Give and Take by Adam Grant Book Summary and PDF

Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success by Adam Grant [Book Summary & PDF]

Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success by Adam Grant is an interesting perspective on the three different types of people in life; givers, takers and matchers. By identifying and assessing the different characteristics of each, Grant provides an interesting insight onto who is actually more successful in life based on their approach. With real-life examples Grant offers plenty of useful advice on how to navigate situations and get the most out of them while also contributing to others.





Who is this book for?

This book is a great read for anyone interested in the psychology of success. If you want to become successful, but also treat others with a sense of fairness and add value in their lives, then this book will offer plenty of useful advice on how to get the most out of your network, while also contributing to it.

About the author

Adam Grant is an author and psychologist. He is a Professor of organisational psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. Grant has authored three New York Times bestsellers, including Give and Take, Originals and Option B. He hosts the podcast WorkLife and his TED talk on original thinkers & givers and takers has received more that 14 million views.

In this summary

Give and Take highlights what effective networking, collaboration, influence, negotiation, and leadership skills have in common. This landmark book opens up an approach to success that has the power to transform not just individuals and groups, but entire organizations and communities.



The author has identified three fundamental styles of social interaction: giving, taking, and matching.

Takers like to get more than they give. They put their own interests ahead of others’ needs, and they use reciprocity to their own advantage. Takers believe we live in a competitive, dog-eat-dog world.

Givers prefer to give more than they get, generously sharing their time, energy, knowledge, skills, ideas, and connections, for other people to benefit.

Most of us are Matchers, aiming for a fine balance between giving and taking. Matchers have high fairness standards: they do help others authentically, but they also protect themselves by seeking reciprocity.

”Success depends heavily on how we approach our interactions with other people. Every time we interact with another person at work, we have a choice to make: do we try to claim as much value as we can, or contribute value without worrying about what we receive in return?”


Through strong networks, people over the centuries have gained invaluable access to knowledge, expertise, and influence.

Protecting Your Network

To protect the enclosed value of our network, we tend to keep away the Takers, withholding our trust and help. However, many Takers have evolved into fake Givers or Matchers, in order to access networks of other people.

Takers are especially convincing around powerful people – they charm and flatter their way up. As they gain more power, though, they start paying less attention to how they’re perceived by their peers, overtime jeopardising their relationships and reputation.

To recognise a Taker in your network:

1. Access other networks to see how they have treated their peers.

2. Observe their actions & conversations for signs of self-glorification and self-absorption.

3. Use the power of the Internet to track down reputational information through public databases, shared connections, and social network profiles – words and photos can reveal profound clues about us.

The main element of a powerful, well-balanced network is reciprocity. To maintain a strong network built around reciprocity, ask yourself:

1. Do I really care about helping, or am I just trying to create quid pro quo so I can later ask for a favor? If yes, then people on the receiving end might feel like they’re being manipulated.

2. Do I help based on the attitude of “I’ll do something for you, if you do something for me”? This will narrow your network only to connections with an immediate benefit at least as great as the benefit you’ve offered in exchange. There’s so much more to it.

'Instead of trading value, aim to add value. You should be willing to do something that will take you five minutes or less for anybody.”Click To Tweet




Weak Ties & Acquaintances

Weak ties are acquaintances we know casually. Surprisingly, people are significantly more likely to benefit from their weak ties than their strong ones, because: Strong ties provide bonds; weak ties serve as bridges to new information, strong ties access the same social circles and opportunities as we do; weak ties open up access to different network and original leads. Yet, although weak ties are the fastest route to new leads, we don’t always feel comfortable asking for help, because of the lack of mutual trust.

To get the trust of strong ties, coupled with the novel information of weak ties, the keys are being a genuine Giver and reconnection. In other words, genuinely help people a lot, and, if you need something in the future, don’t hesitate to ask for help directly.

Most of us are Matchers, with an innate sense of fairness. If someone generously helped us a while ago, we will naturally go out of our way to give back and reciprocate.

