Pursue What Matters
Episode 105: Are You A Giver?
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Dr. Melissa Smith 0:00
Are you a giver? Do other people look to you for advice, wise counsel and problem solving? Well, that may be working great for them and may not be working so well for you. So join me today. And let’s figure this out.
Dr. Melissa Smith 0:34
Hi, I’m Dr. Melissa Smith, welcome to the Pursue What Matters Podcast, where we focus on what it takes to thrive in love and work. And I just have to do a quick shout out because oh my goodness, it’s our two year anniversary, which may not seem like a big deal to anyone. But I got to tell you like putting out a podcast every week for two years. You know it, it’s quite a job. But it’s been awesome. I’ve really loved doing the podcast, and hopefully you found value in it, but I just wanted to do a quick shout out. That is our two year anniversary. And mostly I need to do a shout out to my incredible integration team, because they are the ones that make this all happen. So to Josee and to Jackson and to Rylee, thank you for all you do, because you are the power behind the podcast.
Dr. Melissa Smith 1:29
Okay, so let’s jump in to our topic today. So are you a giver? And this can happen for a lot of people, right? If you are a leader, if you are a parent? Right, we think about what it means to to be a giver, right? And we think about this in terms of your relationship. So, the question is, who are you for others. Now, if you’ve listened to a couple of my recent podcasts, I’ve been talking about the five people you need in your corner, and really focusing in on who you need in your life to help you to be successful and to achieve your goals. And we all really need to be asking those questions. And so if you haven’t had a chance to take a listen to that podcast, the five people you need in your corner, then I will link to it. And I would definitely encourage you to check that out. And so when we ask the question, Who are you for others? Right, just as important to this conversation? And this question is, you know, having clarity about who, who you are in in people’s lives, right? Are you a cheerleader? For others? Are you a collaborator with others? Are you a challenger? And do you spur the growth of those around you? Are you a coach, whether formal or informal? Or are you a consultant?
Dr. Melissa Smith 3:04
Do you bring your expertise to bear in the lives of others. And so these are the five people that all of us need in our corner. And that’s what I cover on the recent podcast. But I want you to really think about who you are for others. So it is so incredibly important to be a generous giver, right to contribute where you can and to support the growth of others. I am all about that, and have seen so many times how that creates a virtuous cycle for more growth, more generosity, and success for all involved. So that is a powerful principle. But you know, the next question I have for you, right, so the first question is, who are you for others? And so thinking about your contributions to others.
Dr. Melissa Smith 3:46
But now I have a second question for you. And this can be kind of a hard question. And that is, do you give too much, right. And that’s really what I want to focus on today in our podcast, because I think this part of the conversation really gets overlooked very often. And so before I say more about this question, I do just want to remind you that with the with the podcast, you know, every week my goal is to help you pursue what matters and to strengthen your confidence to lead and I do that in one of three areas. Right, so clarity. And so can you see what matters and why it matters, curiosity, which is all about self awareness and self leadership and community when we really focus on building and leading a powerful community. And so today with the podcast, as we are looking at, you know, this idea of being a giver, it’s it’s really focused on all three areas, but particularly, I want you to focus in on curiosity. And so this podcast today is an invitation to self awareness, to to help you to kind of assess how doing in your relationships. And whether you’re depleted whether you’re renewed. And of course, it also has a lot to do with community because you know, you’re contributing, and you’ve got meaningful relationships. And that’s all so important to having a vibrant community. But the question is, do you give too much? Do you expand yourself on the goals of others, and leave nothing for yourself at the end of the day, the end of the year, or, sadly, the end of your life. So we don’t want this to happen to you, it is so essential to find that very fine balance. And I would just say it is a fine balance, I don’t think I have that totally figured out at all. But that fine balance between supporting and encouraging others, while also making time for your goals, protecting your energy, and ensuring that you don’t lose sight of what you need to prioritize in order to be successful in your own life. Right. And that really brings in that third component of clarity, you need to have clarity about your purpose and your goals. So you don’t just get pulled along on the goals of others and get to you know, the end of your life, the end of the trail and realize, oh, my goodness, I didn’t fulfill potential, I didn’t do what I felt compelled to do in life. Obviously, we don’t want that for any of us.
