Describes the natural tendency to react to a positive action with another positive action;
You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.
You get out what you put in.
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
It’s all reciprocity.
Reciprocity is the glue which binds us.
It’s the social chain reaction which inspires deep friendships, and even love.
It’s a powerful force which demands the careful balancing of social expectations and experience.
Relationships intensify when your partner’s reaction to a positive effort matches, or slightly exceeds, your initial effort. But relationships shatter when one’s reciprocity is too disproportionate.
Say you made them breakfast, then they picked up your groceries on the way home. A week later, you do a load of their washing and a week after that they clean the house on their day off. The back-and-forth exchange of favours enhances your trust and appreciation for one another. How sweet.
Now instead, imagine you made them breakfast, then that afternoon they returned home in a new car they’d just bought you.
Even if you wanted the car, you probably wouldn’t stay with them any longer than it took to sign the liscensing paperwork.
Even if the gift was genuinely bought as a selfless gesture, because money wasn’t an issue and they knew how much you wanted it, there is a fine tuned part of your brain which analyses these situations with scrutiny;
What do they want?
What do I owe them?
Could I repay them?
Am I sure I want to?
When reciprocity goes to the extreme our scepticism is triggered.
This scepticism exists to protect us from threats or deceptions. The more disproportionate the reciprocity, the more sceptical we will be of the intention behind the positive act.
Scepticism is exhausting, anxiety enducing and awful to be on the receiving end of.
If meaningful relationships are what you want, it’s best to build reciprocity slowly.
Give, give often and give warmly. But be mindful not to overwhelm others with your generosity; whether in the form of gifts, kind deeds, or your time and attention.