May 6, 2021

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Reluctant Kindness – New Study Looks at the Motives Behind Excessively…

Giving until it hurts can lead to unhappiness.

Reluctant givers are generous to a fault – they’re also insecure, unassertive, and unhappy.

When an act of kindness is not appreciated or reciprocated, or is done out of obligation, it can lead to bitterness.

From a very early age, people are taught that it is better to give than to receive. While being generous does offer psychological and social benefits, there is such a thing as being too kind. When researchers at PsychTests’ explored the personality profile of “reluctant altruists” – people who consistently put others’ needs ahead of their own to the point where they feel resentment, anger, or discomfort – they discovered that at the source of their extreme self-sacrificing behavior lies a cluster of personal hang-ups.

Analyzing data collected from 12, 259 people who took the Emotional Intelligence Test, PsychTests’ researchers examined two distinct groups: Reluctant Givers, who are grudgingly altruistic, and Conditional Givers, who are willing to help when they can, but not at the cost of their own well-being. Here’s where they differed:

(Note: Scores run on a scale from 0 to 100)


> More likely to ruminate, which means they can spend hours guilt-tripping themselves into helping someone…or stewing in resentment when they actually do (Rumination score of 62 vs. 33 for Conditional Givers, a 29-point difference).

> Plagued by low self-esteem and self-doubt (score of 55 vs. 81 for Conditional Givers, a 26-point difference).

> Less assertive (score of 44 vs. 66 for Conditional Givers, a 22-point difference).

> Less confident (score of 54 vs. 72 for Conditional Givers, an 18-point difference).

> More likely to crave approval from others, sometimes bending over backwards to get it (score of 48 vs. 26 for Conditional Givers, a 22-point difference).

> Less satisfied with their lives (score of 51 vs. 72 for Conditional Givers, a 21-point difference).

> Less resilient (score of 64 vs. 79 for Conditional Givers, a 15-point difference).

> Uncomfortable dealing with emotionally charged situations or people, which means they are less likely to bring up their grievances for fear of causing an argument (score of 50 vs. 67 for Conditional Givers, a 17-point difference).

> Less skilled at resolving conflict (score of 64 vs. 73 for Conditional Givers, a 9-point difference).

> 14% of Reluctant Givers would compromise their values in order to keep a job (compared to 7% of Conditional Givers).

> 49% are not comfortable telling people how they feel (compared to 27% of Conditional Givers).

> 56% are not comfortable asking for what they want, even when they feel they deserve it (compared to 25% of Conditional Givers).

> 25% want kudos if they do a good deed (compared to 17% of Conditional Givers).

> 52% said that they want to be liked by everyone (compared to 29% of Conditional Givers).

> 37% would change their attitude, behavior, or appearance in order to please someone (compared to 11% of Conditional Givers).

> 61% will be the first to apologize even when they haven’t done anything wrong (compared to 24% of Conditional Givers).

> 27% believe that when a naïve person is taken advantage of, they should blame themselves, not the perpetrator (compared to 17% of Conditional Givers).

> 30% believe that people who go out of their way to be kind cannot be trusted (compared to 18% of Conditional Givers)!

“There is always a need for compassion and generosity in this world, but it shouldn’t feel like a burden,” explains Dr. Ilona Jerabek, president of PsychTests. “When an act of kindness is not appreciated or reciprocated, or is done out of obligation, it can lead to bitterness – and in this case, the giver has the option to either air their grievance or stop helping the person in question. However, the Reluctant Givers in our sample didn’t do either of these things…they just swallowed their resentment and kept giving and giving. All of this self-sacrificing can eventually become a psychological burden, if not a physical or financial one. In fact, 23% of Reluctant Givers were diagnosed with depression; 16% were not formally diagnosed but said that they often feel depressed.”

“Although we are strong proponents of empathy and kindness, we also advocate the importance of setting healthy boundaries. If someone frequently asks for your help but doesn’t reciprocate when you are in need, guilt-trips you into helping, or does not even make an effort to help themselves, and then makes you feel bad when you bring up the issue, then it’s time to curtail your altruism. By continuing to help, you are only enabling their behavior – and the person who is left unhappy in the end will always be you.”

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About PsychTests AIM Inc.

PsychTests AIM Inc. originally appeared on the internet scene in 1996. Since its inception, it has become a pre-eminent provider of psychological assessment products and services to human resource personnel, therapists and coaches, academics, researchers and a host of other professionals around the world. PsychTests AIM Inc. staff is comprised of a dedicated team of psychologists, test developers, researchers, statisticians, writers, and artificial intelligence experts (see

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