Dr. Melissa Smith 6:24
So now I have a third question, right? Are you a giver. And so let’s assess this, I want I want to, you know, unpack this a little bit and help you understand what what being a giver looks like. And so today’s episode is really focused on helping you take a look in the mirror, while also taking a look at your relationships, to better understand if you are a giver, and what this might mean for you, and your relationships and the likelihood of achieving your goals. Okay, so let’s determine first if you are a giver, and maybe you’re not a giver, but you know, you have givers in your life, right? And so even if you’re not a giver, it’s really good to pay attention to these because, you know, you don’t want to unwittingly drain the givers in your life. So let’s determine if you are a giver. So some of the characteristics of being a giver in relationships include that you are sensitive to the needs of others, right, you can kind of see what’s happening, you’re empathetic pretty naturally, you have a desire to contribute and help where you can. And if that’s true for you, you might kind of assume that that’s true for everyone. But that is absolutely not a thing. For a lot of people, they don’t necessarily have a desire to help others or to contribute to other individuals, right, they’re kind of very narrowly focused on their own goals. And so if you’re a giver, you have a desire to contribute. That is for most givers, a deeply held value. And also you are grateful for where you are in your life and your career, and you have a desire to give back. And that you know, of course, is such a powerful force in the world. So you’re grateful.
Dr. Melissa Smith 8:12
You’re also generous with your time and your energy. And you are a nurturer, right. So you see a need and you want to jump in and help. Right? When you see a need you maybe can’t even help yourself from jumping in to help out. So those are some of the characteristics of what it means to be a giver. But there is a shadowy side of being a giver, as is true with most things in life, right. And so let’s talk a little bit about the shadow side. And first of all, if you if you give too much of yourself, your time, your expertise, your energy and your skills, right, that’s the big risk, you just deplete yourself, you, you don’t have boundaries with folks, you maybe don’t value your skills enough to protect them, or to charge for that, right. So if we think about this in a professional setting, maybe you’re giving away your products and your services, and your expertise for free. And certainly there are times for that. But when we see this in a professional setting, it can be really undermining because you’re not able to sustain your work. And perhaps you don’t value yourself enough to protect your time, your energy and your well being a really big red flag that we can sometimes see with givers, not all, but you fail to set boundaries with others. And you end up depleted from always saying yes, you struggle saying no. Right. And this is this is the big one when it comes to boundaries. you struggle say no, and you may have some underlying beliefs that feed that struggle. So maybe you believe it is a moral failing. If you were to say no, if you could help, maybe you believe you have an obligation to say yes. And sometimes this can become a twisted form of gratitude, right? Like I’ve been given so much, I really do need to help where I can. But when you do that, without a clear sense of boundaries, you can get run over.
Dr. Melissa Smith 10:23
And another underlying factor that can contribute to the struggle saying no, and this is a hard one, but you like the dopamine hit that comes in saying yes, and pleasing others in the moment, even when you legitimately should be saying now. And that can be a big one, right? Like you say, Yes, in the moment. And then you know, you take a step back, and maybe you look at your schedule, maybe you look at all the other demands on your time, and you realize, oh, my goodness, like I should have said, No, and maybe even in the moment, I knew I needed to say no, but I don’t want to let others down, I, it feels good to be the hero, it feels good to be the one that can solve the problems and answer other’s needs. And that can be a pretty dangerous game to play, because it really moves you away from understanding your own needs and responding to them.
Dr. Melissa Smith 11:23
So another shadowy side of being a giver is you end up burned out or resentful, when others don’t value your time and skills. Right. But this is the hard truth, you have taught others not to value your time and skills, if you’re giving those away for free. So you know, you can be frustrated and as resentful as you want to be. But there are many ways that we teach people how to treat us. And so we need to be very mindful about that. So if you’re not holding your own boundaries, do not expect anyone else to do that for you.
