work in for a project than other group members, even if it’s not true in actuality, I’ll feel like it’s unfair. To restore the balance, I’d either push the others to contribute more, or scale back the effort that I’m giving. Just the feeling of inequality is enough to change my behavior.

Finding a balance takes time and can be frustrating, but once you do, it’s great. You’ll be able to work with that other person, and will probably even start seeking them out whenever you want to collaborate.

Don’t just give. Don’t just take. Do both.

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