Image from mikecogh on Flickr, Creative Commons attribution

Image from mikecogh on Flickr, Creative Commons attribution

When I was growing up, one of our family’s jokes was about how “we don’t count in our family.” It was usually a phrase that cropped up after someone ate the last of the cookies, squares, or freezer peaches that we had put away for the winter (yes there absolutely is a story there), to which someone else would mock shockingly say, “But you had 6 of those squares today!” And the reply always was, with a giggling indignant manner, “Hey, we don’t count in our family!”

And it’s true, we never did.

But not about cakes, cookies or other tasty morsels. We never counted, and still don’t, the good deeds we did for each other. We never kept track or kept score about scratching each other’s back and having ours scratched in return. We just helped others wherever we could, whether it was through true volunteering or trying to give someone else with what they needed. That’s what was modelled to me by my grandparents and my parents, it was just a way of being. It still is.

I suppose it’s why Adam Grant’s new book, Give and Take, has so captivated me. I just started reading it yesterday but I couldn’t put it down. Grant talks about three kinds of people in the world: givers, matchers and takers. “Givers” give to others more than they receive back and don’t keep score or expect anything in return. “Matchers” keep score, tit-for-tat style, making sure a good deed is returned right away so the score is kept even. “Takers” take from others more than they give, and when they give it comes with a “what’s in it for me?” sort of agenda. Takers target only important people to give to, they strategically give to get something for themselves.

I definitely see myself as a giver and I hope that others do too. But not everybody operates that way out there.

Case in point: I was having lunch with an acquaintance a few months ago. She had asked me out to lunch to thank me for referring some business her way. During lunch she stunned me by asking me what I wanted in return for the referral. Talk about tongue tied! I had no idea what to say. For I had referred the business to her because I thought she was talented in her field and making referrals like that is just the kind of thing that I normally do. I had had to turn the business down myself and didn’t want to leave the organization hanging. She deserved the work and the organization deserved to know who she was. I love that kind of stuff. Even being taken out for lunch as a thank you was totally unnecessary in my eyes.

In this case it seemed like the person wanted to set up some sort of formal referral system with me. I was confused by the whole affair! I have heard of “affiliate programs” of course but I thought that kind of thing was reserved for people who don’t know each other, like being an Amazon associate. I just never considered that people would think that that’s what I wanted or needed for making a referral, something I actually really love to do. I do it even for people I don’t know, if I’ve heard their reputation is good. And I do it just because it makes me happy to do it. Needless to say, I never set up the referral program with the person.

Yesterday someone said to me that “it’s a dog-eat-dog world out there” and I totally disagree. The world is full of abundance, with enough for you and me. I’m not in this world or this business to compete, to keep score, or to undo others as I strive towards the top. When I help you, I think we all win.

So tell me, what do you need? If I can help you, you’re actually doing me a favour. And please don’t count.