Whether we like it or not, much of our life experience is determined by our ability to influence other people.   Whether it’s inspiring them to do more, or persuading them to do what we want.   It’s all around us.  Advertising, the news, our peers and family.

This is everything from getting your kids to clean their room – to finding a spouse.   Can be getting someone to work for you, improving their performance, or finding people to do business with your firm.   We often even have to convince ourselves of things.

Our lives and economy are built around influence.

25 years ago Robert Cialdini wrote the seminal book of decoding this phenomenon.   Aptly titled “Influence”, the book is amazing.   Now, 2 decades later we still see proof he was correct.   I even saw evidence of his brilliance in the news this week.

First, let’s set it up
In the book, the first principle of influence he described is “Reciprocation.”   In short, when you do or say something especially nice for someone you have automatically primed them to do something for you.   This is part of the reason for free samples at Costco and businesses giving you free introductory gifts.   It even extends to buying someone dinner or a cup of coffee.   It’s influence – and it strong!!!

You want proof?  Ok, check out the 100+ year power of reciprocation alive today:  https://www.cnbc.com/2020/05/06/the-irish-help-raise-money-for-native-americans-hit-by-the-coronavirus.html

“The Native American territory of the Navajo Nation, which contains the Hopi Reservation and stretches across Arizona, Utah and New Mexico, has been among the worst hit areas by the coronavirus in the U.S.  So to help with relief they set up a GoFundMe account.  To date it has raised over $2.5 million and is aiming to raise a total of $3 million.”

And here is where we start learning our lesson:

“Vanessa Tulley, one of the organizers of the campaign, singled out generosity from Ireland on its GoFundMe page.

“Acts of kindness from indigenous ancestors passed being reciprocated nearly 200 years later through blood memory and interconnectedness,” she wrote. “Thank you Ireland for showing solidarity and being here for us.”

Some Irish donors tweeted that they were inspired by the Choctaw Nation tribe who provided relief of $170 — thought to be the equivalent of around $5,300 today— to Ireland during the Great Potato Famine in 1847.”

Yes – Eighteen….Forty…..Seven!!!!   That’s right: $170, given to someone in need, created a 150 year old “blood debt”.   THAT is how strong the power of reciprocation is!  

and there is the example Cialdini gave in his book:

In 1985, “Ethiopia could justly lay claim to the greatest suffering and privation in the world. Its economy was in ruin. Its food supply had been ravaged by years of drought and internal war. Its inhabitants were dying by the thousands from disease and starvation.”   The country was in terrible shape, and funding was non-existent.   It was so bad that American actors were buying time on TV to beg it’s citizens to donate “the price of a cup of coffee” to keep people from starving.

Yet,The Ethiopian Red Cross Society, one of the agencies involved in the massive drought and famine relief effort in this country, donated $5,000 to aid Mexico City earthquake victims.  The agency said the donation was being made despite ″the enormous needs prevailing in Ethiopia.″

It said Mexico had supported Ethiopia when forces of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini invaded the Horn of Africa country in 1935, the same year the Ethiopian Red Cross was founded.

The power of reciprocation is so strong that people would choose to starve to repay a 50 year old kindness.

How can you use reciprocation TODAY?   With so many people suffering from the effects of the pandemic, there are plenty of opportunities to help.   If you have the means, help someone.    If kindness isn’t a good enough motivator, then use selfishness.   You just saw the 150 year strong power of reciprocation.    Use it.

If you want to learn more about being influential, read Cialdini’s great book Influence.  You can get it anywhere books are sold.   Or AT LEAST read my book notes.   Click “The Big Ones” in the upper right corner to see the shortened version.

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