I once read an interesting quote: “Humans have a natural openness to reciprocity. It’s a time-honored survival technique, one that allowed us to live together in villages for millennia. Someone who doesn’t reciprocate is less likely to be protected by his peers, right? Not only have we been taught reciprocation since birth, but it feels right. It’s baked in.”
It’s true: reciprocating is as old as humanity. In family, friendships, in business, and even with people we hardly know, we are compelled to reciprocate. We love to respond in kind, to return the favor. If someone does something kind for us, we want to do something kind for them—not always because we feel obligated or have ulterior motives, but because we simply want to. It feels good. It is one of the best pleasures this world has to offer.
But what about when there are ulterior motives? What happens when reciprocity becomes a tool for someone to get their way? Reciprocity can turn sour when it is used to pull someone in, to hook them; when it’s used to manipulate. We can feel when someone has covert and private motives behind their seeming kindness. We feel used. And when people feel they are being used instead of simply equaled in kindness and courtesy, they lose trust. Insincere or duplicitous reciprocation can do harm to a person’s reputation, those trusted in business, and in one’s personal life.
But when reciprocity, the responding to and giving back of human interaction, is used in a genuine way, everyone involved is blessed. Both friends, companies, or family members are helping each other, working to encourage and assist. It’s a give and take. And it can make sweeten the humdrum, and add a bit of hope and happiness in the busyness of daily life.
When reciprocity goes bad, it can be one of the most painful feelings in the world. No one wants to be a pawn in someone else’s game. But when reciprocity can be one of the greatest gifts. For example, when two people experience the same love or liking affection, that reciprocity of mutual care and respect can change life for the good. And so maybe today is a good day to seek ways to genuinely help and encourage others, without any expectation of reciprocity. And if someone has been kind to you or helped you out recently, maybe it’s a good day to reciprocate.
Edited by: Lindsay Friedman
Sherri Rosen has her own publicity firm in NYC for over l2 years giving a powerful voice to people who are doing wonderful things in the world. She also writes for Gatekeeper’s Post, The Good Men Project, Her own blog, Redhead’s Blog, Triiibes, along with the wonderful elephant journal. You can friend her on Facebook and Twitter.
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