How To Be A Giver

“We exist temporarily through what we take, but we live forever through what we give.”
Douglas M. Lawson, fundraising consultant and author

When I hear the same message over and over again, I pay attention. For example, in the Bible, hope is mentioned 185 times, faith 246 times, love 733 times, and giving 2285 times. Now that’s significant. GIVING is one of the secrets of success.

Any yet much of the world is in economic turmoil because too many have been TAKING too much for too long.

The same goes for relationships. Relationships get in trouble when the people in those relationships focus more on what they can take than what they can give. Dr. Beatrice Berry talked about that at a convention where we were both speaking. She talked about getting married and divorced in the same year because her husband was such an abusive taker. In fact, the situation inspired her to write a country song entitled, “If I’d shot you when I met you, I’d be out of jail by now.”

From my 30 years of teaching, speaking, and working with people, I’m convinced that the most successful people in business … and the happiest people in life … are givers. Instead of focusing on what’s in it for them, they focus on how they can make a difference in the lives of their coworkers, customers, friends, and family members.

So what do givers give?

=> 1. Givers give attention.

It’s the first thing they give. And it may be the most important.

They notice others. They acknowledge them. And they listen to them.

When I’m speaking on the topic of Creating Customer Service Champions,” I emphasize and re-emphasize this point. If you’re ever confronted by an upset customer, the very first thing you’ve got to do is pay close attention to what the customer is saying and not saying. It’s the best chance you’ll ever have of turning an upset customer into a loyal customer … because you’re saying … loud and clear … that YOU are IMPORTANT to ME.

One mother had to learn that lesson the hard way. After coming home from a long day at work, her little daughter ran out to greet her. She said, “Mommy, Mommy, wait until I tell you what happened today.” After listening for a few seconds, her mother said she had to go and prepare dinner. Her daughter could tell her the rest of the story later.

At dinner, the phone rang; then the other family members told their stories. Once again the little girl tried to tell her story, but the kitchen needed to be cleaned up and her brother needed help with his homework. By then it was time for bed. When her mother came to tuck her in, the little girl looked up and asked, “Mommy, do you really love me, even when you don’t have time to listen to me?”

And that’s the same question everybody asks at work and at home: “If you don’t GIVE me attention, how do I know if you really care?”

So how do you stack up on this point? Are you known as a person who gives attention? Or are you known as someone who is too self-absorbed?

It would be worth your while to pick up my audio CD on “The 3 Best Keys To Powerful, Positive, Productive Relationships… On and Off The Job”

And then …

=> 2. Givers give a chance.

Ernest Hemingway talked about that in his short story, “The Capital of the World.” The best thing you can give someone is a chance.

In the story, a father and son’s relationship had gone awry, and the son left home. But after some time of grief and remorse, the father decided he wanted to heal the relationship. He went searching for his son Paco, looking everywhere in the city of Madrid, but couldn’t find him. So he decided to put an ad in the newspaper that read, “Dear Paco, I love you. All is forgiven. Let’s start over. Meet in front of the newspaper office tomorrow at noon.” Signed, “Your father.”

As Hemingway writes, the next day over 800 Paco’s showed up … all of them wanting a second chance, a new start, forgiveness, and acceptance.

It’s all about making contact and then making changes. As family therapist Virginia Satir writes,

“I believe The greatest gift I can conceive of having From anyone is to be seen by them, to be understood and touched by them. The greatest gift I can give is to see, hear, understand and to touch another person. When this is done I feel contact has been made.”

You may have some Paco’s in your life. Are you known as someone who gives people a second chance? Or are you known as someone who holds a grudge?

Which leads to …

=> 3. Givers give lasting care.

And even though “care” might sound a little too touchy-feely for some corporate people, there’s a bottom-line benefit to this “caring” stuff. Research has shown that when you care … you truly care about your customers … two things happen: they buy more and they tell more people about you.

The reverse is also true. The number one reason a customer stops doing business with an organization is a perceived lack of caring. In fact, this perceived lack of caring accounts for 68% of your lost business.

