verb (used with object), reciprocated, reciprocating.
1. to give, feel, etc., in return.
Whether you are aware of it or not, you are affected by Reciprocity all the time, from every direction.
When someone does you a favour, you tend to feel indebted, and feel the need or want to return that favour, whether it is expected or not. In many many cases this feeling is very strong - and it is because of this it is a tool used by people to get a certain response from you.
Picture this. You are browsing through a shop, looking at some shiny stuff. A salesperson approaches and you inform them that you are just browsing. Five minutes later, the sales person has very politely and with great humility and lazer-focused practice introduced themselves, inquired on your well being, commented on your taste, informed you all about the stuff you are looking at, benefits, options, special deals that are not displayed but available to you specially today, and very politely backed away with a cheery wave and a casual prompt that if you need to know more, or if you are in fact thinking about making a purchase it would be their honor to serve your needs.
What they have done is incurred a debt on your behalf. They have donated their time, their considered effort, their expertise, their cheery disposition. And you have been shifted along the sales cycle because you now feel you 'owe' them something. They have done it with skill and care, and it worked because the prospect was unaware it was happening, even though it is one of the most basic constructs of not just the sales cycle, but our human psychology.
Thats reciprocation. Someone has done something for you, and you feel the psychological need to pay them back.
When its done from the heart, with genuine intent, with no apparent strings attached, it is a powerful tool to motivate someone to lean towards doing something.
When it is done incorrectly, it can have a bad, negative effect. Think of the sterotypical sleazy car salesman trying every trick in the book to hook a sale, think of the street hustler cajoling you endlessly with their diatribe.
Also, and it's hard to not fall for this, is when you as a parent do something with the implicit intention that you expect something in return. Observe when you do this, and how effective it is. If you order your kids to clean their room before they are allowed to do something - does that have a lasting positive effect, do they automatically do it again next time, or do you constantly have to threaten the same thing again, does it breed resentment, contempt? Does the delivery and the context of the initial offering have an effect on the reciprocal effect??
What do you think might happen if we start to flip it and use reciprocity in a loving positive way instead of a forceful negative way with our kids. Would that achieve better long term results, more chance that children will start to do things out of respect and love and mutual benefit? Hang on - I'm a parent and kids in my experience tend to start taking things for granted when you constantly do things for them. Maybe thats a function of the special relationship that exists between parents and children - but - what about if you do surprise, unexpected things for them. Go out of your way every now and then and do give them a 'bonus'. For nothing. With no obvious expected immediate return. That context is a little different to when we do things for kids in a routine way.
So really, why is reciprocity important?
I think it is because it builds a level of trust. Without trust you are lost in a world of business, in relationships, in teams, in congregations. If there is no trust you fall back on single transactions, each one with an element of unknown outcomes, uncertain possibilities, no long term prospects.
Trust is built up over time. With small gestures, with a number positive outcomes all strung together. There is no instant trust. When you trust someone you are more open to their opinions, their sales pitch etc.
The gesture needs not be terribly large either - the simple act of a kind smile, or mimicking someones body language sets up the environment for a reciprocal deal.
Note that the setting where the initial gesture is made does not necessarily need to be the same as where you want the outcome delivered. This is why companies garner favor on their clients and prospects by taking them to sports matches and lavishing them with attention outside the business setting. The implication is that the favor will most probably be returned in the business setting.
They key, then is to ensure when we want to sway someone to our way of thinking, to perform something for us, to side with us in a reciprocal way?
- Be genuine, do it from the heart
- Expect nothing obvious in return, but be grateful when it happens.
- Allow others to reciprocate and benefit from the opportunity to do something for you
- Start small and work up (build rapport over time)
So how do we teach a child this skill?
There are a number of ways that you can introduce this;
- Observe the effect out there in the real world. When you are out shopping, obesrve it happening, when you are watching TV shows or movies, see if you can spot this principle at work,
- Be a good role model and practice this yourself, showing your children how it works
- Practice, start small.
What I would recommend for this hack:
- Discuss over dinner how many nice things your child did for people, what the nature of the gestures were, what immediate effect did it have on the person receiving the gesture. Did anyone return the favor, did anyone do something for you that might be linked to something you did for them?
To be very specific, maybe you can set a goal for obtaining something from someone. Then work up to it, start doing things for them, giving them little gestures, and see what happens. Grandma could be an awesome test subject for this sort of activity .. maybe a bit easy perhaps?
Always on the lookout for the ultimate Kid Hacks