As the philosopher Christian B. Miller has written, for an act to be an instance of true generosity, a “person’s motives in donating have to be primarily altruistic, or concerned with the well-being of those who would be helped, regardless of whether the donor will benefit in the process.” The person who only comes around when they need something from you is, by nature, a sh-tty persuader. People like that suck the life out of us. When their name appears in our inbox, our day automatically gets a little more meh and we roll our eyes. And when they tap on our office door, we immediately think, “Jesus, what does this dude want now?” That person is going to have a hard time winning you over under the best of circumstances.
On the other hand, an individual who leaves you just slightly better off every time you encounter him or her is precisely the person who is likely to get your attention when they come to you with a proposition, need a favor, or want to change your mind about something. How do you become this type of person? Simple. Every time you interact with someone — whether it’s at a business meeting or at a family gathering, at a ball game or on a dinner date — try to give something away. Treat all of your encounters as a chance to be generous.
If you commit to doing this, you’ll find that generosity comes in many forms. You can be generous with money and always pay the bill, but money is actually the least meaningful thing you can give away. If you go into every encounter thinking, “What can I contribute? How can I give away something valuable?,” the answer usually falls into a few basic categories.