How do you know if you are a giver, taker or receiver? Is there a difference between a taker and receiver in a relationship? How do you handle someone who is a taker or receiver?

If you are a giver, are there times you should be less helpful or available to someone? It may sound counter intuitive; it can also make a positive difference in a relationship.

Take for example:

  • The colleague at work who never seems to get anything done yet receives the promotion or shines in the boss’s eyes. You know the person, because you have probably covered for them many times or done their work yourself because it was part of a team effort. You did the work to avoid letting the team fail.
  • Your friend who is out of work that doesn’t seem to find a job no matter how many job leads you send his or her way. When you follow up to see if the tip worked out, his/her response is – can you send the job lead again?
  • A friend who says s/he wants to do things with you but fails to show up, cancel or call with an apology. If you are lucky enough to have them show up it is because of your prodding and reminders.

In each of these situations, it is important to examine your own contribution to the angst.

I have often heard the term that someone is a giver or taker, although I would prefer to say there are givers and receivers. Don’t get me wrong, a taker is a type of receiver. However, there are major differences in how takers approach the act of receiving.

Defining the Taker Receiver

Receivers generally ask nicely for help or wait around for a giver to do something for them. Rarely do receivers push the giver into action. Receivers often acknowledge someone’s input, assistance or help because it reinforces the giver’s actions and provides positive feedback on how the relationship was beneficial to them.

Takers are another form of receiver – often pushing the act of receiving to an extreme. Takers are more demanding in what they want or use sneaky or overt tactics to get it. Their requests cause more or unnecessary work for others. Often, there is little regard or appreciation to the amount of work a giver has done for the taker’s benefit. At times, you see takers exhibiting passive aggressive behavior.

Another characteristic of takers is when someone helps them it is rarely acknowledged. Takers minimize or disregard the assistance being offered even though they initiated it. Why?

The solutions or assistance being offered may not be what they really wanted, they get too busy or let us be honest – they are selfish. Takers forget that the mere act of someone expending effort to do something for them is a gift and warrants acknowledgement.


The notion of being a giver is often seen as positive and when done in moderation enhances a relationship. After all, who wouldn’t want someone else to be there for you?

However, taken to an extreme, givers can cause just as much havoc in relationships. Consider this:

Someone you know is always doing something for you, to the point of nausea. Everywhere you turn, the giver is in your personal space. From your vantage point, you:

  1. Don’t want help or
  2. Are uncomfortable receiving help

Either way, you want the attention to stop.

When you reject the person trying to help you, the giver’s attitude can change. Serial givers may use the martyr syndrome to try and make you feel guilty for not appreciating everything being done for you.

Givers who overplay his or her assistance may be doing so to maintain control. When unsolicited advice continues to be offered, it may be a sign s/he wants to control you or the outcome.

Tips to Becoming a Better Giver or Receiver

One of the most difficult things for a giver to do is learn to how and when to say “no”. If someone is always asking for your help or you are always trying to help someone, it is time to step back.

It is OK to hold the safety net just in case s/he fails or to offer encouragement, however, let the other person try something without your direct assistance. Avoid hovering and give him or her space to be self-sufficient.

Takers should examine that s/he is not abusing a giver’s generosity. If you request information or assistance, be prepared to act on it. Let the giver know how the information helped you. If you do these three things, givers will be more receptive to helping you.

Do you find yourself being more of a giver or receiver and you avoid the other behavior? If so, ask yourself why. It can be difficult to reverse your role as a giver or receiver. It is equally important for others to know you have the capacity to do it! A relationship is built on giving and receiving by both parties.

I like to think relationships go beyond receivers and takers. The key is to make the two approaches interchangeable to the point that neither party can call one another a giver or taker.