How the Law of Reciprocity Can Make You Happy


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“Successful people are always looking for opportunities to help others. Unsuccessful people are always asking, ‘what’s in it for me?’”  —Brian Tracy

Success in business and personal relationships means different things to different people. One thing is for sure, when it comes to boosting your value in any setting, relationships are your number-one asset. We think the best way to build genuine, long-term network of professionals is to put the law or reciprocity into action.

Law of Reciprocity

Simply stated, the law of reciprocity is a social rule that says when someone gives you something, you should give something back. If this is a real thing, and we think it is, you can boost your success by giving more than you need to and giving without the intent of getting—we’re convinced it will come back to you in good ways.

Some consider this the most powerful law of human nature, and it helps you connect with people and build trust (if you use your powers for good). Simple gestures like thanking people for their time and pointing out their strengths can plant seeds that grow relationships. Networking can be as easy as treating others with regard, respect, and kindness in both personal and professional settings.

The Fred Factor

In his book, The Fred Factor: How Passion in Your Work and Life Can Turn the Ordinary into the Extraordinary, Mark Sanborn offers poignant advice for how to reach the next level of success by implementing the principle of “going the extra mile” to create value regardless if you’ll get something out of it. He recounts the true story of his postman, Fred Shea, who passionately loves his job and genuinely cares about the people he serves. Where others may see monotony or drudgery, Fred sees opportunity to make a difference. Sanborn emphasizes that regardless of what we do for a living, each person we interact with we affect—by offering value and building strong relationships we not only excel in our careers, but find meaning in our work and can make our lives extraordinary.

The Four Principles of The Fred Factor:

  1. Everyone makes a difference. The only question at the end of the day is, “What kind of difference did you make?”
  2. Everything is built on relationships. Go beyond simply interacting with customers and colleagues to build relationships.
  3. You must continually create value for others, and it doesn’t have to cost a penny. You can replace money with imagination. The objective is to outthink your competition rather than outspend them.
  4. You can reinvent yourself regularly. No matter what job you hold, what industry you work in or where you live in the world, you wake up every morning “tabula rasa,” with a blank slate, and you can make your business and your life anything you choose.

How to Begin

Recognizing the effects of your value to others and the power of genuine networking can become a habit. Start by implementing these few ideas:

  • • Accept feedback and take responsibility for mistakes
  • • Look for opportunities to help others without being asked
  • • Ask a lot of questions to get to the heart of an issue, “How do you really feel about that idea?”
  • • Negotiate without the need to be right—make the relationship more important than the issue at hand
  • • Treat all of your relationships as important

One of the best pieces of advice to get you started is to find something you are passionate about in your work and get excited—when you’re excited about the value you can add, it’s easier to go the extra mile.

Some references to get you started:

The Fred Factor: How Passion in Your Work and Life Can Turn the Ordinary into the Extraordinary

The 10X Rule: The Only Difference Between Success and Failure Hardcover 

Brian Tracy: Using the Law of Reciprocity

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