key (2) insist on fundamental
tactic based on lawnmower
support obligated concrete (2)
lend get even human nature
achieve pick up (3) unconscious
favor cut out (2) compliment
pleasure scratch (2) pay you back
sow prospect reciprocity
reap element get out (2)
admit accident apologize


Good Relations

A key element in achieving success in work, business and social life is having the support of other people.

And one of the most powerful tactics in doing so is based on the Law of Reciprocity. It’s one of the most fundamental laws of human nature.


What it says is this: You get back what you put out.

In other words, if you do something nice for me, I’ll go something nice for you — because I feel obligated to reciprocate.

For example, if we go out to lunch together, and I say, “I’ll pick up the lunch bill,” you will almost always say, “Okay, I’ll pay for it next time.”

And the next time, you will insist on paying for lunch.

Emotional Reciprocity

Now, there are several, different types of reciprocation. One is emotional reciprocation, where you make others feel good.

It’s saying things like, “It’s a pleasure to meet you … Thank you very much for your time; I know how busy you are … You have a beautiful company … It’s a great opportunity to speak to you.”

Whenever you mention anything that causes people to feel good about themselves, they will have an unconscious need to return a compliment.

Physical Reciprocity

Another type of reciprocation is material or physical reciprocation. This is when you do something concrete for someone.

For example, when you help someone load their car with garden supplies or when they are traveling — then they will want to help you load your car.

If you lend people money or your lawnmower, they will want to pay you back in some way.

Scratching Backs

We always like to do things in return for others because, according to psychologists, we have a deep need to be even. So if you do something for me, the only way I can get even is by doing something for you.

You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.

Bear in mind that the reverse also holds true: if you do something that hurts someone, then they will feel a deep need to get even as well.

So be careful. It you caused an accident or made a mistake, admit it and apologize immediately.

Doing Favors

And so the starting point of reciprocation is to look for ways to do something positive and meaningful for others.

This includes giving a cut-out from a newspaper, a web-link or a helpful, informative book to a prospect that may be of interest to them.

Something as simple as opening the door, or getting a cup of coffee to someone is a very powerful technique to cause people to like you and feel grateful to you.

The Law of Reciprocation is essentially the Law of Cause and Effect, the Law of Sowing and Reaping, Action and Reaction: what you put in is what you get out.

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1. To be successful in life, a person only needs to be smart and hardworking. Is this right or wrong?

2. What is the Law of Reciprocity? What is an example?

3. Are there different types of reciprocity, according to the text? What is emotional reciprocity?

4. Describe physical or material reciprocity.

5. What do psychologists say?

6. Reciprocity is always positive and beneficial. True or false?

7. You should always try to cover up a mistake. Yes or no?

8. Can this be applied to business?


A. In your country, what happens when friends or a group of people dine in a restaurant?

B. What are some examples of reciprocity among you and your friends or neighbors?

C. I have experienced reciprocity from strangers. Yes or no? Have you done favors for strangers?

D. Do you see reciprocity in action at your company or organization?

E. Is there any difference in reciprocity between private and public organizations?

F. People are doing less favors (towards strangers) than in the past. What do you think?

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