We typically expect reciprocation for our time and effort. In fact, many of us expect something in return to the point that if we don’t get it, we become disappointed, or even angry. We’ve been conditioned in our society to count on a return on our investments.
However, there are times when we want to give out of compassion or kindness. It is during these times when our hearts are involved. We give for the mere joy of giving. But there are people who appear to be giving, but are actually setting you up for the take! Those are the types of people I like to call SACs: Strings-Attached Contributors.
A Strings-Attached Contributor is a person who expects something in return for what appears to be a charitable, or kind gesture. SACs hold you to obligations set up by them. They are probably genuinely kind to you, and seemingly charitable. However, there’s a deep need in them for your repayment of their kindness.
So here’s a question for you: Are you a SAC?
We create our own misery in so many ways. One of those ways is through expectations. When we expect something is going to happen, and it doesn’t, our reaction to that event can cause a shift in our mood and stress levels. If you are waiting for those favors people “owe” you, you will live life miserably waiting.
Take the following quiz to find out if you are a SAC. Count up all your Yes answers, then see below for your results:
1. You drive a friend to the service garage to pick up his car. Then, a week later you need a few dollars for lunch. Do you ask that friend for the money because he’s more likely to say yes?
2. You hand write a Christmas card to your sister in another state, who never sends cards out herself. She calls and thanks you on Christmas day. Then a year goes by, and it’s Christmas again.
Do you expect to receive a card from her?
3. You send someone an email with a depressing story of a hospitalized child.
Do you expect to receive a return email commiserating with you on how sad the story is?
4. You notice a celebrity walking through the airport. You walk up to her, and ask her if she can get a picture with you. She says ‘no’. Do you have any ill feelings towards this person for not giving you <em?just a minute of their time?
5. You meet a reporter for Oprah magazine at a coffee shop. You have a great conversation. As a writer yourself, do you hand the reporter your article, hoping you’ll be published or even hired on at the magazine?
How many Yes answers did you get? Use the following guide to help you determine if you’re a SAC or not:
Zero Yes answers: You are not a SAC. No one owes you anything, and kind gestures and charitable gifts do not require acknowledgment, nor reciprocation. You give, then move on. You may loan people money knowing that it will never be paid back. You might even volunteer at different organizations because giving is in your heart. And you do it all out of compassion.
What this means for you is that you will not create your own misery. You won’t have any expectations, so you won’t have any lingering concerns, doubts, or stress. It doesn’t really exist in your life. You give when you feel like giving. And you walk away feeling good that you gave. It’s a win-win scenario for all involved.
1 – 2 Yes answers: You have SAC tendencies. Every now and then you think about that favor you did for someone, or that gift you purchased for them, and wonder if those people will one day return the favor. You may not be stressing over it, but you do wonder about it from time to time.
What this means for you is that occasionally you get that little negative, emotional poke from your subconscious mind. The kind of poke that reminds you that this person that owes you $5.00, or that person never said ‘thank you’.
You do give, and are charitable, but sometimes you’d like to know if the gift was received and enjoyed. You might even call and ask about the gift, “Did you hang it on your wall yet?”
3-4 Yes answers: You are an amateur SAC. You hold people to obligations that you define. You are likely to help an elderly gentleman change his tire without ever wanting repayment. But if you help change your coworker’s tire, you are definitely thinking about different ways for him or her to fulfill their obligation back to you.
What this means for you is that you will have trouble connecting with people. In fact, you might even believe you are very likable, but can’t figure out why you don’t have too many friends. You expect your emails to be answered the same day. You expect call backs within a couple hours. And you find yourself reminding people of favors that you did for them.
Your expectations of others can never be fulfilled, so you’re highly judgmental. If your coworker gets an extra day off, you believe you are also entitled to an extra day off. You are probably hard to please too.
5 Yes answers: You are a SAC, through and through. You believe time you spend on others should always be reciprocated in some way. You will remind your friends of the things you bought for them, or the favors that you’ve done for them. Nothing is really a gift or charity, it’s more of a manipulation. You ask yourself, “What’s in it for me?”, instead of , “How can I give?”
What this means for you is that you have a strong desperation for love and attention. You want others to know who you are. And you probably come across as brainy and all-knowing. If you send someone a message, you are offended, or even angry that they don’t respond quickly enough. You are highly stressed, and it is rare that a day comes where everything goes right.
You are also cynical, and probably have a lot of repressed anger. You don’t let people apologize without making them lose some dignity, and you’re probably a sore loser in competition (sorry for the harsh reality).
What do I do? Am I a lost cause?
If you’re above a zero, you can lower your score! That’s if you want to, however.
Some people are happy where they are. I’m a firm believer in, “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.” So if you are already in a place of low or no stress, and have some peace and balance in your life, then don’t worry if you’ve hit 4 out of 5 (but definitely start looking at yourself if you’re at a 5!)
Human behavior is complex. And a simple quiz in a blog doesn’t define you. It’s just a way to help you take a look at yourself to find out if there’s an issue that needs addressing. No matter where you are on the scale, there is one thing you can start doing to help lower your stress, and raise your happiness now:
Give something of value, then walk away.
When you can give like this, you will feel joy like you’ve never felt. If you give, but expect something in return, you add stress to your life. It’s unfinished business that you have to revisit in your mind over and over again. However, if you give then walk away, it’s closure. It’s completing the process; closing the loop, so it frees you to go forward into the future without lingering thoughts holding you to the past.
Give value with your words and your actions. This doesn’t mean you work for a company for free, that is different. That is a contract that you’ve both agreed to. Giving value, then walking away, simply allows you to let go of your expectations so that you don’t clutter your mind with unresolved, negative emotions.
When you stop indebting others to obligations, people will want to connect with you at a deeper level. And nothing can beat that return on your investment.