Dr. Melissa Smith 12:05
Another shadow side of being a giver, is you become a giver, in most of your relationships, okay, and so this can be hard, right? Like, if you take on this responsibility to, to be the strong one to be the supportive one, to be the cheerleader all the time in all your relationships, too. Right to to be the one that others come to for advice, and problem solving, you Wow, your needs are going to become lost, and your relationships become very unbalanced. And again, the net result is you end up frustrated or resentful when your needs aren’t recognized or met. But again, if you set up an imbalanced relationship, because it feels good to be the giver, right, you can really breed dependence, and you know, in the other person and then resentment in yourself, because when you’re the giver, there’s not much room for your needs to also be met. The other thing that happens when you’re the giver in most of your relationships, is that you can become incredibly overwhelmed with the pressure to give to those around you.
Dr. Melissa Smith 13:17
So some of the ways that this pressure can show up is you know, pressure on yourself to solve others problems. And over time, those in your life really start to look to you to solve their problems, thus adding more pressure to you. And of course, they become more dependent. So one of the challenges here is that there are ways that you have possibly taught those in your life to depend on you. And they see you as the problem solver, because it feels good in the moment. But this is ultimately disempowering for them because their solutions reside outside of themselves, right, their solutions reside in you. And so it keeps those you love, completely dependent. And if you take a step back, that’s probably not the kind of relationships you want, right? Whether that’s with the spouse, whether that’s with a colleague, whether that’s with a child, right, of course, children, depending on the age are more dependent, so I’m not talking about not parenting them. But we want to teach everyone, especially our kiddos, that they can know what’s best for them, and that they can start to cultivate that inner knowing and learn to listen to their needs and to their beliefs and their opinions about things. And you know, certainly in the context of parenting, you can be there to guide them in that process. But we don’t want dependent relationships.
Dr. Melissa Smith 14:48
So you know, this is ultimately frustrating for you because it’s stressful to always have to be the problem solver in other’s lives, right like you end up struggling And unbalanced. And so that those are the shadow sides of being a giver. And so now I want to talk about why it is so incredibly important to hold boundaries as a giver, right? Because there are so many characteristics that you have as a giver that are virtues, right? That are gifts, they’re incredible. But if you don’t have some good boundaries in place, you’re going to be depleted. So even when you are legitimately functioning in a giver role, like such as a coach, such as a therapist, such as a leader, a helping professional, right, you still must have good boundaries that protect you from burnout, resentment and frustration. Right. So I’m a helping professional, I’m a psychologist, I do clinical work, and I’m also a leadership coach. And so right, like, I am legitimately in a giver role in my professional work, but one, you know, my, my first companion in that, in that role is good boundaries. And it’s it’s what really protects you to do the work.
Dr. Melissa Smith 16:15
So let’s think about some of these boundaries. The first one would be time boundaries, what are your operating hours, and I want you to think about these boundaries, and how these might show up for all of your relationships where you’re a giver. So regardless of whether this is work related, right, like you’re in a professional giver role, or you’re leading a team, or whether this relates to your personal relationships, right, so loved ones. And so that might sound weird to hear me say, what are your operating hours, but I mean, it. I mean, I have apps, I absolutely have operating hours where I do not respond to texts, after a certain hour, whether you know, with their professional those boundaries are, you know, many of the people I work with wouldn’t necessarily have my number in the first place. But you know, if it’s a work related text, unless it’s an emergency, I wouldn’t respond to and there are very few emergencies. I wouldn’t respond to it after, say, five o’clock, six o’clock in the evening. But I also have operating hours for loved ones as well, right? First of all, everyone knows my bedtime, and my family. And honestly, most of my family and friends know my bedtime. And so they kind of know if I send Melissa a text, she’s not going to get it until tomorrow morning. And that’s cool. And that’s that’s not a problem. And it’s great for me, because I don’t feel the pressure to always be on call, I don’t feel the pressure to Oh, my goodness, like I need to respond to this text. And you know, that could be another entire podcast episode where we talk about, you know, responsiveness on the phone, but you should have some operating hours, you must establish time boundaries, in order to protect to protect your time and energy. So some, some examples of how these time boundaries can show up, right? In addition to what I’ve just talked about with texting, is maybe you respond to emails twice a day only. And you can even communicate that to people, you can even have an auto response that says, I only respond to emails at 4pm each day, thank you for you know, your understanding like that could be part of your signature line, that could be an auto reply, or I only respond to emails twice a week, whatever that is, and do not respond to emails or calls after hours. With the team that I lead. That’s a conversation that I have with them pretty frequently, right? Like don’t set that expectation that you’re going to be responding to emails and calls on weekends and that sort of thing. Because it’s just it’s not an appropriate boundary, especially in a in the kind of professional work that we do. And so are you holding those kinds of boundaries for yourself.
Dr. Melissa Smith 19:07
And then you know, the length of time given to questions or concerns. That’s a big one. Because for some folks, and they can have very good intent. But like they, they legitimately like want support, they want help. They want everything that you will give to them. And so don’t expect others to know and identify your boundaries and then to respect them. That’s your job. And so you want to have when we think about length of time given to questions and concerns. Maybe you have a designated time and place for addressing concerns which really protects you from feeling like you need to respond at all hours. I have some leaders that I work with, like that they will have designated office hours right. So think about that in college. When you were in college, there were office hours where you could stop by You could talk to your professor or you could ask questions, address concerns. And so this idea of office hours with your team, with those you work with, I think, is a really great idea. And it, you know, people want to know what your boundaries are people, you know, for the most part, people want to respect your boundaries, people want to, you know, they don’t want to interrupt you if you’re in the middle of something. And so I think having these designated times in places can be super helpful, not only for you, but for those that you work with, you know, having having this sort of thing really sets a clear expectation for, for the other individual, so they can respect those boundaries. But when you don’t clearly identify the boundary, this leads to confusion and uncertainty for those that you work with. And so let’s not do that, having those boundaries are a great thing and important thing. And then, of course, hold your time boundaries.
Dr. Melissa Smith 21:00
So don’t go over the time allotted, don’t require the others to hold your boundaries for you, and reassert the boundary, if needed. And you may need to do that. Because right, like, maybe you haven’t been very clear, maybe someone’s, you know, anxieties, getting the best of them, or, you know, they’re just feeling really, really hopeful that you can help them and so you will probably need to reassert these boundaries. So we just talked about time boundaries. But another important set of boundaries that you really need to hold on to as a giver would be accountability boundaries.
Dr. Melissa Smith 21:39
Okay. So this clearly defines what is your responsibility? And what is the other individuals responsibility. And I’ve got to tell you, I actually use these types of questions that I’m going to share with you all the time, I use them in my professional work, but I also use them in my personal relationships, right? Like whether it’s parenting, or with a friend or a loved one. So some of these questions that can kind of help you to clearly define what accountability boundaries need to be in place, include what is mine? Right? What is yours? Meaning, what is my responsibility here? And what is your responsibility here.
Dr. Melissa Smith 22:22
So for example, don’t make other people’s problem, your problem. And that happens when you take on their responsibility, like you take on responsibility for solving their problem. So don’t do that. When someone comes to you. With a question or a concern, it’s really important to ask yourself, what is my responsibility here? There are times maybe where you legitimately do have a responsibility. And so obviously, we want to be aware of that. But if you are a giver, you will likely have a tendency to be pulled into taking responsibility for the other person, and whatever they’re bringing to you because you see their needs, you’re empathetic, you want to help, but it’s not helpful if you take someone else’s responsibility that is legitimately theirs. So another question to ask is, am I intruding on the other individual’s responsibilities here? I think that can be a good question. And a related question. So kind of a corollary is, is the other person pushing me to take responsibility here, right? So sometimes I can be in conversation with someone, and I can feel that pull from them to, you know, solve a problem, or to get to give them more than maybe I feel comfortable with? And so just having that awareness within yourself, like, what does that feel like, in your body, when you feel pulled? When you feel anxious, because you’re, you know, trying to come up with a great solution to their concern? Be aware of that, because that’s where you’re starting to blur some of those boundaries, potentially.
Dr. Melissa Smith 24:09
Another question is, what do I own? And what do they own? And just a reminder, right, that accountability includes two parts. So the responsibility of you know, like, if we’re thinking about in a professional context, the responsibility of the leader and the ownership by team members, right, so accountability is always a two way street. And then of course, with these accountability boundaries, you’re gonna have to do the same thing, probably, that you have to do with time boundaries, which is you need to be willing to reassert the boundaries as needed.
Dr. Melissa Smith 24:41
Okay, so now let’s talk about some solutions, some help for you. Right? And so I want to talk about three keys to help you be a more balanced giver in your relationships. Because again, right there are so many gifts that come with being a giver, right? Like these Individuals are gems like you love being around these folks. And so we want you to be a balance giver. So you can retain the gifts and the strengths that come along with being a giver, without undermining yourself without depleting yourself. And so key one is focus on where, okay, so I want you to ask yourself, where am I the giver? Okay? So you could do this by making a list, you could take some time in journal, you could just think about it, you could do a voice memo, but look at your relationships and identify the balance in your relationships. Are you the giver in all of your relationships? Or is there more balance with give and take? So identify the relationships where you are the giver? And with those relationships, I want you to ask, you know, the question of do you notice any patterns about these relationships? Do you notice any patterns about these individuals, right? Because that could be a thing that could be specific to them, that could be specific to that relationship dynamic, it could be specific to you because you want to be a giver, everywhere you go. And then identify the relationships where there is more balance, right? So you have some examples of some balanced relationships, even if you are a giver. So what do you notice about these relationships? What do you notice about these individuals?
Dr. Melissa Smith 26:23
And so you know, just quickly, so I’m friends with a lot of helping professionals, right. So we’ve got a lot of givers among us, and certainly not all helping professionals are givers. Let me just say that very clearly. That right, there’s a tendency, among me and some of my friends to be giving a lot in relationships. And so one of the ways that I’ve even noticed this with one of my good friends that we’ve balanced, that is, we take turns, right? And so, you know, maybe a friend shares some of what’s going on with her. And then she’ll say, but what about you? Let’s talk about you for a few minutes, right? And it’s, it’s actually like, those are some of the words that we say. And it’s a way that we really kind of help with those boundaries, because we recognize there can be a tendency to be the giver. And you know, these are just good basic communication and interaction and relationship skills. But they’re not always intuitive. So we do want to think about them. So when you think about the balanced relationships that you have, can you identify specific factors that contribute to more balance in these relationships.
Dr. Melissa Smith 27:38
So, for example, the one I just shared having a friend that, who always asked me how I’m doing right, so if there’s a conversation, I can see she makes the effort to check in with me as well. And that’s great. Maybe something that you notice in the balanced relationships is that you respect time boundaries with this individual or they respect yours. You know, another sign that you might see in more balanced relationships is that the other individual asks for clarification about boundaries, and expresses good intent. So says, Hey, I don’t want to take up more of your time, I want to be respectful of what is or is not going to work for you. And so that’s awesome.
Dr. Melissa Smith 28:23
And then another thing to pay attention to, when you think about your more balanced relationships, is to ask who is holding the boundary? Right? Is it all you like? Are you having to put in quite a bit of effort to hold the boundaries? Is it the other person? Right? are they holding the boundaries? where maybe you are not? And then, you know, certainly there can be the mutual responsibility for holding boundaries. And of course, that’s where we that’s the sweet spot. That’s what we really want to pay attention to. But to ask that question, who is holding the boundaries?
Dr. Melissa Smith 28:59
Okay, so that is the first key. So you focus on where and ask yourself, where am I the giver? And now we are going to move to key two, and that is focus on why. So this is where I want you to get even more self reflective, and ask yourself, why am I the giver? Okay, so we really want you to get curious about your giver role. So if you notice that most places you go, you are the giver, you need to ask yourself, how does this keep happening? Like why am I always the giver? So do others put you in that giver role? Or do you put yourself in that role? So sometimes we move to that giver role, because it feels good to have an answer. And it’s a way that we can feel useful. Sometimes we might have a belief that in order to be a good friend, we must be exceedingly helpful. And so you know, the thing that you need to know here is that pressure to be the giver will weigh down your relationships and prevent genuine connection. Right? So a lot of times people mistakenly believe that by being a giver, they’re creating genuine connection. And it’s actually the exact opposite. Initially that can happen. But over time, the relationship becomes unbalanced. And it being a giver weighs down your relationship because you’re not getting your needs met in that relationship, and then of course, the stress and the pressure and the overwhelm from needing to be the giver. Okay, so we don’t want that happening. So that was key to focus on why ask yourself, why am I the giver? And now let’s look at key three, which is focus on what, okay, and I want you to ask yourself, what can I do to start stepping out of the giver role? Okay, so like I’ve mentioned being a balanced giver is great, but this assumes good boundaries and shared responsibility in relationships. So we want to help you to begin to step out of the role of the unbalanced giver.
