Emotion & Objectivity: How to Balance Both for the Best Outcome

I am reading a really fascinating book called Give And Take By Adam Grant. In the book, Grant states that he believes that people can be behaviorally broken up into three categories: Givers, Matchers, and Takers. Givers, Grant states, are those who give to others more than they receive on a regular basis. Takers are those who take more than give, and matchers pursue interactions and outcomes that are even. No matter what category someone finds themselves, Grant states that balance is required to improve behaviors and personal outcomes. I just read this quote and it got me thinking,

“Just as matchers will sacrifice their own interests to punish takers who act selfishly toward others, they’ll go out of their way to reward givers who act generously toward others.”

Could it be that matchers are more malleable and influenced by givers and takers? The act of punishing is generally seen as an emotional justice rather than objective one. While our emotions play a vital role in making wise decisions, the purely emotional decisions we make are often self-centered and focused on the immediate outcome. In this way, punishment and purely emotional justice would be the behavior of a taker. There is a story of a Native American tribe in which an individual from outside the tribe murdered an individual within the tribe. While the family of the murdered man pleaded with the chief to execute the murderer as punishment, the chief, after listening carefully to everyone who spoke, decided that the murderer should be taken into the tribe and to be “loved as the one who was taken from us was loved.” In response to his decision, the murderer lost his composure and broke down sobbing. This act of giving and loving; of acceptance and belonging, taught the man more than any punishment would. A matcher following the taking role would have pushed for an eye for an eye and had the man executed. However, the chief pursued the giving role. He took the emotion and struggle of the situation and matched it with objective problem-solving. Giving does not have to be naive; in fact, it rarely is. The issue is that we mistake idealism with naivety. In fact, I believe that the most pressing issue is that matchers may be the least objective of the three personalities; allowing their emotions to dictate their actions and reactions.

I feel that to best explain the interaction of Matchers with Takers and Givers is through two spectrums in conjunction.

Givers, Matchers, & Takers

When I began reading Give And Take, I imagined the three personalities like this:


This gradient would show the amount of giving that an individual does and that we all land somewhere on this line.

However, taking into account the thought that Matchers may be the more emotional of the three, I believe that Grant is actually trying to explain the spectrum as this:


In this spectrum, we focus on what CBT therapists would call the level of “mindfulness.” With the emotional mind on the left (Matchers) and rational mind on the right (takers), the center of the gradient would be a balance of both emotional mind and rational mind, creating the “wise” mind.*

With Matchers being more easily swayed by their emotional response to the actions of others, they respond in a quid pro quo fashion. Takers, on the other side of the spectrum, focus on calculated actions that focus on their own outcomes. Both Matchers and Takers are acting out of a fundamentally selfish perspective, as their actions are more short-sighted. That is, they look to an end or an accomplishment that is foreseeable from their actions. This puts Givers right in the middle.

The importance of balance

In the same way, that emotion and objectivity individually can pose a challenge. While the balance of both is ideal, Matchers and Takers can pose challenges to those around them and even themselves, but the Giver mentality is ideal. Givers, as stated before, are rarely naive, and they are even more rarely calculating. They are a perfect balance of the motivations for Takers and Givers, which creates a beautiful symmetry of both strengths with neither of their weaknesses.

Givers are altruistic in nature, focusing on how to benefit others because it makes the world a better place. This perspective would not be possible without connecting to the human element and utilizing emotion as a fuel for our rational, objective engine. It is why we do things that drive change, but it is how and what we do that puts that change into action.

If you would like to learn more, I encourage you to pick up his book. You can find it here.




*terms “Emotional Mind,” “Rational Mind,” and “Wise Mind,” are from a psychoeducational treatment called Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT).

Posted in Improvement, Leadership, Team Development, Uncategorized.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.