The Law of Reciprocity (Part 1) : Important Lessons from my Dad

“I know someone!”

Three little words.  I heard them a lot growing up but didn’t understand their value at the time.  As they say, children are always watching and listening to their parents.

My siblings and I would joke that Dad always knew someone for everything… a plumber, a real estate agent, a financial advisor, an artisan, a butcher, you name it.  Friends and family would call him first to get his recommendations.  Referring trust-worthy people, who do good work, was his way of helping others.

If he didn’t know someone in a certain trade, business, or industry, he called on his contacts.  Yes, back then, he had to use a land line to connect!  Can you imagine a world today without Google?

In turn for his referrals, which usually led to new business for his contacts, Dad was rewarded in numerous ways.  Not only was he professionally connected but he received personal discounts, free tickets to shows, back-stage passes, and the list can go on and on.

Growing up, my friends were often jealous, especially when I had 2nd row seats to the sold-out New Kids on the Block concert.  Or the time I went to see an intimate performance of the Barenaked Ladies just before they exploded (still one of my all-time favourite bands – The Barenaked that is!).  I felt lucky that Dad knew all the right people!

I didn’t know it then, but I was learning about the “magic” of reciprocity.

In Social Psychology, reciprocity is a social rule that says we should repay, in kind, what another person has provided us.[1] By virtue of this “law”, humans are hard-wired to repay for the business referral, favour, gift, invitation, etc. and sometimes to a greater extent.  There is a sense of future obligation on the part of the receiver.

How does the law of reciprocity fit in to your business?  What do you offer your customers/clients without asking for anything in return?  Do you offer complimentary consultation sessions or resources?  Do you call your customers/clients to check-in?  Do you go above and beyond to provide solutions that work for them?

It is for certain that you will not need to ask for repayment.  They will remember your good gestures and return to you again and again, not to mention, refer you on.

The Law of Reciprocity also applies to the Supervisor-Employee relationship….stay tuned for my next blog!

In closing, it was not until recently that I was able to fully appreciate what my dad has taught me.  Now I need to figure out how to repay him.  Maybe this post is a good start.

[1] Cialdini, Robert (2006). Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. Harper Business; Revised Edition.


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