The Law of Reciprocity Explained
This year I spent Christmas with my son Jordan and his girlfriend. As we sat by the tree opening our presents I noticed a very expensive bottle of wine among the gifts he had received. I enquired as to who had sent him the wine and he told me it was his childhood friend Bethany.
They were born on the same day in the same hospital ward. Jordan and Beth were friends until about the age of seven when we moved away. However, they have kept in touch but this was the first time they had exchanged gifts for Christmas.
I mentioned how nice it was for Bethany to have done that and Jordan agreed. However, he added that he wished she hadn’t. I was surprised to hear this and enquired why. He said ‘well, because it meant I had to go out and buy her a gift in return’. Civilized human being can’t bear the thought of being indebted to someone.
It upsets the balance of life.
I am sure that Bethany did not buy my son a gift purely to get one in return but it would have been very unusual for that not to be the outcome of her kindness. When you recognize and understand the inbuilt need of people to repay the generosity of others you can use this as a means to solicit a specific response from your prospects.
I was in London a few months ago and as I was walking down a very busy Regents street, a happy and smiling Buddhist monk stepped into my path. He handed me a golden piece of card, roughly the size of a bookmark.
On the card was a blessing for good fortune and a happy life. He smiling monk told me that it was a gift and he hoped I would have a blessed and wonderful day. I said thank you and popped the card into my jacket pocket. As I moved to walk on by, he held out a notebook and asked if I would be willing to make a donation to his order. I immediately said yes and pulled a five-pound note from my wallet. He got me!
I know for certain that without the gift, he would of got nothing from me. This is not because I don’t like to give to good causes but because I disagree with the practices of the charity muggers who pounce on people and try and shame them into making a regular ongoing donation. So, I have a personal policy that my donations to charity will be done privately and never as a result of the direct solicitation.
Smiling Monks & Free Flowers
The smiling monk caught me off guard because I didn’t recognize what he was doing until it was too late. But what it demonstrates is just how powerful the law of reciprocity is. Robert Cialdini, perhaps the most prominent expert in the field of persuasion engineering, has written extensively about how Hare Krishna fundraisers became the scourge of airports around the world. Using the law of reciprocity to extract money from unsuspecting travelers.
You may have even fallen for their ‘flower’ technique yourself at some point. The organization looked for a place where there was a constant stream of footfall. The arrival and departure zones of international airports proved to be the perfect site.
The monks would simply approach travelers and give them a single small flower. They would tell the individual it was a free gift and usually, the person would say thank you, which is the normal response to an act of generosity. However, then the monk would ask for a donation.
More often than not the traveler would oblige. You notice that the monks did not ask if the person wanted a flower and they did not state that the flower had a price. They did not need to, they knew that the law of reciprocity would do all the hard work for them.
The Law of Reciprocity
Here is a gift that nobody wanted, had absolutely no value and was not even practical to carry around along with your luggage. Yet, despite all that, most people paid for it. Professor Cialdini spent many hours watching the monks running this sting operation at various airports and he noted that around 90% people the people who had received a flower would dispose of it in a trash can before leaving the airport.
The monks were acutely aware that their gifts were unwanted and being discarded almost immediately. So much so that when they ran low of flowers, a member of the group would go on a resupply mission by retrieving all the dumped flowers from the trash cans around the airport exit.
The law of reciprocity is powerful and it’s being used on you every day in a variety of ways. If you head over to my website now you will see that I offer a range of free downloads. However, to get them I need you to give me your email address.
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