You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘reciprocity’ tag.

By Steven G. Mehta

There is a new book by Guy Kawasaki that I thought would be quite interesting.  It is called Enchantment.

Here is a brief interview with the the Former Apple Executive.

What role does sharing your dream with your potential customers or users play in the success of a company?
The pillars of enchantment are likeability, trustworthiness, and greatness. Greatness refers to the quality of your product, service, idea – in other words, your cause. Sharing your dream is a key part of enchantment for two reasons. First, you can’t assume that people know how great your cause is. You need to share knowledge about it to help people understand it. The world doesn’t beat a path to your door even if you created a better mousetrap.

Second, the goal of enchantment is deep, long-lasting, and delightful engagement. These qualities are not the result of mere transactions. Apple shared the Macintosh dream of empowerment, creativity, and productivity. When you buy a Macintosh, it’s not a sales transaction. It’s embracing a way of life. This is why Apple enchants people and other computer manufacturers “close a sale.”

To read the entire interview from the 99 Percent Solution, click here.

Also, here is a  brief Infographic that summarizes his book:

By Steven G. Mehta

Recently, I went to a Starbucks and was pleasantly surprised by what happened to me.  I immediately realized the power of the act as it happened.  However, what I didn’t know is how fast that act would then spread in the Starbucks.

I stood in line to order my tall chai tea latte and went to pay the bill.  The barista refused to take  my money.  She then said that the person before me had paid for my coffee.  I turned around to see who that generous person was and caught a glimpse of her red hair as she walked out of the Starbucks.

I was so touched by this woman’s kind gesture to a complete stranger, that I decided to “pay it forward.”  (For those of you who are not familiar with that phrase, there was a movie starring Haley Joel Osment where he decides to do a favor for three people.  When they asked if they could repay the favor, he asks them to pay the favor forward to three other people.  The concept takes off and spreads like wildfire.)

I decided to buy the next three people their coffee by simply paying $25 and letting it be used up by the next customers.  Soon, the Starbucks was crammed with people paying it forward.  I later learned the next day that that one lady’s act spurred five straight hours of generous acts of from customers to complete strangers.

Well recently, I found research that affirms what happened in my Starbucks.

In a study published in the March 8 early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers found the first laboratory evidence that cooperative behavior is contagious and that it spreads from person to person to person. The study found that people do, in fact, pay it forward after being shown kindness or generosity.

The research was conducted by James Fowler, associate professor at UC San Diego and Nicholas Christakis of Harvard, who is professor of sociology.

Fowler and Christakis study involved giving money to help others in a “public-goods game.” The study found a domino effect in which one person’s generosity spreads first to three people and then to the nine people that those three people interact with in the future, and then to still other individuals in subsequent waves of the experiment.

The effect persists, Fowler said: “You don’t go back to being your ‘old selfish self.”’ As a result, the money a person gives in the first round of the experiment is ultimately tripled by others who are subsequently (directly or indirectly) influenced to give more. “The network functions like a matching grant,” Christakis said.

The study is the first work to document experimentally Fowler and Christakis’s earlier findings that social contagion travels in networks up to three degrees of separation, and the first to corroborate evidence from others’ observational studies on the spread of cooperation.

Interestlingly, the study also found that uncooperative behavior is contagious.  However, there was nothing to suggest that it spread any more or any less robustly than cooperative behavior, Fowler said.

In trying to think how this study affects negotiations and mediations, the obvious conclusion was that it pays to make the first “real” or “meaningful” move in the negotiations.  Hopefully that act of generosity and “goodwill” will pay off in return directly and not just in a “pay it forward” fashion.  Needless to say that any action that you take should be done genuinely and with integrity.

This research also reaffirms the concept of reciprocity that people will do good deeds for others that have previously done something for that person.  In addition, just as I have indicated in my book, 112 Ways to Succeed In Any Negotiation or Mediation, it makes sense to try to pay it forward in the negotiation by taking your opponent out for lunch or coffee.

Third, it is possible in multiparty cases where one party is the target or “key” participant that your good deeds towards others in the litigation might get paid forward to the party that is the target.

