People Say Yes to Those They Owe: Psychology of Influence

The post title is a quote from renowned author and researcher Robert Cialdini.

Most people misunderstand the idea of reciprocity.  We almost always try to apply reciprocity by saying, “If you do this, I’ll give you that.”  That is not reciprocity!  It’s more like blackmail.

Reciprocity works when you willingly help someone to advance their agenda and they feel a natural human pull to return the favor.

“People say yes to those they owe.”

In another interview I read, Cialdini shares that the FBI is now using reciprocity in hostage negotiations.  It used to be, “Send us the little girl and we’ll send you some food.”  They now send in the food and then ask the hostage taker to release the little girl and they are seeing a higher degree of success.

Reciprocity (properly leveraged) is a powerful tool for influence in any business market.  But it should be applied as a cornerstone of your marketing and business model.

I’ve posted a video interview of Cialdini where he further explains the subtle power of the psychological principal of reciprocity below and I’d love to get your comments:



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