When it comes to persuasion, there are a few tools and ideas that we as young professionals and active citizens would be well served to understand. Reciprocity happens to be one of those concepts. People utilize reciprocity as a persuasive tool on a daily basis, and often without even realizing it. Even when our intentions are pure, and we expect nothing in return, the simple act of gift giving inspires a feeling of guilt which can often lead to a “return the favor” mindset from the recipient. For example, if you and a friend go to lunch and your friend picks up the tab, you may be inclined to say that you will get the next one. One of the more interesting aspects of reciprocity is that it is not a zero-sum game. The bill they picked up may have only been $15.00, but that generally doesn’t stop you from picking up the next one at $25.00 and feeling that you are now even.
Here are some ways to use reciprocity to give you an advantage in work, home, and life:
1. Lend your neighbor a hand, even when they do not ask for it. If you see them moving something heavy, walk over and help. If you see them shoveling snow, offer them the use of your snow blower. Outside of feeling good about being helpful, you will be amazed at the good will a simple gesture can generate. The next time that you need help, the probability of them providing assistance drastically increases.
2. Bring in donuts for the office. Another simple gesture that can make your colleagues go out of their way to help you, and can even assist in turning a hostile environment into a manageable one. The key here is to gift sparingly so that it does not become an expectation. If you bring the donuts in each Friday, the gesture loses its surprise element and becomes ineffective.
3. Send a client a card. Don’t make it a holiday or thank you card, but more of an “I appreciate you” card. Sound funny? The most effective car salesman of all time sent each of his clients. Not only did he tap into reciprocity, but also into concepts of liking. Carefully consider your message as this may not be appropriate in all instances, but the idea is the same.
These are a few ideas to help you begin thinking about your own ways to tap into the principle of reciprocity. The power of this simple gift can be very useful in getting a favorable response from your recipient. Do you have an example that you can share with us, or perhaps how this has been used against you? Share them on our Facebook and Twitter pages. We want to hear from you!