The power of reciprocity
People today are concerned about what is in it for me. How they can get the most out of any situation, focused on winning regardless of the circumstances. However, these victories will always be short term unless they create value for others in the process. To do this, you need to use the law of reciprocity. Quite simply, if you do something nice for me I’ll do something nice for you. I feel obligated to reciprocate. Says motivational speaker Brian Tracy, There are enormous benefits to using reciprocity as a means of cultivating good relationships. Three ways to start the cycle are; give first to establish goodwill, give to build credibility and receive graciously to create reciprocation.
Just last week I took my college-aged son to lunch. We sat and talked, enjoyed our meal and I picked up the tab. Later, as we were going our separate ways he gave me a hug and said, “Thanks, dad.” A hug? In public? That was worth more than ten meals! Needless to say, we both won that day.
If you would take, you must first give, this is the beginning of intelligence.
Establishing Good Will
Consciously giving first demonstrates that you have the other person’s best interest at heart. That you have the ability and foresight to empathize with their situation and needs and are not simply focused on what is in it for you. It also shows that you want to engage, collaborate and share, rather than control or dominate.
Look for opportunities to assist those around you. What value can you give that will make their day a little brighter, their work a little better or less ponderous? Helping a colleague to meet a tight deadline or sharing your expertise to help a teammate enhance their skill set will and deepen the relationship and pay dividends when you have a need for support down the road.
All relationships are built on give and take; it is the lifeblood of good ones, irrespective of if the relationship is with a partner, family member, friend or business colleague. So, if you want to succeed, it is good to make an investment in the other person by giving first.
Reciprocity helps us balance the need for self-determination and creative individuality with mutual hope and, therefore, what might be described as ‘solidarity.’
By giving first, you establish that you are serious about finding answers that work well for both parties, not just now but also into the future. This allows you to increase the value of the final solution, your contribution, and the relationship as a whole. In the examples above, the offers served as a demonstration and reminder, “I’m here for you.” That gracious act has a long tail effect that grows over time.
Each person has a different valuation of the offering, and in many cases, that significance is higher to the one who receives it. But make no mistake; as the provider, you must acknowledge the value for both you and your compadre. As such, consider what value your counterpart places on your assistance by asking thoughtful questions and suggesting insightful solutions that move towards an amicable resolution. Because you gave first, you will find reasonable people more open and friendly towards your request, just as you have been to theirs.
With my partner for example, when she has had a bad day or is just feeling blue something as simple as putting on her favorite music (especially if it’s at the bottom of my playlist) demonstrates that I value her as a person and how she feels is essential to me. This also has her thinking and feeling that I am empathetic towards her needs. You can see how this benevolence builds stronger relationships.
We are rich only through what we give, and poor only through what we refuse.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
One thing you may forget to do, which is equally important to give is to ask for something in return. This does not need to be immediate; in fact, you can let your request sit in trust, waiting for an opportunity to be balanced with the contribution you made previously. You must give the other person know you recognize the merit of your accommodation with a phrase like, “I know you would do the same for me.” Or “You owe me one.” This back and forth builds trust in a relationship and allows both people to feel good about helping the other. Assisting a friend in with sage advice, for example, could lead to your next career opportunity. When they reach out with a job opening, they know you would be suitable for. Reciprocal favors are the lifeblood of any healthy relationship.
Your relationships are out of balance when one person yields to the wants and needs of the other repeatedly. In this weakened state, the relationship is more susceptible to one person choosing to walk away. So, if you give more than you take, look for ways that you can start to make withdraws on some of the value that you deposited earlier. Likewise, if you feel that you have taken too much in your relationships, and you have a contribution debt, it is time you started giving back.
You can get everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.
Through giving, you invest in your partner, family members, friends, and colleagues. You increase that value by being gracious in the way you receive concessions. This cycle allows you to continually support each other and generate feelings that the relationship has merit for both sides.