Dormant Ties

Dormant ties are people you used to know well or see often, but with whom you have since fallen out of contact. Just like the weak ties, dormant ties, while you were out of touch, have been exposed to new ideas, perspectives, and opportunities.

When you reactivate a dormant tie through a short conversation, you will still have a feeling of trust, since there is already some common ground.


There is an immense value in surrounding ourselves with stars. In networking, Givers succeed significantly by recognising potential in others. To explain why, we need to understand that our beliefs create self-fulfilling prophecies.

For example, teachers’ beliefs that their students are bloomers beget high expectations for their success, resulting in supportive behaviours that boost the students’ confidence and enhances their learning and development.

However, Takers tend to hold relatively low expectations for the potential of their peers and subordinates. On the other hand, Matchers are better equipped to inspire self-fulfilling prophecies. When a person demonstrates high potential, they go out of their way to support, encourage, and develop them.

Yet, Matchers often wait to offer support until they’ve seen evidence of promise, missing out on people who don’t show a spark of high potential at first. Givers don’t wait for signs of potential. They tend to be trusting and optimistic about other people’s intentions, inclined to see the potential in everyone.

They view people as bloomers, investing a lot of their time encouraging and developing people to achieve this potential, even if these investments don’t always pay off.


We all use our influence skills, whether we want to convince others to buy our products, accept our ideas, or invest in us. The best kind of influence involves dominance (others see us as strong, powerful, and authoritative) and prestige (others respect and admire us). Takers are naturally only attracted to gaining dominance, striving to be superior to others and extract as much value as possible.

They exercise powerful communication by:

  • Speaking forcefully
  • Raising voices to assert authority
  • Selling with conviction and pride
  • Promoting their accomplishments
  • Raising their eyebrows in challenge
  • Displaying strength in dominant poses
  • Expressing certainty to project confidence
  • Commanding as much physical space as possible

The opposite style is called powerless communication, instinctively adopted by Givers, who tend to:

  • Speak less assertively
  • Reveal their weaknesses
  • Expressing plenty of doubt
  • Rely heavily on advice from others
  • Talk in ways that signal vulnerability
  • Make use of disclaimers, hedges, and hesitations

Surprisingly, the dominant style of Takers doesn’t always serve them well, while the style of Givers proves effective in building prestige. Let’s see how this happens.


For Takers, revealing weaknesses means compromising their dominance and authority. Givers build their prestige by making themselves vulnerable, mixed with other signals that establish their competence.


Takers might be convincing and pithy with their selling skills. However, Givers tend to ask questions out of natural interest in others, building trust and gaining deeper knowledge about their customers’ needs and how to sell them things they already value.

Persuading – Tentative Talk

Takers tend to use powerful communication, being assertive and direct, pressuring subordinates and ingratiating superiors. Givers tend to use tentative markers like “well,” “you know,” “kinda,” “maybe,” “this may be a bad idea, but,” “that’s a good idea, right?” sending a clear message to the audience that they lack confidence and authority. However, this style ears plenty of prestige, because it shows willingness to take on the audience’s point of view into consideration.

Seeking Advice

To a Taker, receptivity to advice sounds like a weakness. Givers benefit from seeking advice as a persuasive strategy for influencing people. Advice seeking combines expressing vulnerability, asking questions, and talking tentatively and it’s powerful because it helps advisers look at the issue from the Giver’s point of view.


There are two types of Givers:

  1. Selfless Givers, with high other-interest and low self-interest. They usually pay a price for it.
  2. Otherish Givers, who are willing to give more than they receive AND have ambitious goals for advancing their own interests.

To become a successful Giver, without wasting time to Takers who extract value and move on, you need to be systematic in how you help others:

  • Pay more attention to who is asking
  • Pay attention to how they treat you
  • Make a list of reasons to say no.

