The Immediate Trust-Building Power of Reciprocity Reply

By Chris Simmons

Earlier this month, I shared The Manipulative Power of Reciprocity. Now, I’d like to revisit this topic and discuss how reciprocity is legitimately used to create and build rapport and trust. As noted in the original post, reciprocity is a highly effective persuasive tool. As such, it can be used to quickly gain influence by following this time-tested technique.

Begin by sharing something personal with the other party. That said, discretion is the key to success. Share too much and the other individual runs off screaming “TMI!!!!” Worse yet, you’ve lost all credibility because now he/she doubts your mental state for having shared so much with a complete stranger. The personal story you confide must be pertinent to the experience both parties are sharing at that precise moment. In doing so, you’ve demonstrated your trust in them and triggered a psychological need for reciprocity.

Your new friend is now drawn emotionally and psychologically closer to you and will generally respond by sharing something personal about themselves. This can unleash the real power behind psychological reciprocity because the more you share, the deeper you trust. As a result, complete strangers can rapidly find themselves in a legitimate bonding experience.

Reciprocity even works with reserved individuals, although the approach must be much more indirect. In this scenario, begin with questions about abstract issues like his/her thoughts on the ghost tours given in a nearby town or a new restaurant that opened nearby. The conversation-adverse party will generally answer the queries because they are perceived as nonthreatening and seemingly impersonal. In reality, one’s opinion is actually a deeply personal issue. As such, their sharing prompts the reciprocity effect, but on a slower path than in a “normal” setting.

Exercise caution in using reciprocity in this fashion. These approaches are not appropriate, or even possible, in all situations. Instead, view them simply as some of the many available options for building trust and enhancing rapport.

The Manipulative Power of Reciprocity Reply

By Chris Simmons

One of the many tools of persuasion is reciprocity. This simple technique works because when someone does a favor for us, it triggers a psychological need to “return the favor.”

It is why organizations send gifts in their fundraising appeals. Even though you didn’t ask for the item, you now own it and feel indebted to the other party. And remember, the favor received need not be a physical object. Anything provided by another, such as their time, information, or service, is enough to create a sense of obligation. To not reciprocate actually makes many people feel uncomfortable.

The psychological pressure of reciprocity is real. For example, I regularly take road trips with family members. When we stop for gas, many of my relatives that go into the Mini-Mart to use the rest room will buy something on their way out of the convenience store. In their experience, the fact that I just bought gas from the vendor is irrelevant. They made eye contact and/or spoke to the clerk on the way to the rest room and in doing so, became personally obligated to him/her because that’s the person who has to clean the bathroom. Their small purchase – an act of reciprocity – cancels their debt.