Principle of Influence – The Law of Reciprocity

This blog is going to discuss one of the principles for influence, the Law of Reciprocity which I like to call ‘the boomerang effect.’

This is part 2 of a 7 part blog series. You can view the previous blog here

Reciprocity is when you do something for someone expecting nothing in return. This is usually something that helped another person but what happens is later on, they will help you. They feel obligated to reciprocate and assist you.

A number of research studies have been done on this phenomenon and some psychologists called this the reciprocity law. One study that was conducted by a psychologist at Chicago’s O’Hare airport where they sat and observed everyone’s behavior. At the time, members of Hare Krishna would come up to you and present you with a handmade flower. They would hand you the flower despite your many protests as you were hurried and were trying to balance your bags while making it to your next gate in time or go to baggage claim. But this group was so insistent and direct that you would ultimately grab it and shove it in your pocket or stuff it somewhere. Then they would ask you for a donation. While you had no intention of giving them money, psychologists found that people felt obligated. Everyone reached in their pockets to pull out a dollar and hand it to them but a few steps later, they would throw the flower away. This study highlighted the fact that people were feeling a high percentage of obligation because they got something for free and they fell obligated to return that favor.

This study can be used to influence people which I affectionately refer to as “life credits.” I will go and do something good for my neighbors so when I’m in a jam they’ll help me out! Look at how you can help others around you, whether it’s your coworkers, your partner, your clients and see if you can make their lives batter and do something small for them. Step back and watch what happens when you’re in need they’ll help you.

This is one of the first laws of influence which you can use now. Try this law of reciprocity or boomerang effect on your friends, neighbors, coworkers and let me know how it goes by posting a comment.

If you want to read more about this phenomenon, take a look at this link which references Dr. Robert Cialdini’s study on the Hare Krishna at Chicago’s O’Hare airport.

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