Are you a Giver or a Taker?

Have you ever signed up for a workshop and found yourself questioning your decision midway through? I certain have and it’s happened on more than one occasion.

The story I’m about to tell you is one of those “I can’t believe I signed up for this!” experiences. An experience, I might add, that had a profound impact on who I am today and how I show up in the presence of others.

The Story

Every time I entered the large hotel conference room, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. You see, after every break during this three-day intensive workshop, the instructors would completely change-up the room to accommodate the next exercise/experience. This time was no different. The room had been completely cleared out with the exception of ninety-five chairs, neatly placed in a large circle in the center of the meeting

 Now what are they going to make us do? I thought, still a little apprehensive about being there.

The room felt cold as we were instructed to quickly take a seat. I looked around the circle, exchanging nervous nods to anyone that would look back. Within a couple of minutes every chair was filled. The doors slammed shut. It was 2pm exactly.

A stern voice bellowed out over the sound system. “Please number off.”

Immediately from one end of the circle I could hear the faint, “One…Two…Three,” and so on until the ascending numbers came my way like falling dominos. “Sixty-two,” I yelled, thankful I was still paying attention. Within seconds all ninety-five of us had our numbers.

“Now take out a pen and pad of paper and divide you sheet into two columns. Label the first column Giver and the second column Taker.”

He continued. “In just a minute we will form two circles. The outer circle will remain seated while the inner circle will be standing and moving to their right. For those of you in the inner circle, you are to look at each person and say Giver or Taker and then move on to the next person.  There will be conversation. For those of you in the outer circle, you are to keep a running count of your Giver and Taker scores. Once everyone in the inner circle has provided feedback to everyone in the outer circle, we will reverse the circles and continue the process until everyone has given and received feedback from everyone else. Do you understand?”

Young Businesswoman Standing Out

 We all nodded.

“What? I didn’t hear you!”

A resounding Yes! filled the room.


Before I could look up, a participant was standing in front of me, gazing at me with uncertainty. He paused.

“Let’s go, let’s go!” yelled a nearby instructor.

“Taker.” His apologetic eyes moved to the next participant on my left.

Taker! I thought to myself. Are you serious! I’m not a taker!

A woman who I briefly talked with came by next. “Taker.”

OMG! What’s going on here!

Then Jack, a member from my small group came through. Surely he’ll give me a Giver. He knows me for Pete’s Sake!


I gazed down at the floor in confusion. What am I missing here!

As each participant shuffled by, so did my distorted scores…Taker, Taker, Giver, Taker, Giver, Taker, Taker, Taker…and on it went.

By the end, I felt as if someone had punched me in the stomach. How could people be so wrong about me! I lamented. I knew I was a Giver…or so I thought. Something was wrong. Why, even my small group…the group of people who I thought knew me…primarily scored me as a Taker.

Just then the lead instructor’s voice came over the sound system. “Now add up your scores in both columns.” He paused. “Once you’ve done that, I’d like you to rearrange yourself in the circle beginning with highest to lowest scores in the Giver category. Quickly now!”

I could only shake my head. Are you serious! I’m already humiliated internally and now I get to be humiliated in front of everybody. Can this workshop get any better!

thinking businessman

Bodies began moving in all directions as people frantically compared scores to find their spot. It had that organized chaos feeling of lining up for a Southwest flight; only this time I clearly wasn’t going to be in the “A” group.

I gazed at my score of 33 for the Giver category. A large gentleman was seated in the second-to-last seat, looking dejected. “What’s your number?” I asked, trying to downplay this exercise.

“Twenty-eight,” he replied. “You?”

“Thirty-three,” I said apologetically, like I had done something wrong.

”You’re next to me then,” as he pointed to the seat on his left. “Welcome to the losers!”

To add insult to injury, just as everyone found their seats, the instructor entered the circle and asked us all to recite our Giver scores, beginning with the highest score on down to the lowest score.

At this point all I could think about was where the nearest exit doors were. I wondered if someone would try to tackle me if I made a break for it before my turn came. Would anyone really care if I just left? I thought as I scanned the room. What I did know at that moment was that I would rather have been anywhere than where I was. I was not happy and I wanted out!

To be continued next week…


  1. March 17th, 2013

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