Helping others allows us a moment of ‘persuasive power.' But what's the best way to use that edge?
Perhaps one of the more practical uses of the reciprocity principle in business interactions concerns not how we can get others to respond, but instead how we respond after we provide help and assistance. Persuasion researchers have found that people are afforded a ‘moment of persuasive power' immediately after they are thanked for providing something valuable and meaningful.
Clearly I'm not suggesting that the next time an important client thanks you for pulling out all the stops in order to help them out of a fix, your response should be, ‘Yes I did help you out and now you owe me!' Such a response will ensure they'll likely never come to you again. But the much more common ‘No problem, I was happy to help' potentially throws away an opportunity legitimately earned.
Perhaps a more effective thing to say would be something along the lines of ‘I was happy to help. It's what we at ABC Ltd do for our important customers' or ‘You're welcome. I know that if the situation were ever reversed, you'd do the same.‘
Will such an approach always result in you getting what you want? Certainly not, but it may be that by simply recognising when these persuasive moments occur, a few more opportunities might come your way.
Steve Martin is co-author of Yes! 50 Secrets from the Science of Persuasion.