Reciprocation: The Key to Gaining Help on Life's Journey

Welcome back, readers! It's a new year, and while not much has changed, the essence of human nature as social animals remains constant. We will always require the support of others—siblings, friends, associates, etc—to navigate the journey of fulfilling our purpose. 

The Prosperity Ark

As you embark on this journey, envisioning your current position and future destination, consider them as the two extremities of an infinite road traveled by many, marked with various stops along the way. Your present location is a point others have traversed, and your future destination aligns with paths some have already taken, are currently navigating, or are in close proximity to. Along this journey, numerous stops act as resting points for individuals who have either paused or encountered challenges, potentially sustaining injuries. As you advance, the number of fellow travelers may decrease, but the depth of experience among those who persist intensifies. To reach the pinnacle of your dreams, you must travel between these two ends. You can choose to travel solo, refusing the help, guidance, and direction of the many people you meet on the way, or you can choose to travel with others. However, in making your decision, consider the words of Isaac Newton: “If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.” This implies that you need assistance, in whatever form it comes, to increase your chances of successfully reaching a destination of dream fulfillment. Getting people to help you, however, is easier said than done. It is a skill to be learned. 

Leveraging the relationships you make along the way in your journey of life requires the skill of persuasion. In this regard, Robert B. Cialdini, in his book ‘Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion,’ describes six principles—reciprocation, consistency, social proof, authority, liking, and scarcity—that you can glean lessons from. Principle of Reciprocation:"There is an obligation to give, an obligation to receive, and an obligation to repay." 

Over time, humans, evolving and adapting as social beings, developed certain ‘fixed-action’ patterns that dictate how they act under certain conditioning, and one of them is this principle. It speaks of the inherent nature of humans to repay, in kind, what they have received. This age-long principle underlies the earlier trade-by-barter system and the current money-for-goods system. Although it appears this principle is based on equal exchanges, it’s subtler. It is the burden of a gift; a gift is not to be refused but to be reciprocated by the receiver. 

The Prosperity Ark

The principle says it is customary to give gifts, and it is obligatory not to reject them, but to receive and also repay them. Because the terms are not fixed, the gift can be anything, including a physical gift, a small favor, an opportunity, or even a prayer. The obligation not to reject these gifts but to receive and repay them renders the receiver vulnerable to exploitation. While the giver determines what to give, in most cases, he also determines how his gift is to be reciprocated, either in kind or in other forms. This principle can be used to get help from others by giving a small gift to curry a bigger favor, to get liked by the receiver, or to change the receiver from non-compliant to compliant.

How does this principle work? Ever wonder why market traders give samples of their wares for prospective buyers to taste? This strategy is a good way to commit someone to buy, especially if the buyer is a newbie. By giving free samples, the trader is doing a favor, which most times isn’t refused because it was freely given, thereby entrapping the buyer under this principle to make a purchase, especially if the prices are similar across. Another example is that of seemingly innocent beggars who catch you unawares and, on the spot, pray fervently for you. Their ultimate aim is to beg, but by offering prayers, the gift in this instance, they commit the receiver under this principle. This principle is also used in negotiations to achieve a desired outcome. For instance, market sellers, in a bid not to incur losses and yet sell their wares, increase the price of the goods to sell. When a prospective buyer comes around, they cut the inflated price to the real one after much hassling, as though they are doing the customer a favor. By appearing to do the customer a favor, the customer becomes entrapped by this principle, changing his stance from non-compliant to compliant and buying the good. Labor negotiators also tacitly begin negotiations with a higher-than-normal yet reasonable demand and then intentionally and slowly concede to their originally intended demand. It’s now left to you. 

Understanding how this principle plays out in real-life situations to achieve certain outcomes, intentional or not, exemplifies the limitless opportunities it offers. Applying this principle to receive favors need not be grand. It can be as subtle as giving gifts, sending intentional and well-crafted well-wish messages, or making bigger yet reasonable demands, only to concede for the smaller ones. Whichever approach you choose, apply it right away, because only when you do, will you get the help you need.


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