Dr. Melissa Smith 31:07
Okay, so how do you start to step out of this role? So first of all, I would say one tiny step at a time, start with one individual, start slowly and build confidence from there. some specific things that you can do so right, like tactical things, refrain from volunteering, first, put a pause on group email replies, right, like somewhat let someone else reply first, when a request is made of you, say, can I get back to you, because this helps you to slow yourself down and think about what’s going to be a good fit for you. Rather than going for that dopamine hit and pleasing someone. You could also stay quiet in a group discussion instead of jumping in to be helpful. This is something that I tried to do because I’m a giver. I’m also pretty opinionated, maybe you’ve noticed that. And I’m an extrovert. So I love jumping into group discussions, like I love vibrant group discussions. But what I have found is that it’s helpful for me to self monitor, right? It’s helpful for me to quiet myself. And so be a curious observer in a room. What do you notice about others? What do you notice about yourself? What can you learn from these observations? Right? So what I have learned as I have done that is that others will figure it out, right? Like if there’s a challenge or a problem, when you give people space, and that’s a you know, there’s some good psychological safety, most of the time other people will figure it out, you learn that you don’t need to step in all the time, and you learn that there is value in actually stepping back. So how do you start to step out of this role? Right, again, another question, could be ask yourself, what is my responsibility? What is theirs? And then respect those different responsibilities really, and hold that.
Dr. Melissa Smith 32:43
So let’s think about how you lean into the vulnerability of connection while abandoning the false security of control. So when we have the unbalanced relationships, that can become a form of control instead of trust? Because right, it is, it’s vulnerable to have problems, it’s vulnerable to, you know, hat not have it all figured out. And so sometimes givers run the risk of, you know, not giving others in their lives, anything to connect to. And so it’s a way that they actually manage relationships instead of actually connecting. And so they’re leaning into the false control, the false control as a substitute for trust. And so you got to remind yourself that control is an illusion. And that control prevents real connection. So take a deep breath, and then be genuine. Right? And so some things to just pay attention to, is, you know, can you trust that you bring value to a relationship, even if you don’t have all the answers, recognizing that empathy is often what’s most helpful for others, they don’t need you to solve their problem. You can empathize without agreeing, you can seek understanding. Also, do not underestimate the power of active listening. It’s incredibly valuable. And remember that most people simply want validation, they they actually might not want your opinion. When you move into problem solving mode, the individual and their needs actually run the risk of being pushed to the side, because the focus is on you being a great problem solver, not you really seeing and hearing the individual so you want to be so cautious about that. They just become an object on your stage where you are performing and that’s not good. That really is is not good. So can you let others show up for you as well right. So as we think about Stepping out of the giver role. So can you acknowledge your needs? Can you ask for help? Can you let others be generous with you, I think that is lovely. Remind yourself that having needs does not make you weak, it makes you human. And remember that we all need a little help from time to time. And that’s where we connect. These are the moments where meaningful connection is most likely.
Dr. Melissa Smith 35:27
And then the last thing is, can you allow yourself to be seen and known? So right, like take a deep breath. This is where we move into vulnerability. And remember that vulnerability doesn’t have to mean a self disclosure, although it can. So we just focus on not filtering, guarding or protecting and being your self, right, so that’s what it means to be vulnerable, that vulnerable that’s what it means to be genuine. And so those are the three keys to help you. Right? So the first one is focus on where ask yourself, where am I the giver so you can understand that a little bit better. The second key is focus on why ask yourself why am I the giver? Like what am I getting from that? And then the third key is to focus on what ask yourself what can I do to start stepping out of the giver role? or What can I do to step out of the giver role that might be a little less clunky there.
Dr. Melissa Smith 36:19
So head on over to my website to check out the show notes with the resources for this episode. I will link to the last episode a couple of weeks ago on the five people you need in your corner, and you can find all of that at www.drmelissasmith.com/giver so G-I-V-E-R one more time that’s www.drmelissasmith.com/giver. I’m Dr. Melissa Smith. Remember, love and work, work and love. That’s all there is. Until next time, take good care.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai