June 11, 2007

Universal Principle of Influence #1: Reciprocity

In order to influence a child, one must be careful not to be that child's parent or grandparent.
--- Don Marquis
I saw professor Robert Cialdini twice last year and learned his six universal principles of influence. I liked the way he described them and have been using them ever since. You may find them useful if they also make sense to you. Here they are
  1. Reciprocity
  2. Scarcity
  3. Authority
  4. Consistency
  5. Consensus
  6. Liking
This time, we'll focus on #1.

We want to follow the rule of "give and take". We must not take without giving in return the kind of benefit we received. What you give is what you get. This principle applies in all cultures and for all people except moochers, ingrates or teenagers :)

You have a moment of power just after a client says "Thank you". That's when you can say something like
  • "My pleasure. Who do you know who would benefit from this level of service and commitment?"
  • "I was glad to do it. If the situations were ever reversed, I know you'd do the same for me."
  • "Of course. We're glad to do it. It's what long term partners do for one another."
I was struggling with what gifts I could give. I'm not a big fan of handing out branded trinkets like pens, mugs or golf balls. Affordable items seemed inconsequential and manipulative. Cialdini said that a pen with your company's logo won't trigger reciprocation. Your gift needs to be
  • significant
  • personalized
  • unexpected
In our business, the ideal gift is information, tailored to the recipient and given fast.

This was a "WOW" moment. I hadn't thought of giving an intangible gift. I've been consciously sharing information ever since. And occasionally insight and wisdom ;)

You're limited in how many people you can see in a week. So sharing information in person or by phone isn't practical. Email can be used but we get so many messages, including spam. Finding an old message is a hassle. How do you have a meaningful discussion by email. The ideal is an online forum where content easily accessible, searchable, hyperlinked, archived and interactive. That's what blogging offers.



  1. I guess the gift should be personal... your idea about sharing information could be a good idea if the receiver is interested....

    I like your idea of "We must not take without giving in return the kind of benefit we received".. That's hard work sometimes.. I've become much more conscious of this approach lately and it seems to work really well.. adding value to others is an important idea.