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Part: IV People Who Ask Too Much > The Give-and-Take Paradox

Chapter 22. The Give-and-Take Paradox

You probably know the give-and-take paradox very well. Regardless of your occupation, someone may ask you to use your skill to do something for him or her. Or you may ask someone to use his or her skill to help you out. The problem comes in distinguishing when you should help out or expect the other person to help as a favor, and when that help becomes a service for which you or the other person should get paid. What makes this give-and-take paradox so tricky is that different people have different views about where to draw the line between what they give freely and what they feel it fair to charge for. Different industries have different guidelines, too. Conversely, different people and industries have varying expectations about what to expect.

People in some professions, for example, are especially likely to complain about being hit by a brain drain when they meet people at social events. At a cocktail party a man says he's a lawyer, and people have all kinds of questions about whether they have a case and what to do about it. A woman introduces herself as a doctor at a reception, and people ask her to diagnose this or that symptom or give them advice on how to treat a problem. The professional may not really want to answer, but if he or she tries to cut off the questions or invites people to contact them later for a consultation—meaning "Pay me for my services," people often get offended. Given this dilemma, some follow a strategy of not revealing their profession, such as one career counselor, who never said what he did. "Otherwise the evening would turn into one long counseling session."


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