Reaching for Reciprocity

I read Robert Cialdini’s book Influence a few years ago. His explanation of “reciprocity” and how it affects our behaviour struck me.

We’re all affected and influenced by it. Frequently without realizing it.

And once you see it, it’s hard to unsee it.

What is reciprocity?

Reciprocity is when we do something or give something in return for a perceived gift or favour.

Basically, if someone does something nice for us, we’re obligated to do something nice for them.

This is a good thing. Or it can be.

But advertisers and sales people use this against us all the time. They give us a free trinket so we’ll spend money on their offer.

I donated to a charity a couple of months ago and the other day, I got a letter in the mail from them. In it were some postcards and greeting cards that I could use to send to family and friends. And a request for another donation.

In the past, this ploy might have worked. Oh, they gave me some cards. Let me make a donation to cover the costs and help them out…

But it was hard for me not to see the blatant attempt to take advantage of my sense of reciprocity.

Don’t get me wrong. Like I said, reciprocity can be a good thing.

I have bought books from people like Seth Godin, Marie Forleo, BJ Fogg, and Ron Friedman. Why?

Because I’ve read their blogs, got their newsletters, or have taken a free course of theirs. I got value from their free content and I wanted to be supportive. And I didn’t feel taken advantage of.

It felt like a true exchange of value.

It’s annoying when someone tries to take advantage of our sense of reciprocity. When they don’t give us something of value. But expect us to give them something of value in return…

© 2021 Peter Gruner

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