Tit for Tat

Selfless Givers make the mistake of trusting others all the time, while Otherish Givers use a generous tit for tat strategy; they trust as a default assumption, but adjust their reciprocity level when someone appears to be a Taker by action or reputation.

When dealing with Takers, Otherish Givers shift into Matcher mode as a self-protective strategy, but once out of every three times, they shift back into Giver mode, granting so-called Takers the opportunity for redemption.

The Scrooge Shift

In group settings, Givers avoid being exploited by developing a norm of giving amongst the members – even if they’re more inclined to be Takers or Matchers elsewhere.

What tilts group members in the Giver direction?

Fitting In & Standing Out

We constantly look for ways to fit in and stand out. A popular way to achieve optimal distinctiveness is to join a unique group.

  • Being a part of a group with shared interests, identities, goals, values, skills, characteristics, or experiences gives us a sense of connection and belonging, satisfying our need to fit in.
  • At the same time, being part of a group that is clearly distinct from other groups gives us a sense of uniqueness, differentiation, and individuality, covering our urge to stand out.

A Culture of Direct Requests

The vast majority of giving occurs in response to direct requests for help. In a group setting, people feel comfortable making a request, because there’s little reason to be embarrassed.

  • Matchers are drawn in by empathy and sense of fairness.
  • Takers act like Givers in a public setting, because they’ll gain reputational benefits for being generous in sharing their knowledge, resources, and connections. If they don’t contribute, they look stingy and selfish, and they won’t get much help with their own requests.


The orientation toward giving, with a few adjustments, can enable people to rise to the top. Focus your attention and energy on making a difference in the lives of others, and success will follow as a by-product.

Whereas Takers view success as attaining results that are superior to others’ and Matchers see success in terms of balancing individual accomplishments with fairness to others…

Givers characterise success as individual achievements that have a positive impact on others.

“Givers get to the top without cutting others down, finding ways of expanding the pie that benefit themselves and the people around them.”

In a business context, if success required benefiting others, Takers and Matchers would be more inclined to find Otherish ways to advance personal and collective interests simultaneously.

By shifting in the Giver direction at work, we will find our waking hours marked by greater success, richer meaning, and more lasting impact.

“Givers get to the top without cutting others down, finding ways of expanding the pie that benefit themselves and the people around them.”Click To Tweet




Key takeaways

  • There are three fundamental styles of social interaction: giving, taking, and matching (aiming for a balance between giving and taking).
  • Instead of trading value, aim to add value.
  • Givers succeed significantly by recognising potential in others.
  • Through vulnerability, asking questions, and talking tentatively, Givers benefit from powerless communication to build prestige and influence.
  • Successful Givers are willing to give more than they receive AND have ambitious goals for advancing their own interests.
  • Givers characterise success as individual achievements that have a positive impact on others.

Further reading

Grit by Angela Duckworth. Winningly personal, insightful and powerful, Grit is a book about what goes through your head when you fall down, and how that – not talent or luck – makes all the difference.

The Magic of Thinking Big contains the secrets to getting the most out of your job, your marriage and family life. The book illustrates how you don’t need to be incredibly intelligent or unique to have the success you want, you simply need to think in a way that cultivates success. By thinking big you can motivate yourself to improve your work life, earn more money and get more happiness and fulfilment out of life.

Guidelines is my eBook that summarises the main lessons from 33 of the best-selling self-help books in one place. It is the ultimate book summary; Available as a 80-page ebook and 115-minute audio book. Guidelines lists 31 rules (or guidelines) that you should follow to improve your productivity, become a better leader, do better in business, improve your health, succeed in life and become a happier person.

Action steps

  1. Assess yourself to understand if you’re a Giver or a Taker.
  2. Download the discussion guide and answer/discuss the questions.
  3. Actively look for ways to add more value to other people daily, instead of trading or extracting it.
  4. Download the complete book on Amazon.

This summary is not intended as a replacement for the original book and all quotes are credited to the above mentioned author and publisher.