Reciprocation is a fascinating topic because we so rarely give it conscious thought. Do you expect others to return any favour you do them? Are you pleasantly surprised when someone does? Be honest, is it sometimes your main motivation for helping others?
When looking at the psychology of persuasion and influencing, Robert Cialdini found reciprocation was a front runner as a key factor. If you have done something helpful for a colleague or friend, they will find it hard to say no if you ask them to do something for you. In a nutshell, you have already begun to establish a relationship where you help each other out, and they actually feel indebted to you until they have returned the favour.
Of course, it would be pretty sad if expecting returns was our only motivation for helping others, most of us hopefully don’t give it a second thought. We do it because we get satisfaction from being useful or seeing the other person happier. Yet when someone does return a favour or compliment, we really appreciate it.
Reciprocation does not always have to be like for like. In fact, it often works better when you can give something that may be is easy for you, but hard for the other person. You might have different skills, contacts or resources to offer .
Who had helped you out recently? How have you let them know it was appreciated? Is there anything else you can do to make their lives a little easier – or happier?
It may seem a manipulative to plan to build up a bank of favours owed, and of course, it would be. On the other hand, what goes around, comes around. There is a card stuck to my filing cabinet that says “Do Random Acts of Kindness”. Think about it. If we all looked out for others more than we do already, that’s a whole lot of reciprocation piling up ready to come our way when we need it.
And you never know when you may need it. Food for thought?
By Julie Cooper
Author of Face to Face in the Workplace
“If you deal with people you need this book” Buy your copy here