Finally in a more global context, one of the most common complaints that exist in the profession of law is that people are no longer civil to each other.  Indeed, many states are legislating civility amongst the profession.  “Paying it Forward” is an important first and critical step towards helping the attorneys be more civil towards each other.


James H. Fowler, and Nicholas A. Christakis. Cooperative behavior cascades in human social networks. PNAS, March 8, 2010 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0913149107

Steve MehtaBy Steven G. Mehta


There has been substantial research on the issue of favors and likelihood of increasing compliance.  In addition, there is also a lot of research on the effect of an apology after a transgression.   But there has been very little research on what effect, if any,  an apology has on increasing compliance when there is no transgression.

Researcher Ryan Goei and others researched the “effects of favor and apology on compliance and to explain any potential effect” relating to indebtedness, liking or gratitude.  The researchers explained that research has clearly shown that doing someone a favor will increase the likelihood that the other person will comply with a request of yours.  Moreover, apologies are intended to acknowledge responsibility and  regret for a violation.

In this experiment, the researchers tested the effect of an apology for not providing an unsolicited favor to a stranger.  The experimenters left the room in which the subject was present.  A few minutes later, the experimenter would return with a drink and then either make no comment regarding not bringing the other person a drink, would bring a drink, or would make an apology for not having brought the subject a drink (even though it was not requested by the subject).  Later in the experiment, the researchers would ask the subject to buy a raffle ticket.

The researchers found as follows:

  • Apology has a positive affect on liking. This disproves the argument that apologizing would actually decrease liking. However, when the apology was given with a statement that did not benefit the requestor, liking by itself did not increase compliance with the request.  
  • Indebtness did not have anything to do with increasing liking or creating compliance. The experiment suggests that gratitude and liking will play a role, but not indebtedness.   (this is contrary to quite a few researchers including Robert Cialdini)
  • When the compliance seeking message included gain to the person requesting the compliance, the apology which created liking did increase the compliance rate of the subject.
  • When the request seeks to benefit someone else, then the subject’s gratitude will influence compliance; but when the request benefits the requestor directly, then liking will be the most influential.

According to the authors, “apology might be used to augment compliance rates without suffering the tangible cost of providing a favor – one need only to apologize for not having done a favor.”  The authors did not that the research needs further support and testing before they can make concrete conclusions.

Applying the Research

Negotiators know that liking will have a substantial effect on whether a person is likely to do something that has been requested.  This research also makes it clear that it is not reciprocity as much as liking and gratitude.  The negotiator must think about what he or she is asking and focus on what emotion (liking or gratitude) will be the right emotion to elicit. 

Second, if you can find a way to apologize to the other person for something that is not a transgression, you may be able to increase your negotiating position.  For example, you could consider going to get a coffee with your negotiating opponent and apologizing for not buying the coffee.  Or you could apologize for not calling to share a ride with the opponent.  The apology must relate to something that you didn’t have to do in the first place.  But on the other hand, if you do something that will create the need for an apology, then the apology may not have the desired effect. 

Research Source:

Goei, R, Roberto, A, Meyer, G & Carlyle, K, The Effects of Favor and Apology on Compliance, Communication Research, 2007; 34: 575.

By Steven G. MehtaSteve Mehta

Feeling slighted, miffed, or offended can influence how a person responds much more than being the recipient of perceived generosity, even if the net value of the social transaction is the same, the research on reciprocity—giving and taking—shows.

“Negative reciprocity, or taking, escalates,” said Boaz Keysar, Professor of Psychology at the University of Chicago and lead author of the paper “Reciprocity is Not Give and Take: Asymmetric Reciprocity to Positive and Negative Acts,” published in the Psychological Science. The study was based on giving-and-taking games conducted on students and people in downtown Chicago.

The games provided data on how people respond to give-and-take social exchanges.