Of course, your caring can’t be temporary and intermittent. It’s got to be continual and lasting. Dr. Martin Broken Leg, a professor at Augustana College, has found that a kid will stay in school if there is at least one adult in that school who shows a lasting sense of care … and that adult could be a teacher, cook, or bus driver.

One of my “Tuesday Tip” subscribers, Debra Tschosik talked about the power of giving a sense of caring that lasts over time. She said, “My father passed away last spring. He was a kind, loving and gentle spirit. We grew up without many of the material things others had, but he provided a home warm in love and support.”

What she didn’t expect was how his caring would show up after his death. She said, “Last Sunday evening my mother called me and said she found a Valentine’s card from my Dad. The card had been mailed to their home in 1994. Dad had asked the store clerk to write out the address so he could watch my mother bring in the mail and open this surprise from him. The card had a recorded message in my Dad’s own voice that my Mom wanted me to hear.”

“Dad’s voice said, ‘Hi Sweetheart, I can’t thank your Mom enough for making me marry you (a joke since my grandparents had been opposed to the marriage) and giving me the two most wonderful daughters in the world. I love you and want to wish you a wonderful Valentine’s Day.'”

As Debra went on to say, “In his wildest dreams, Dad could not have known the wonder and peace that loving message brought to our family years after he sent it. The truth is … it only takes a small act of giving to generate warmth for years.”

And finally …

=> 4. Givers give help.

It’s the ultimate win-win. You can’t help somebody else without also helping yourself. As an old Chinese proverb states, “When I dig another out of trouble, the hole from which I lift him is the place where I bury my own.” Or as I have often counseled others, the best way to get your mind off your loneliness is to reach out to others.

You’ve just got to make sure the other person actually wants your help. Such was the case with the truck driver who saw a priest at the side of the road. He stopped to pick up the priest and give him a ride. Down the road the truck driver saw a lawyer on the side of the road so he turned the truck on a direct course to hit him. Then he thought, “Oh no, I have a priest in the truck. I can’t run down this lawyer.” So at the last second he swerved to miss the lawyer. But the truck driver heard a thump outside of the truck. He looked in his rearview mirror but didn’t see anything. He turned to the priest and said, “Sorry, Father, I just missed that lawyer at the side of the road.” The priest replied, “Don’t worry, son, I got him with my door.”

Yeah, yeah, I know that wasn’t very nice of me. But you get the point. Givers give help, but you’ve got to make sure it’s help that’s really wanted. And if it is, the benefits go both ways.

Michael Maceroni, a sales manager for UPS, learned that. He told me, “I was flying into Atlanta for a corporate sales workshop on a Sunday afternoon, and I don’t like to leave my family on a weekend. Nonetheless, I decided to make the best of it, to be a giver regardless of any possible problems that might come my way, such as late departures, crowded airline seating, or grumpy attendants and passengers.”

“It didn’t take long to have my giving commitment tested. As I headed to the baggage area, I noticed a young mother, nearing her wit’s end, with an unhappy toddler in tow. Deciding it was cold outside, the mother opened her suitcase to get out their coats, only to find her bottle of shampoo had bust open in her luggage and was covering the majority of her clothing. That pretty much sent the mother to the brink of tears.”

“Being an expectant father myself, I couldn’t stand there any longer. I approached the woman and asked if I could do anything to help. She declined, but as her daughter ran to the baggage carousel for the third time, and as her cell phone started ringing, she looked at me and asked if I could throw away the shampoo bottle. She then remarked she would probably throw away the coat as well as it wasn’t useable in its current condition. I immediately removed my coat and offered it to her, saying, ‘Please take my coat.'”

“She profoundly refused, asking what would I wear on this cold evening. I explained to her that I had just landed from Detroit where I left -3 degree weather and the idea of wearing a jacket in 55 degree weather didn’t appeal to me. I insisted she take my coat. She graciously accepted, slipped it on, gathered her child, re-packed her bags on the cart, and moved on with a big smile on her face.”

As Michael finished telling me in his letter, “Once again I learned what unconditional giving does for the heart and soul.” He learned the lesson that Heda Bejar taught years ago, that “The fragrance always remains in the hand that gives the rose.”

Action:  If you asked the 10 people who know you best, would they say you’re more of a giver or more of a taker?