Soft Skills and The Law of Reciprocity – Never Underestimate the Power of Kindness.

Power of Kindness
Never Underestimate the Power of Kindness

Think of the movie Pay it forward.

For the sake of those who have not watched it, allow me to give a brief synopsis;

In the movie, 12-year-old Trevor McKinney is inspired by his social studies teacher’s assignment in which he has to come up with an idea to change the world for the better.

After much thought, Trevor creates what seems like an impossible plan of “Paying forward” favours. No tricks, No gimmicks. Just three big favours for three other people.

Without giving away too much, let’s just say that in the process, he starts an UNSTOPPABLE wave of kindness and before he knows it, he is able to help his struggling single mother.

The movie to an extent summarises what the law of reciprocity is all about – paying back good for good. In other words, what goes around comes around.

There is not one single culture in the world that does not emphasize on reciprocity.

In 1974, Philip Kunz, a sociologist at Brigham Young University who was always fascinated by reciprocity,  decided to put the law to the test.

This is what he did – He collected directories from several towns and picked out 600 names – at random – and sent out beautifully hand written Christmas Cards and even attached a photo of his family.

He then sat back to see what happened.

Lo and behold! In the weeks before Christmas, Kunz and his family were flooded with dozens of Christmas Cards. All with beautifully written Christmas greetings, and all from perfect strangers.

The strangers did not know Kunz, so why did they bother?

It was quite simple;


They felt that Kunz cared and felt compelled to return the gesture. It is inherent. For example, when you smile at a one-year-old, they reciprocate with a smile.


They felt obligated (through learned behavior) to return the gesture. (Try walking down the street smiling and saying “Hi. How are you doing?” to everyone you meet. Chances are, almost everyone will either nod, smile or even return your greeting.)

This goes to show that human beings are reciprocal and will almost always want to return good for good.

The same principle of reciprocation can be applied in business. Now I’m not talking about the marketing freebies that are designed to make customers buy what they don’t need.

Marketing freebies have their place in business but the truth is, the hype sooner or later wears out. I cannot count the number of freebies that are lying in my closet – unused!

Marketing and freebies draw customers to your business. Soft Skills ultimately keep them.

We discussed customer service soft skills in the blog 5 – not-so-secret – Soft Skills that can keep your customers coming back.

The tips are easy to master, inexpensive and can go a long way in winning customers’ hearts.

In the absence of Soft Skills on the other hand, a customer may feel unappreciated. Feel like his loyalty is not being reciprocated and that his money is best spent elsewhere.

Now let me emphasize that we should not give with expectation or conditions. The benefits of reciprocity are not only in receiving but also in giving.

Customers come in a bell curve; 1% are everyone’s dream customer! – Very easy going and very easy to please. The other 1% will never be satisfied no matter how hard you try (they complain about… Well, pretty much everything!). The other 98%, on the other hand, will mirror your attitude.

Of the 98%, some are just having a bad day and need someone who’s pleasant demeanour reminds them that it’s never that serious.

Final thoughts on reciprocity

Using the law of reciprocity can transform your business. Call it Karma!

So strive to go the extra mile, give more than is expected and always keep your promise to the customer.

In the end, it will be a Win-Win for both the customer and the business. What’s good for the customer, is good for the business… 🙂

Do you have any thoughts on the Law of Reciprocity? We’d love to hear to hear from you! Please share them in the comments section below.


18 Replies to “Soft Skills and The Law of Reciprocity – Never Underestimate the Power of Kindness.”

  1. Yes!!

    I find that this lesson of kindness is so true, especially as I am applying for jobs. It takes so little to add to someone’s day, really. The way you answer, even if you tailor your words on automatic replies, goes such a long way! Taking those 30 extra seconds to create a more positive and enriching communication is something we’d should all be striving for!

    1. Thank you so much Sara for your comment. I read your blog and I loved it! I agree that a few extra seconds and a little more effort can make all the difference to someone’s day.

      PS: Incidentally, I’ve got a blog on interviewing coming up soon… Watch this space… 🙂

    1. Thank you Christel. I totally agree. Christmas season is an awesome time to surprise others and niche specific cards are even better! 🙂

  2. Good to know, Very useful and creative. Thank you very much for the information you shared, it’s all I’ve been looking for. – Lead Generation Companies Canberra and Brisbane, Appointment Setting Companies Canberra and Brisbane

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *