What is the Law of Reciprocity and How You Can Use it to Your Advantage! 



Whether you know it or not, we are all influenced by the law of reciprocity. It is universal, subconscious, and is the underlying rule behind all social interactions. Read on to learn more about the law of reciprocity and know how to master it to your benefit. 

What is the law of reciprocity?

The law of reciprocity, sometimes also known as the norm of reciprocity, refers to a social phenomenon when people feel obliged to give back to someone who gave them something. This law is present in all sorts of situations, including both personal and professional relationships. In fact, the need to reciprocate what others have done for us seems to be an inborn quality within all human beings. It is present from childhood and is significant in our learning of socialization. 

Watch this youtube video to learn more about the law of reciprocity and its effectiveness in exerting influence onto others.

What are examples of reciprocity?

Reciprocity can take place anytime, anywhere. It can be as simple as babysitting for your neighbours on date night just because they dog-sat for your mini-vacation a month ago. It is found in the home when you lend your sister that blue dress in return for her letting you borrow her red purse. Furthermore, we can find it in work settings. Examples include an employer giving an over-the-top performance after he received a recent salary raise. The law of reciprocity is also highly present in marketing. It takes place when companies provide potential customers with freebies, coupons, and promotions in hopes that they would reciprocate with a purchase.

What are the main types of reciprocity?

Blue and Pink Educational Corporate Government Protest and Political Communication Infographic

Sociologists have identified three main types of reciprocity.

Generalized reciprocity is the genuine service of others within your social circle regardless of whether there will be an immediate return. We all take part in it, whether it be buying your friend a cup of coffee on a coffee date, or bringing to work some cookies that you’ve made over the weekend for your colleagues to enjoy.

Then there’s balanced reciprocity, which categorizes the exchange of favor, goods, or services amongst people are who of similar status. Usually, when the giver gives to the recipient, a return is expected within a certain time frame. You will notice this when you are more likely to send a birthday gift to a receiver who has previously gifted you on your birthday.

Lastly, negative reciprocity is when one party is trying to take advantage of and receive more than the other party in the exchange. This happens when a buyer bargains with a seller by offering a much lower price. It can also be seen during times of inflation, when sought-after items are sold at a very high price. 

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How can you use reciprocity to your advantage to persuade others?

When you are aware of the law of reciprocity, it can be very useful to achieve the result that you wish for. This does not necessarily mean that you are trying to manipulate others or that you always have an ulterior motive when giving. The following are some examples of reciprocity being present in everyday life and business:

  • At work, you can ask your boss for something to your benefit immediately after you have achieved a win for your company. For example, you may be able to persuade your supervisor to give you time off for a family vacation after you have completed a big project.
  • Being genuinely concerned and involved with the welfare of others will persuade them to also be available to come to your assistance in case an urgent need may arise in the future. One example is when neighbours take turns looking out for each other.
  • In teamwork, you can offer a potential partner a specific skill set that you possess. This will persuade them to work with you in accomplishing something that you otherwise would not be able to complete on your own.
  • The gift of vulnerability and transparency will draw people to feel secure and be able to trust. For example, many leaders or mentors may disclose to their potential followers some of their personal experiences and life lessons. 
  • Be the first to give when your goal is to build a longer-lasting relationship with the other party. For example, when you willingly treat others to a meal, you will almost always hear them say in response, “The next one’s on me!”

Other persuasion techniques that can help you get what you want!

1. Be Confident!

People are always more willing to work with someone who seems to be more confident. Posture yourself well! Hold your head high and look people in the eye when you meet business partners or potential employers. Being confident will certainly get you further along than if you appear to be unsure of yourself. 

2. The Art of Storytelling

There is a reason why many companies market their products or services with real-life stories. A story is relatable and puts meaning and significance to the item you are trying to sell. It is super effective in drawing people in! 

3. Create Urgency

“Get it while stocks last”… “Sale ends this weekend”… creating a sense of urgency will usher the potential customer into feeling like they are missing out. They will then “need” to grab that product right away before it’s all gone! 

4. It’s “We”, Not “You”

A great persuasion technique is to present “our” problem, and then tell them that you have already found a solution. Just buy our product or use our service!

5. Repetition: Repeat, Repeat, and Repeat! 

A psychologist would tell you that repetition works wonders for preoccupying someone’s mind. Try to come at it from different angles so that it will not seem too obvious that you are hard selling something.

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