When someone smiles at you, do you smile back?
If your friend bought the drinks last time you went out, do you feel the need to be the one to do so next time?
If someone shouts at you for accidently parking in their parking space, do you feel inclined to be just as rude back?
If you answered yes to any of the above, reciprocity is in action in your life.
Reciprocity is the act, process or situation in which one person has received a positive or negative from another, and in return chooses to provide an equivalent back.
You may have noticed that I highlighted the word ‘chooses,’ because in my opinion, the key to reciprocation is altruism – giving with no expectation of a reward. Rather than the ‘you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours’ approach, and definitely not needing to reciprocate when it’s negative.
In his book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Robert Cialdini references ‘Reciprocity’ as what he considers to be one of the most important, yet often unrecognised factors inherent in the art and practice of influence and persuasion.
I have found that the better I am at giving, the more I gain in the most unexpected ways. For example; the woman who wanted an hour of my time to chat about her options after being made redundant, who ten years later booked me for my biggest ever speaking gig, or the company whose board I sat on who then recommended me to a connection that has opened many doors for me, or the neighbours whose parcels I take in, who then feed my cat when I am away.
In these situations, I gave because I could, without conditions or trying to predict future potential rewards that may come from it, but they did come.
There are also countless times that I have given and cannot recall an external return, that’s ok too. Because studies have shown that giving makes us happier, improves our health, promotes co-operation and social connection, makes us grateful for what we have and is contagious. It’s always win-win.
A barrier to giving is that we forget that we have something valuable to offer others.
To skilfully and consciously bring reciprocity into your life try:
- Giving Your Precious Time
Time is more valuable than money in a world where it feels scarce. Giving your time and attention to others develops a strong connection. As a coach, I find that my clients are surprised to receive the gift of time to focus on themselves, their leadership and their career. They value it highly and feel privileged to receive it. When was the last time someone gave you some focused time? How did it feel? Who can you give the gift of time to?
2. Giving Purpose and Fulfilment
You may wonder how you can give purpose to others, but it is possible to engage your colleagues or family members in a purpose that will enable them to feel fulfilled. Perhaps your company has a corporate social responsibility arm that your team can become engaged in supporting, or you can volunteer as a team, or as a family you may want to find ways to support those in your community. What purpose can you connect with?
3. Giving Non-Monetary Gifts
When it comes to gifts, it really is ‘the thought that counts’ rather than the monetary value of the item. Reciprocity has its own currency, which cannot be measured in terms of monetary value alone. When gifts are personal, timed right, demonstrate thought and time given, and are personalised, they are appreciated much more. Research has shown that if you give someone a choice between money and an item of equal value, they would probably choose the money, however a non-monetary gift elicits more reciprocal feelings, and feelings of good will. What thoughtful gift can you give?
Final thought: Can you give too much?
Absolutely! If your giving is to the detriment of yourself or the person doesn’t want what you’re giving, and you are thinking of yourself rather than them, then this isn’t the right type of giving. Give in an emotionally intelligent way, examine your own intentions for giving and make sure that the time is right!
EVENT: The Art of Reciprocity – 20th June – London
Our expert panel of business people will discuss:
• How to be a great giver?
• Can you give too much?
• How can you measure the results of a reciprocation strategy?
And share strategies for reciprocation that have worked for them.
Don’t miss the earlybird offer! Find out more and book your place now.
BOOK: The Psychology of Persuasion, Robert Cialdini
VIDEO: TEDx Talk – How to Be Happy Every Day: It Will Change the World, Jacqueline Way [15 mins]
PODCAST: Behavioral Economics Foundations: Reciprocity
A podcast on how reciprocity can be used in your business and how it relates to generating leads. Also how our subconscious really feels about gift giving, three ways to use reciprocity in your business, and more. [52 mins]
ONLINE TRAINING: The Happenista Project – Online programme for busy women who want to develop themselves, achieve their goals and craft the life they want. Many of the lessons focus on Good Giving. [10 mins a day]