Is Engaging Reciprocity a Hustle?

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about The 4-Step Reciprocity Loop for Better Relationships. The gist of the post was that some people don’t allow others to do for them in return. I pointed out why it might seem gracious for the giver to say, “You don’t need to do anything in return, your thanks is enough,” but in reality, this approach causes an imbalance in the relationship. Like it or not, right or wrong, people don’t like feeling under obligation. Even when you don’t expect anything in return, most people want to, or feel the need to, reciprocate. Reject their offers to reciprocate one too many times and people will start rejecting your sincere offers.

Another aspect of reciprocity came to my attention over the weekend when a friend forwarded a recent Seth Godin blog post called, The Reciprocity Hustle. The gist of Godin’s post was, don’t be insincere in your attempts to help or give because people see through that self-serving approach.

No disagreement with Godin on that point. I routinely get emails offering compliments, “Hey, I love your website…” or “Your last article was great…” Giving compliments is a way to engage liking and, because it’s also a form of giving, it engages reciprocity. Those emails filter through my brain this way, “I just gave you a compliment, so I hope you’ll do something for me in return.” Excuse me for a moment while I stick my finger down my throat and gag. I hate such blatantly manipulative approaches.

Those are the insincere attempts Godin was referring to. Reciprocity should not be viewed as “give to get.” I like to put it as follows; Don’t give to get but if you don’t give, you’ll never get. It’s about the right motive, a sincere desire to help. Anything else should be reframed as a tactic the other person is using just to get what they want. 

Godin ended his post with, “Simply show up with good intent to do work that you’re proud of. If we do this with consistency and care, sooner or later, it comes back around. Not because we hustled, but precisely because we didn’t.”

I agree with Godin about doing good work and trusting it will come back around…but don’t leave it there, simply hoping it will come back to you in time. I encourage you; if you’ve genuinely helped people, you should never be hesitant or feel awkward about asking for help when you need it. 

Most of the people you’ve helped along the journey of life and business will want to help you if given the opportunity. The problem is, they don’t wake up every day thinking about you and how they can help you. They have their own troubles to deal with, goals they’re striving for, and other issues that occupy their limited attention. That’s not to say they are ungrateful, they’re just busy. A tap on the proverbial shoulder might be all they need to learn what you need and say yes. 

Give without expectation because it’s the right way, the best way to do life. Imagine how much better life would be if everyone took that approach! And, when you need something from people you’ve genuinely helped along the way, feel free to reach out and ask for what you need. Most will be more willing to help than you might imagine and they’ll feel good about helping you as I outlined in The 4-Step Reciprocity Loop for Better Relationships.

Brian Ahearn is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. An author, TEDx speaker, international trainer, coach, and consultant, he’s one of only 20 people in the world personally trained by Robert Cialdini, Ph.D., the most cited living social psychologist on the science of ethical influence.

Brian’s book, Influence PEOPLE: Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical, was named one of the 100 Best Influence Books of All Time by BookAuthority. His second book, Persuasive Selling for Relationship Driven Insurance Agents, was an Amazon new release bestseller. Brian’s LinkedIn Learning courses on persuasive selling and coaching have been viewed by over 375,000 people around the world.

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