I find I enjoy writing this blog most when something hits me and I feel led to sit down and immediately start writing. That led to the blog posts on Michael Jackson, the cruise and the bathing suit story to name a few. Lately, nothing much was coming my way and I was getting a little worried…until this afternoon.
I’m actually writing this on August 24, the last day of summer vacation for my daughter Abigail. I decided to take the day off to spend time with her and Jane and one thing we did was go to the movies. We saw The Proposal with Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds. I don’t know what the critics had to say but we liked it a lot and laughed out loud a number of times. We give it six thumbs up, two for each of us so check it out sometime.
I won’t go into detail regarding the plot because that’s not the topic of this week’s post. Here’s what inspired me — at one point in the movie, Andrew Paxon (Ryan Reynolds) responds to Margaret Tate (Sandra Bullock) saying, “You’d do the same for me.” As soon as I heard that it was as if a light bulb went on and instantly I knew that I was supposed to write about that phrase. So here goes, right off the top!
Reciprocity is the psychological principle that describes the feeling we have where we want to “repay the favor,” so to speak. When someone does something for us we feel obligated to respond in kind. As someone looking to persuade people it’s important to understand this principle and to know how to respond after you’ve helped someone.
Quite often, when we do something for another person they reply by simply saying, “Thanks.” After all, it’s just good manners to be thankful. However, as the persuader, the one who did something that elicited the “thanks,” people drop the ball far more than they hang on to it. I say that because here’s how most people respond:
- “No problem.”
- “No big deal, I’d have done it for anyone.”
- Or worst of all, they say nothing.
People might respond as I’ve described above because they feel uncomfortable being praised but the bad thing is, in each case they’d discounted what they’ve done. When you do something for another it might not mean much to you but it obviously meant something to the other person. I remember a friend thanking me once for calling him each month to see if we could meet for lunch. Because I’d set up a recurring task in Outlook to remind me to call him I jokingly replied, “It’s not that I’m so nice, I’m just good with my computer.” When he heard that he said, “So what, I really appreciate it.” It wasn’t a big deal for me to create the task or to take a few moments to make the call but it meant a lot to him.
How many times do you fumble away opportunities as I’ve described? While there can be many responses better than the three I’ve listed above, I’ll give you just one; “George, I’m sure you’d do the same for me if the tables were turned.” Adding the name personalizes the response and gently puts the person on notice that you recognize a favor was done. That makes it much easier for you to ask for a favor down the road when you need help because you’ve reinforced what you did and, as I’ve already described, people feel compelled to return the favor.
I’m not advocating doing things to set people up. What I do advocate is genuinely offering help when people need it and you have the resources, skills or whatever else they need. You do so not thinking about what you want from them but you also don’t have to fumble away any potential opportunities either. So next time you hear, “Thanks,” for having done something, try saying some variation of “You’d do the same for me.” That might not make you as big a hit as The Proposal but I bet it will be far better than what you’re probably doing now.
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes!”