The One-Sentence Summary

It is possible to consistently give help to others, not be a pushover, and still be a success in life and work.

Can’t be bothered to read it? Listen to the 5-minute summary in two parts.


  • Most people believe that a combination of hard work, luck and talent play a role in our working lives. This book stresses the importance of a fourth, critical factor – that the best way you can succeed is to focus on bringing others with you.
  • Takers like to get more than they give. They put their own interests ahead of others, believe that the world is competitive, and that they need to be better than others. They are not necessarily cruel, but they are self-protective.
  • Givers prefer to give more than they get, tipping reciprocity in the other direction. They are other-focused, looking at what people need from them.
  • Matchers are in the middle. They strive to provide an equal balance of giving and getting. They operate on the principle of fairness and believe in tit for tat – an even exchange of favours. Most people are matchers, and their values emphasize fairness. They believe in an eye for an eye, so when takers violate these principles, they want to see justice served.
  • Some givers become pushovers and doormats, and the author is keen to distinguish between the champs and the chumps. It’s all about the strategies they choose and the choices they make. In other words, you can be an excellent giver and still survive, let alone not be taken advantage of your whole life.
  • Successful and happy givers are They achieve this reconciliation because they still look out enough for their own interests. They engage in generous tit for tat. They are also good at sincerity screening. They watch for clues that the other person is consistently taking but giving nothing back.
  • Takers often operate in givers clothes. They flatter people and often donate to charity. They are sometimes called taker fakers or agreeable fakers. They are often excellent in high-level company and quite charming but can be exposed when dealing with subordinates. This is something the Dutch call kissing up, kicking down. Agreeable people tend to be cooperative and polite, but they can still be takers. Agreeableness and giving are not synonymous.
  • Givers develop huge networks because they are always helping people. These may involve a high number of weak ties but these open up access to new networks and information. In one respect it is harder to ask a weak tie for a favour, but on the other hand it normally creates reconnections which are usually welcomed.


  • In the animal kingdom, lekking refers to a ritual in which males show off their desirability to impress females. CEOs often do this. You can spot the signs by the number of times they say I, me, mine, or myself rather than we, us, our, or ours. They also pay themselves vastly more than their staff and make their pictures huge in annual reports.
  • Pronoia is the opposite of paranoia. It is the delusional belief that other people are plotting your wellbeing or saying nice things about you behind your back. If you are a giver, this may well be a reality.
  • The five-minute favour means that you should be willing to do something that will take five minutes or less for anybody.
  • Interestingly, it turns out that giving can be contagious. The more people do it in a group, the more people do it in total.
  • Expedition behaviour comes from the world of mountaineering. It involves putting the group’s goals and mission first and showing the same amount of concern for others as you do for yourself.
  • When people act generously in groups, they earn idiosyncrasy credits – positive impressions that accumulate in the minds of group members.
  • The responsibility bias makes people, especially leaders, think that they deserve credit rather than their team. They feel independent rather than interdependent.
  • Powerless communication means speaking less assertively, expressing plenty of doubt and relying heavily on advice from others. It is surprisingly effective.
  • The pratfall effect describes when an expert is clumsy – people like them more because they reveal vulnerability.
  • Optimal distinctiveness is looking for ways to fit in whilst still standing out.


  • As ever with such books, there are a very large number of American references to topics such as baseball and American Football which may pass many readers by.