What's your personal brand?

Is It Better To Give Than To Receive?

Posted on: Thursday, August 9, 2018 Category: Blog (50)

By Rhys Blyth

Have you ever felt discomfort when others have been generous to you? Do you ever experience a burden or a need to return a favour, service or gift when one is given to you? Did you know that reciprocity is one of your most powerful tools of persuasion?

There is an unspoken rule of reciprocity – that people respect and participate in the act of giving and receiving. Of course, there are some that are oblivious to it (unlikely) or choose to ignore it (most likely) and are, therefore, immune to the anxiety it can cause you. Anxiety? Yes, it’s that feeling of fear or stress when you receive something unexpected and are unsure about how to repay it. It has a name and an underlying cause.

Reciprocity anxiety is a social anxiety that is triggered by acts of receiving and giving in social situations. It is an anxiety that is triggered by favours that outweighs the ability or desire of the receiver to return. It is thought that there are two related components of reciprocity anxiety – avoidance and distress. Avoidance describes anxiety triggered by the feeling of need to reciprocate favours, help, compliments received, while distress describes anxiety triggered by the inability to reciprocate and what others will think of you if you don’t. Researchers also believe that the degree of anxiety will be greater the bigger a favour and the more public its receipt is.

More importantly, for your brand, the researchers believe reciprocity anxiety is not just a state, but a trait – you were born with it and almost all of us have it to some degree. Regents’ Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Marketing at Arizona State University, Robert Cialdini, describes reciprocity as a principle that guides human behaviour. This is because people automatically feel “obliged to give back to others the form of behaviour, gift, or service that they have received first”. If a friend invites you to dinner, and you have a wonderful time, there will be an obligation to host them. If a work colleague does you a favour, then you owe them one in return. And, according to Dr. Cialdini, “in the context of a social obligation, people are more likely to say yes to those who they owe”.

Basically, we all keep a debit/credit ledger in our brains, subconsciously, which kicks in when someone does something for us. And in terms of persuasion or influence, the more credit you have, the more easily you can persuade your counterpart. For it to work, however, your ‘act of kindness’ must be personal, unexpected and first- the receiver can’t ask for a gift! Why? According to a series of studies conducted in restaurants, waiters can influence their tip amount by giving mints with a bill. Giving a single mint yielded a 3% tip, giving double increases the tip to 14%. However, when the waiter gave one mint, started to walk away, stopped, turned back and gave compliments for being such great guests and provided an extra mint, they received a 23% tip increase! See, it was not just what was given, but how it was given – personal, unexpected and first.

So, now you know why your feeling anxious when someone does you a favour. You owe them! And now you know how you can persuade them through your returned favour…

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