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Social psychologists call it The Law of Reciprocity – and it basically says that when someone does something nice for you, you will have a deep-rooted psychological urge to do something nice in return. As a matter of fact, you may even reciprocate with a gesture far more generous than their original good deed.

Simply put, people are obliged to give back to others the form of a behavior, gift, or service that they have received first.

If a friend invites you to their party, there’s an obligation for you to invite them to a future party you are hosting. If a colleague does you a favor, then you owe that colleague a favor. And in the context of a social obligation people are far more likely to say yes to those who they owe.

One of the best demonstrations of the Principle of Reciprocity comes from a series of studies conducted in restaurants. The last time you visited a restaurant, there is a good chance that the waiter or waitress gave you a gift. Probably about the same time that they delivered your bill. A liqueur, a fortune cookie or perhaps a simple mint.

Question. Does the giving of a mint have any influence over how much tip you are going to leave? Most people would say no. A mint can make a surprising difference. In the study, giving diners a single mint at the end of their meal typically increased tips by around 3%.

Interestingly, if the gift is doubled and two mints are provided, tips DO NOT double. They quadruple—to a 14% increase in tips. Most interestingly, if the waiter provides one mint, starts to walk away from the table, but pauses, turns back around and says, “For you nice people, here’s an extra mint,” tips go through the roof. A 23% increase, influenced not by what was given, but how it was given.

The key to using the Principle of Reciprocity is to be the first to give and to ensure that what your gift is personalized, unexpected and delivered with genuine kindness. Click Here to See How We Do It

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