by Mike Lally
It seems it is important to take the trouble to repay others for what they have done for us. The gratitude may or may not be heartfelt, but it is a psychological burden to ignore the need to reciprocate.
This principle exerts enormous influence on people and is often ruthlessly exploited by marketers. Reciprocation can lead to unequal exchanges to get rid of the uncomfortable feeling of obligation.
Often people will agree to a substantially larger favour than the one they themselves originally received. How can this principle be used to our advantage?
One of the best ways to get agreement or to motivate a person is to calibrate and detect the triggers they naturally respond to.
We all have an assortment of triggers though many of us are completely unaware of them. What are triggers? They are unconscious signals and people follow them without question. Some of them are emotional and others psychological.
I wonder if you could determine what triggers you may have and find irresistible? You might then begin to think about whether other people occasionally fire your triggers without you even realise this is happening. Couldn’t possibly happen, could it? Well…
We all have inbuilt emotional hot buttons. The trick is to recognize them and then, where appropriate, either use them or subdue them.
Act or resist. If you establish the hot buttons of another individual you will have an insight into how their mind works. This can be useful information in a business context.
Of course, this is enormously powerful information, and it needs to be used congruently and with care. One of the most important psychological triggers is the need to reciprocate – to repay somebody for something they have done for you.
The act of reciprocation seems to be hard-wired into the neurology. The need to take the trouble to repay others for what they have done for us can produce an overwhelming feeling.
It may be a feeling of guilt. The gratitude may not be heartfelt, but it can be a psychological burden to ignore.
This basic human principle exerts enormous influence on people and is often ruthlessly exploited by marketers.
A significant number of studies have been performed in this area and some fascinating conclusions have emerged.
The findings make interesting reading. For example, in one experiment, half the people attending a certain event were offered a soft drink for free. Later, all the people who attended the meeting were asked to buy raffle tickets.
Unsurprisingly, the people who had been offered the free drink purchased twice as many raffle tickets, irrespective of whether or not they had accepted the drink.
Now, marketers will provide a number of free gifts to develop a relationship with their targets. They will purposely build the need to reciprocate, until the favour is finally returned.
The gifts they offer could range from free samples of products to intangible gifts such as information and reports.
One devious variation of this principle is for a salesperson to make an extreme request that they know for certain will be rejected.
They then follow this refusal by offering a much smaller and affordable product, with a greater likelihood that this will be accepted. “I can’t possibly afford that one, but this one…”
Reciprocation can lead to unequal exchanges to get rid of the uncomfortable feeling of obligation. Often people will agree to a substantially larger favour than the one they themselves originally received.
Have you ever come across a person who constantly asks to borrow things from you and you find it difficult to refuse? They never seem to make an effort and rely on you to meet their needs.
The process begins to irritate but out of politeness it seems heartless to say no. Here’s a method you can use based on reciprocation that can be used to overcome this simple and everyday irritation:
Debtor: “Thanks for the loan!”
You respond with: “That’s fine – you’d do the same for me.”
Followed by: “Isn’t it good to know that friends can count on friends?”
Outcome: They will either repay the loan or never ask you again!
Now marketers use this process by providing good quality material overtime for free. They then follow up with something along the lines: “You’ve received parts one to five for free and I hope they have proved to be really useful.
I would like to say thank you to all those people who have told me of the enormous value they have extracted from the material.
I have had so many requests for the remaining ten parts, so if you would like the opportunity to purchase these remaining parts at a substantial discount, please let me know.”
How can you possibly resist!
Reciprocation is a really powerful indicator of influence.