In Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, author Robert Cialdini talks about the principle of reciprocity: people tend to return a favor. Do something nice for someone, and they are likely to do something nice for you in return. As a change agent, your personal influence with individuals can be enhanced by this principle. To influence change, do favors for people.
Saying that you should do lots of favors so people will owe you favors in the future sounds manipulative, I realize. No one with integrity wants to think of purposely doing good deeds with the intent to rack up points that you can cash in later. But it’s a simple psychological principle. We have more influence with people who like us, and one way to get people to like you is to do favors for them.
I don’t recommend only doing favors for people whom you would like to gain influence; generally we call people who do that brown-nosers! Instead, do favors for everyone. Be generous with your time, knowledge, expertise and power, because as a change agent you never know who you will need to influence. Do favors because it’s the right thing to do, and trust that your personal influence will grow.
How might you invoke the principle of reciprocity?
Read more of the 99 Ways to Influence Change.