Friday, April 5, 2013

The Law of Reciprocity

There is a law of human nature that if you understand it the power to change lives will be in your hands;

The Law of Reciprocity

This is as old as the hills and applies to everyone but most people never really think about it. It is so important that God even told us about it in the Bible for does it not say:

“give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” (Luke 6:38, ESV)

This is one of the most basic building blocks of society. People like people who contribute to the common good. To put it simply people respond positively to people who give before they take. In fact the more you hold off from taking while you continue to give the receiver feels an increasing debt to reciprocate. The receiver feels an increasing need to do something for you. This to put it simply is the law of reciprocity or as God says “give, and it will be given to you”.

In my office building there is a small convenience store in the lobby. The owner is a friendly fellow who never charges tax and never gives pennies in change. Since the store stays open I can only assume he pays the tax out of the money he collects. Also he rounds everything you pay down. If it should be $1.35 for something he says a dollar and a quarter. By discounting his prices on every sale to me I feel like I want to give him all the business that I can. He also does things like alterations and shoe repair so I bring in things that normally I would just have done closer to home. But look carefully at this scenario; he is the owner. He sets the price. If he charges $1.25 for something marked $1.35 + tax then the real price is $1.25 (tax included). So even though I know it is a game I continue to play. He makes concessions and I reciprocate by giving him more business.

We see this in marketing opportunities. The perfect example is my good friend Anthony Belmonte. Anthony offered to clean rugs for a thrift shop that is run by a charity. By giving cleaning to a very worthwhile charity the charity sells more rugs for more money because they look great after being cleaned. Because it is a gift they feel compelled to reciprocate by letting their contributors know what a good man Anthony is. The contributors reciprocate by giving Anthony business. But here is a wonderful twist to the equation; the reciprocity is not even. Anthony actually gets 5 to 10 rug jobs for every free cleaning job he does. As the good book says “Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap.” By being a good and generous man Anthony reaps the harvest of his generosity.

Breaking the Law of Reciprocity at your own Risk

Just as society tends to reward the generous man who gives freely society tends to penalize those who take but do not give back.  Society has various names for this type of person. My favorite is Mooch but also Bum, Freeloader, Leach, Sponge and in Yiddish; Schnorrer.
I was going to illustrate this part with a story about a mooch from Southwest Virginia but I realized it would be unkind and besides he is so damn dumb that the point would be lost on him. So let me close this by saying be the first to give and the last to take and you will gain so much more.