Negotiation: Persuasion by Reciprocation

04/03/2023by dang tin0

Persuasion by Reciprocation

IN HIS BOOK, Influence, Robert Cialdini lists the factors that have the greatest impact on the way people think and respond to you. The most powerful of all influences, in his estimation, is the power of reciprocity. Extensive research shows that reciprocity—giving and receiving—is the most powerful way to gain agreement and commitment.
Human beings tend to be fair in their interactions with others. This means that when you do something for me, I feel obligated to reciprocate, to do something for you of equal or greater value. This is a natural and normal human instinct. It is the basis of civilization, and the foundation of the Law of Contract, which makes all business possible.

Do Things for Others

What this means in a negotiation is that whenever you do something nice for other people, even holding their chair or personally getting them a cup of coffee, you trigger within them an unconscious desire to reciprocate—to pay you back in a positive way for your kindness.
Whenever you ask other people about their life, work, or family, and listen with genuine interest while they talk, it makes them feel happy about themselves.

Use the Socratic Method

To trigger reciprocity, use the Socratic method of negotiation. Socrates said, “First, decide upon all the areas where you agree before moving on to more controversial areas where you have differences of opinion.”
As described in a previous chapter (The Law of Four), I recommend that you start off the negotiation or discussion by going through every single item, one at a time. You’ll find that there are always a large number of issues on which you and the other person agree, and which both of you accept. When you both discuss and agree on a variety of issues, you build a positive momentum toward reaching an agreement.


Whenever you are going through the various issues in a negotiation and you come to a point the other person disagrees with or is adamant about, you immediately say, “Let’s come back to that.”
The faster you go past a controversial issue, the less negativity and resistance there will be on the part of the other person. The more items that you agree upon initially, the easier it is for the other person to agree on other items later. By making the discussion smooth and easy at the beginning, the other party will want to reciprocate by making subsequent issues smooth and easy.
At the beginning of a negotiation, be a “go-giver” rather than a go-getter. Look for every way that you can possibly agree with the other person. This way you’ll build a greater and greater propensity for the other person to want to agree with you.


Another negotiating tactic you can use, even if you have no problems with a particular point, is to agree to it slowly, reluctantly, and carefully. When you make a concession too quickly, without hinting at some reluctance, the other party is going to believe the matter is unimportant to you. But when you act as if a concession is important, you trigger within the other person the knowledge that he will need to reciprocate later on.

Push the Fairness Button

One of the most important emotional principles in human relationships and negotiating is the principle of fairness. Use the word fair as often as you can because it triggers within the mind of the other person a desire to reciprocate in a positive way. Make statements such as, “I think the fair thing to do here would be this,” or “That doesn’t really seem fair to me in this situation.” Or, “I just want to be fair to both of us.” No one will ever argue with you about your desire to be fair.

Ask the Other Party to Reciprocate

When you have reluctantly conceded on a series of minor points, you can then say, “Look, we’ve agreed to your requests in each of these areas. We’ve done all the giving up until now, and all we are asking is that you give us a little bit in these other areas”—which, of course, are the most important areas to you.

Price and Terms Are Different

Remember that price and terms are very different elements in a negotiation. You can agree to a price that may be more than you want to pay, as long as you can get terms that are favorable to you. You can tell the other party that you will pay the higher price if they will reciprocate by giving you better terms of payment.
Some friends of mine were negotiating on a million-dollar property. The property itself, based on market comparables, was not worth more than about $600,000. But the sellers demanded a million dollars for their land because a close personal friend of theirs had sold a parcel of similar size for a million dollars earlier that year. Of course, the other parcel of land was much better located, more suitable for development, and more valuable. But the owners of the land insisted that they receive $1 million for their land as well, or they wouldn’t sell it at all.

My friends finally agreed to pay the asking price, as long as they could receive acceptable terms from the vendor. The terms were that they would pay the million dollars over twenty years, at $50,000 per year, with no interest. When they developed the land into separate parcels and sold the parcels, they would accelerate the payment to the vendor as they received payment from their customers.

Since the price tag of $1 million was the most important factor for the land owners, and the terms and conditions were the most important factors for my friends, they were able to enter into a satisfactory agreement where both parties got the most important thing that they wanted from the sale.

Very often, when you enter into a negotiation, it will appear at the beginning that there is no room for you to reach agreement. But when you change the focus of attention away from the price, which is usually the major issue, to the terms and conditions of the purchase, you can often find a win-win agreement that makes both parties happy. Some of the most important business deals in history have been done in this way.

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