The Caring Catch

I was on fire for helping people, I worked fulltime in a group home, another position in a psychiatric unit while also carrying a full load at school. I wanted to learn everything possible about the psychology of people, hone my skills, and give fully to those in need. I dreamed of a world where I could make a difference in people’s lives.

After my time as a mental health counselor and having graduated from college, I segued into nonprofit management. The same burning desire to help the masses overflowed in me. I mobilized massive local and statewide events, wrote newspaper articles, created opportunities for educational programming, and forged relationships with news stations to promote the work I was doing in the community.

I loved this work of making a difference, I cared so deeply.

During these years, others recognized my drive to effect change in my community. I had multiple friends, coworkers, business associates, and previous coworkers call and ask for help on projects, “Could I take a few hours to speak to you about my group?”, “Can you help me write this grant?”, publish this article...the requests were never-ending.

At the time, I felt I had to say yes, I loved giving, this is what I “had” to do, right?

Eventually, it happened. I collapsed in exhaustion. I was working 50-60 hour weeks for organizations and on my off time doing the same work for individuals who needed something from me. Ultimately, I was so drained, I grew a resentment to the industry, and I stepped away.

In the years that followed, I ashamedly admit, I said no to volunteering for opportunities that were right up my alley thinking, “I did this for years! I don’t HAVE to do this now.”  

This has played out in many different professions I’ve held in my dream of making a difference:

-Can you write me a recipe for…?

-Can you help me write this letter for benefits…?

-Can you just tell me how to lose weight….?

-Can you teach me how to build quality ads….?

-Can you tell me where I should steer my nutrition….?

-Can you tell me how to build a business….?

-Can you tell me how to…..?

Can you relate?

“Those who accomplish more than their fair share of missions are asked to accomplish more than their fair share of missions.”

Over the years, I recognized my albeit, immature reaction in resenting certain industries or individuals, the responsibility lied squarely on my shoulders. Adam Grant in his book Give & Take, explains how this happens. Selfless givers can become resentful, turning away entirely from giving, or worse yet, become a “Taker”, someone who truly only takes when and what they need.

This is what I call the caring catch. The place where you feel you’re stuck always giving, on the edge of resentment and burnout, and fearful of how you will be perceived if you express your ill-feelings.

What I learned is I had the expertise others sought out; friend, coworker, whoever they were, I also had the choice to create healthy boundaries and expectations of my time and still show my deep care for them.

That’s when I discovered I could be an “otherish-giver”, “...otherish givers are smart and strategic about their giving. While they’re just as much givers as the selfless givers, they’ve learned to successfully navigate a world with matchers and takers, so others don’t take advantage of them.”

I can freely give my time knowing my expertise will greatly benefit others. However, I can also expect individuals in my life to VALUE my expertise. I can be strategic in my giving and promote healthier boundaries.

This is why I implemented “in-kind” coaching. This allows me to create boundaries with individuals who may be matchers or takers. This also helps me to root out individuals who may simply be taking advantage.

In-kind coaching is the opportunity for an individual who has routinely asked for my expertise to give freely, meaning, I simply ask “I’d love for you consider an “in-kind” payment, pay whatever you feel is commiserate with the time and expertise you have received from me today.” 

This does two things for me.

1. Who are you?

Takers and some Matchers will react poorly to in-kind. This is an automatic boundary creating tool as well as an identifier in whom I am working with. In-kind gives me the choice to selflessly give my “yes”, strategically say “yes”, or “no more”.

2. Insight.

Being a natural giver, I may at times feel burnt out and resentful. By implementing in-kind I have many people say “Yes, you’re absolutely right, you’ve helped me so much!” This gives me the insight that not EVERYONE is a Taker, and I may be feeling this way because I need to ease back, create more solid boundaries, unplug, rest and recharge.

The other day I was with my friend. Her folks were in town and her mom starting asking me a myriad of questions, taking out a pencil and piece of paper to write down whatever I told her. I took a deep breath, I really just wanted to chat and enjoy my glass of wine. Before I could speak my friend said, “Mom! Stop, this is her job. Don’t do this to her.” At that moment, her mom said, “You’re absolutely right, I’m sorry Piper. Let me offer…”

My friend showed me that mutual respect for the HUMAN: friend, coworker, etc and EXPERT is possible. She also showed me there is nothing wrong with giving but, there is something also to be said about giving in-kind when you certainly would pay for the expertise with anyone else.  

Consider this next time, are you a selfless giver being taken advantage of? Are you asking too much of someone in your life? How about being strategic and becoming an “otherish-giver” by implementing tools to help you create boundaries, make a decision to continue in partnership with the individual, continue in your caring and stave off collapse.


Piper Harris is a Leadership Success coach, business owner, author, wife, and mom on a quest to coach women and women-led organizations in successful leadership. Whether women are leading in their homes, as an entrepreneur, or CEO. Piper believes every woman is called to lead.

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