Getting What You Want By Giving What They Want

So our good friends at The National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia have released the findings from their latest national survey of marital happiness.

They surveyed 1,400 married couples and found that the level of generosity – or the amount of give and take that goes on in the relationship – is a key predictor of marital happiness.  Fifty percent of women and 46% of men who reported “above average generosity” in their marriages also described their relationships as “very happy.”

Ok, that’s pretty easy to understand.  My wife is happier with our union if I give to her.  Got it.

But there is more to the story.  Couples who reported “above average generosity” also reported high levels of sexual satisfaction.  And wives were more likely to report higher levels of sexual satisfaction if their husbands pitched in and were generous in doing household chores.  All husbands should take note – if you want a sexually satisfying marriage, start with emptying the dishwasher every now and then!

Granted, this research doesn’t answer the question of causation.  So, generosity may lead to better sex.  Or, better sex may lead to more generosity.  But that’s not the point.

Here’s the point – generosity is a powerful motivator.  In marriages and in any relationship.  Generosity is powerful because it is evidence to another person that we value them.  That we care.  That the other person is important.

And generosity begets more generosity, especially if we are generous in ways that others value.  The results of research completed at Stanford and Harvard confirm that people actually think of you more positively when you give them what they have asked for instead of what you think they will want.   So, the next time your mother-in-law puts “slippers” on her Christmas list, don’t get her a lovely necklace.  If it ain’t what she asked for, she probably won’t think you (or the gift) are all that special.

Why?  Because when we give something that someone has asked for it shows we listened to them and we cared enough to give something that they value.  They appreciate the giver of those gifts more than when they receive something unexpected.

Remember both of these research findings the next time you are generating major donor strategies.  If you want their gift, the first step is to extend generosity toward them in ways that they find meaningful.


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