Friday, December 19, 2008

How Reciprocity Helps You

I promise I got this book from the ECU library for my research on Chavez. It's called Influence, by psychologist Robert Cialdini. However, as soon as I got into it, I saw blog post, after blog post, fascinating tidbits to share with Mixonian readers.

Cialdini has a chapter on reciprocation and how we tend to act when someone does something for us. Marketing expert Joe Vitale has written and spoken on the same concept, only he calls it (quite cleverly) karmic marketing.

Read this, it's riveting:

A few years ago, a university professor tried a little experiment. He sent Christmas cards to a sample of perfect strangers. Although he expected some reaction, the response he received was amazing -- holiday cards addressed to him came pouring back from the people who had never met nor heard of him. The great majority of those who returned a card never inquired into the identity of the unknown professor...While small in scope, this study nicely shows the action of one of the most potent of the weapons of influence around us -- the rule for reciprocation (29).

According to the rule for reciprocation, when someone does something nice for us, we automatically feel compelled to repay that person in some way. Just like when you get invited to someone's home for dinner, you would feel weird if you came empty-handed. And then we would want to invite that person over, or reciprocate socially in some way.

This rule for reciprocation also explains why sometimes we avoid accepting a gift from a person or a company -- we don't want to have the corresponding obligation either. This exchange naturally drives much political behavior; you're surely familiar with the you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours action and reaction.

So, if you want to build your business, your network of friends, or run for political office, you've got to get even more generous. That's a fabulous tip for the upcoming year; no need to participate in the recession anymore than you have to.