Give and take, take and give, give give give, take take take. This is something that people very frequently mess up. Learning how to be kind and generous, avoiding thoughtlessness and assholery while also not becoming a passive-aggressive dirt-encrusted doormat is somewhat tricky, especially for women. Women are generally the nurturers in society – not to say that men can’t be – but most men are not, let’s say, as connected to others’ needs. Let’s set up a scenario wherein a women is returning home from grocery shopping, which usually plays out in one of two ways:


Woman: (struggling to carry six grocery bags full of meat, beer, chips, dip, and more meat) MMMPHH! URRGH! UHHHHHHNNG!

Man: (glances up at her, continues watching TV)

Woman: (carries in second load of groceries, this time stomping feet) MMMMMPHHHH! URRRRGH! UHHHHHHNGG!!!!!

Man: (changes channel)

Woman: (begins to put groceries away, very loudly) SIGH! POUT!

Man: Could you keep it down? There’s gonna be a live building implosion on channel 14 soon.

Woman: (small blood vessel spontaneously bursts in brain, reminds herself to withhold all “favors” for the foreseeable future)


Woman: (struggling to carry six grocery bags, etc.) MMPHH! URRGH! Could you help me bring in the groceries, please?


Woman: (throws economy-size can of cut corn at head of Man; video production team from “COPS” arrives at front door)

Those folks aren’t going to change, so what can you do to get it right? How do you give without depleting your own resources, and how do you take without being a selfish creep? You gotta walk a FINE LINE, my friends, a tightrope, do a balancing act, and other tired clichés.

How To Give Effectively:

1. Know yourself: Know how much time and effort you can give out to other people. Set the cut-off point right before you start to feel put-upon, used, or exhausted. Practice saying, “No, I can’t, I am sorry,” with a real smile. Practice saying, “Sure, how can I help?” with a real smile.

2. Know what you are good at giving: If you try to give something you don’t really have to give, you will quickly get in trouble. Don’t give money if you are not doing so well yourself or if you actually expect to get it back, don’t offer to help a kid with math if you are unable to add yourself, don’t give your time if it means you will be chronically sleep-deprived trying to fit everything in, causing you to drive into a tree. Do offer to share any special talents or experience that you have, unless it is illegal in most northern states.

3. Praise specifically: Give praise that is meaningful. “Oh, that’s wonderful! Everything you do is great!” quickly becomes unheard. “I like the way you structured that paragraph,” or “The colors you picked are so pretty together,” or “I am so proud that you didn’t impregnate that slore of a girlfriend, son, way to go!” gives real feedback to the recipient.

4. Be aware: Not everyone is good at asking for help when they need it. Do a little daily survey around you. If you have a friend or family member festering on the couch, and when you ask them how they are doing they blurt out, “FINE! JUST FINE! THANKS SO MUCH FOR ASKING!” you might want to offer some kind of assistance. You also might want to ask them if you should just leave for a few days.

5. Recognize the Soul-Sucking Vampire: There are people in this world who will take and take and take and take, and then they will take and take and then take, until you cut them off. It’s never enough, and they will go from person to person with their sob stories until they have left a trail of human piles, just dusty folds of skin and clothing plopped there, all dried up. Don’t be fooled; you are the Titanic survivor and they are a 5000-lb. weight looking to tie on to your ducky float ring.

How To Take Effectively:

1. Ask specifically: Even your mother isn’t a mind-reader. If you need help, don’t expect anyone to necessarily recognize that and all white-horse swoop you. Define what you need, figure out the right person to ask, and set a limit to it. Asking “Can I get a ride to work from you this week? My car is in the shop. I can help with gas,” will get you a much better response than “WAAAAAAAA! MY LIFE SUCKS!”

2. Be humble and gracious, but not unctuous: Thank people for what they do for you, but don’t smother them with gratitude. It’s annoying to be over-thanked.

3. Ask nicely: Obviously, “Can you help me with the toilet? It’s stopped up,” is much better than, “CHRIST! IT REEKS IN HERE! GO FIX THE SHITTER ALREADY!”

4. Observe and learn: Pay attention to the people helping you. If you can learn to do what they are doing, then the next time you screw up, you can help yourself.

5. Don’t be a Soul-Sucking Vampire: We all know how nice and comforting it is to have people coddle us and tell us that we are grand and listen to us whine while making us a nice dinner and giving us 50 bucks. However, if all you do is look to others to solve your problems and make you feel better and give you stuff, you aren’t going to have anything but dusty inanimate piles of human around you and you will have to put “Professional Selfish Creep” on your tax form. Fix your own shitter sometimes, baby.

Make sure your tightrope is securely fastened on both ends. Start walking.