The Amazing Power Of Reciprocity

Recorded at the Connect Karma Dinner, September 25th at The River Cafe

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Reciprocity comes from the word to reciprocate.

It's the concept that a person is more likely to do a kind deed if something kind has already been done to them, and it is a powerful social construct which we all live our lives by, wether we realise it or not.

Just like when we're in a bar, and someone buys us the first round of drinks, we feel we must buy the next one back.

It is the need to repay others for their kindness, and the need to feel as though you're not in someone else's debt.

It's such a powerful social construct that if we do not adhere to it, we are seen by our contemporaries as being bad people.

For example, if you don't buy a round of drinks back, rest assured it wont be long before people will be talking about how you're 'tight' because you've committed a social crime.

The Moonies

The Unification Church once considered to be a cult (though they won their claim in court) used to go to the street with tins, collecting donations. As funds began to dry up, they employed the power of reciprocity. Instead of shaking their donation tins in front of people, they gave away flowers to passers by, with no implied charge. Their instinct would be to take the flower, and as they were essentially accepting a 'gift' from the fundraisers, people began to put their hands in their pocket, in order to fulfil the need to repay their kindness.

Reciprocity has its place a variety of professional environments too.

In sales, it's known as the stealth approach whilst in management it's one of the most effective tools for developing your team.

Research conducted with managers revealed the the best managers all had the loyalty of their team, as without the loyalty of your team it's difficult to achieve anything, including asking your team to follow your vision and passion.

But you can't demand loyalty. We bestow loyalty because we like or respect somebody.

In successful management, managers give first. They give their trust, respect and support to their team, which creates an air of reciprocity.

The best way they can then repay this, is with their loyalty.

Pink Timberland Boots

After waking one morning and deciding she wanted nothing more than a pair of pink Timberland Boots, Paul and his wife went on a quest (two years in total) to find a pair. After a long journey, they stumbled upon the boots of her dreams and into the shop they went. On approaching a sales assistant and explaining the story up until that point, the sales assistant asked them to take a seat and went to find a pair in her size. After the moment arrives when she can finally put them on, she denounces "I don't like them". After Paul explains that boots need time break-in, he offers the sales assistant (who's on commission) a prefect opportunity to seal the deal, but he choses a different approach. "You're husbands right, however some people never get used to them, what I suggest, as you know we have them now it doesn't matter if you buy them today or in two weeks time ... Speak to some other people who have tried them and come back if you want them". Convinced by the kindness of his approach, they bought the shoes.

"In sales, so often people are focused on the sale, they miss the opportunity to provide a service."

They lose the chance to demonstrate that they have the customer's interests at heart.

When we think about our businesses and our people, there are so many elements to improving relationships, but you will find that if you can step forward and give first, you will find that what comes back is twice as much.

It's not just about "we have this amazing product/ service" it's about what goes above and beyond that - because it's about the relationship.

If you want to develop your business and your relationships further, think about the opportunities to employ the amazing power of reciprocity.

A little about Paul

Paul Martin began his career in the world of cocktails and mixology, before moving into working with drinks companies and the hospitality industry to assist them to produce great drinks served with great communication.

His passion for how and why we connect, and the detailed psychology behind it led him to help some of the biggest service brands in the world to improve their communications.

But his more 'left-field' approach to communication has been inspired by a hobby he took up years before, studying British Sign Language. Whilst working with deaf people, Paul noticed a big distinction in the way he was taught to learn a deaf, physical language in comparison to the hearing language. As a result, he's now developing a new theory about how we can develop our body language more effectively.


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