Perhaps you have ever heard about the reciprocity rule but are not sure what exactly it is about. It is a social norm that, although it is not written in a new place, is carried out in any society. It is that if someone does something for you, you feel compelled to return the favor. In fact, if you don’t return it … the other person will feel bad because they will not feel reciprocal in the relationship.
There are many people who use these reciprocity strategies for people to buy, that is, they are used in marketing. Coupons or special promotions are clear examples. Although there are also more subtle ones to use this rule of reciprocity without the affected people being aware of what is really happening.
How does it work
If you’ve ever felt compelled to do something for someone who did something for you first, then it’s because you’ve entered the ‘game’ of the reciprocity rule. It has a great influence on your behavior and on anyone else’s.
The rule is simple: you feel obligated to return favors after others have done it to you before. There are people who do not like to feel this and simply do not accept favors from other people so they do not have to return them later.
If, for example, some neighbors of yours give you welcome cookies to the neighborhood and you accept them, then they will feel that they may ask you to watch the dog when they are on vacation. Or if someone asks you to buy something from a store where you are present and you buy it, then you can ask them for the same favor when that person goes to a store and you need them to buy something for you.
Not everyone is willing to follow the norm of reciprocity, but not doing so is like going outside the social norm and people will feel a certain rejection towards this type of behavior. Therefore, when people follow the rules of reciprocity, the relationship is usually easier.
The need to reciprocate
This type of behavior has obvious benefits for people … people need each other in order to survive as a species and this social norm helps to do so. Through reciprocity, we make sure to help others and to be helped by those same people when we need it.
There are those who use persuasion techniques to be able to use the reciprocity technique, but of course, these strategies are used to achieve their own good or benefits. For you to take an action such as buying a specific product or even, politicians can use it to vote for a specific candidate.
These techniques can also be even more aggressive. For example, if you are buying a mobile phone but you are not sure whether or not to buy a model, but the seller wants you to take it to collect his commission, he can give you a mobile phone case and it is as if he is making you a favor. In that sense, if you feel that way, you may feel compelled to buy the phone because you are immersed in reciprocity at the time.
As you have seen in some cases the rule of reciprocity is a good thing, in other cases it is not. When it is good we behave in a socially acceptable way and it allows us to participate in a social exchange with the people around us. Although when it is not good, you may not feel good about feeling the obligation to return a favor when you really do not want to do it or when you feel that others are trying to take advantage of you.
Experts comment that the need to reciprocate is strongest immediately after the initial exchange. If you can wait, you will probably feel less pressure to return the favor. In this sense, you will have to evaluate the exchange, think if the favor corresponds to the expected return … sometimes the initial favor is smaller than the return.