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Pay It Forward or Payback? Influence And The Principle of Reciprocity

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The principle of reciprocity is a powerful way to influence. It’s one of the six psychological principles of persuasion.  It’s a means of give and take.  Sort of a ”you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” thinking.  But there’s another expression you’re probably familiar with … “You get what you pay for!”  It’s all about how you give and the quality of your intention. 

There are two basic lessons to learn in the Principle of Reciprocity.  The first is, if you give, it will be given back to you.  If you’re lucky you will get more that you gave. The second lesson is more difficult to master – learn to give without hoping to get anything in return.   

You are judged by how you give.  If you lavish your gift of time, money, talent or affection then it’s determined you have a warm heart – you truly love that person.  However, if you hold back from giving then your heart is found to be cold.  Whatever seed you sow is the harvest you can expect to gather. 

Here are four ways to give so you can reap a plentiful harvest in the long run. These principles can be applied to most any aspect of your life (personally or professionally):

1.     1. Give with pleasure.  Finding pleasure in giving especially to people who cannot give back to you and not having the expectation of getting in return.

2.     2. Give early.  Do something for someone before you may need something from them.  If you are giving when you know you need something in return then that is more of a deal, not giving from the heart. 

3. Give frequently and bigheartedly.  If you give in large amounts, you will get large amounts.  If you give of yourself and in meaningful ways then you will receive in meaningful ways. 

4.     4. Give with surprise.  When it is least expected, step forward and give – with no strings attached.

The Principle of Reciprocity affects your relationship with your loved ones, neighbors, friends, colleagues and even strangers! Refrain from giving out of guilt, shame or obligation. It will taint what and how you receive. RatherArticle Search, be gracious and give from a sense of wanting to see others soar.

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Karen Keller, Ph.D. is an expert in women's leadership and assertiveness training. Visit

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