In one experiment, subjects were divided into two groups and asked to conduct experiments that began in two different ways using money. In the first group, one player learned that another player had $100 and was going to share it. In each situation, the player with the money gave the other player $50. When the roles were reversed, the players who received the $50 received $100 which they could share with the other players. In that exchange, those players gave their partners on average $49.50.

On the other hand, In a companion experiment, the researchers found when they changed the act to taking instead of giving, that the act of taking had a far bigger impact on people’s responses than did the act of sharing.  Just as in the first experiment, when the roles were reversed, the first players took back much more, leaving the partners with an average of $42.

Further, as each round continued, each person “taking” became increasingly greedy over repeated exchanges.

The study, which was supported by the National Science Foundation, the National Institute for Mental Health, and the Templeton Foundation, shows various social exchanges differ from those in the marketplace, where goods are bought and sold, Keysar said. “Acts of giving are perceived as more generous in social exchanges than objectively identical acts of taking,” Keysar said. “Taking tends to escalate.”

Applying the Research

Most studies involve positive reciprocity – the giving of gifts in anticipation of coercing positive action from the other person.  However, this study demonstrated that negative reciprocity can often be more powerful a motivating factor than positive reciprocity.  This directly applies to the litigation negotiation context.  Often in litigation, one party feels slighted.  Take for example, when an offer is made that is a “highball offer” or “lowball offer,” the other side tends to reciprocate with their own version of an offensive offer.  This research demonstrates that unless the cycle is broken, the conflict of negative reciprocity will continue to escalate.

Moreover, people are often also slighted by some action that occurred that instigated the litigation.  The same cycle of negative reciprocity and increasing escalation can substantially increase the transaction cost to the litigation by forcing parties to conduct more discovery, more motions, and more time and energy.

It is, therefore, important to break the cycle.  According to Louis Kreisberg, professor of sociology, all conflicts will escalate until a point of stalemate, and then only can the parties de-escalate.   As such, whether the conflict is the litigation or the negotiating offers, the parties must first come to a stalemate.  In negotiations, that means that the parties need to realize that the escalating moves that are “offensive” won’t work.   The parties need to realize that they won’t be able to achieve their goal by pursuing the “offensive offers.”  But that may take some time.  The parties won’t realize that there is a stalemate in the negotiations until several moves have taken place.

Second, after realization of the stalemate, the parties need to have some way to start to de-escalate.  Some ways that negotiators and mediators can break the escalation cycle is as follows:

  • Make a unilateral gesture of good faith
  • Change the focus of the negotiation
  • Take the initiative to identify the stalemate  — I.e. “we all know that these moves aren’t going to get us anywhere.  We need to get to the realistic negotiations, otherwise we will be at a stalemate forever.”
  • Make a small gesture whilst indicating a desire to receive such a small gesture also.  This is also known as GRIT, an approach developed by Charles Osgood.   In his original writing he said it stood for “graduated and reciprocated initiatives in tension reduction; later he simplified this to gradual reduction in tension.  The basic idea is that disputant can initiate de-escalation by making a small, unilateral (one-sided) concession to the other side, and at the same time, communicating a desire or even an expectation that this gesture will be matched with an equal response from the opponent.  If the opponent does respond positively, the first party can make a second concession, and a “peace spiral” is begun.  If the first initiative is ignored, Osgood suggests that it be followed by a second–or even a third–attempt.  These concessions should be designed to build trust, but should not be terribly costly (materially or strategically), nor should they suggest weakness.   However, they should indicate a willingness to transform the conflict to a more cooperative and less adversarial approach.
  • Apologize – whether this is for something substantive or procedural.  An apology can help to significantly de-escalate a conflict.
  • Take a time out from the negotiations so as not to escalate the conflict.
  • Identify that the conflict is escalating and that you do not wish to escalate – State your intention to de-escalate.
  • Ask the other side to help you de-escalate.  – Former enemies will becomes the greatest of allies when they share the common goal or enemy.

Steve’s Book

Get Your Updates Automatically, Click Below to Subscribe

Google Reader or Homepage
Add to My Yahoo!
Subscribe with Bloglines
Subscribe in NewsGator Online

Subscribe in myEarthlink