The Law of Reciprocity

Week 1, Day 6 – Learning the Basics

Yesterday’s post about Scrooge brought an inspiring comment in the discussion about one-sided relationships. Not sure why, but it got me thinking about Facebook and if my relationships are healthy within the social media context. I realized that I put an enormous amount of effort into keeping up with other people. I’ve joined several groups, online parties and even purchased items from many of them, to show support and love for my friends and their events.

It’s hard for me to always be away from home, and keeping up with people on Facebook from the different points of my life gives me a sense of security, stability and connectedness that many people may not understand. But, because this ability has added a large amount of value in my life, I’ve made sure to click on ‘Get Notifications’ for the ones I thought I was closest to and I’ve liked about a million bazillion posts to try to make the Facebook algorithm keep us connected.

What has been the effect? For starters, a burden to continue liking every post I ever see so that people won’t be offended if all of a sudden I stop liking their stuff & so Facebook won’t stop adding them to my feed. Also, it has caused some let down when the ones that I thought were so important to maintain a relationship obviously didn’t feel the same way. There was rarely, if ever, any reciprocity in my posts. Talk about buzz kill.

Remember, the final question in our Mindful Moments? Well, yesterday, I made the decision to cut the cord from some of the receivers of my giving. That’s right! I turned off all notifications, unless they were family members, and I did not like every post I saw. Then, I did the same thing for Twitter. And, unfollowed all the people I didn’t know on Instagram. My mood instantly improved after this. I finally felt free from the black cloud that was hanging over my head; the one that I created for myself by giving too much, even in the social media realm. Wow, right? (Can you relate to any of this, or am I just crazy talking?!) Through this exercise, I’m bringing more of the ‘Balancer’ point of view into my online presence.

‘Balancers’ have simple motivations for their actions – reciprocity. They are a group of people that don’t necessarily like to feel indebted to one another. They believe that there should always be an equal action given for what is received. Perhaps, they have a high moral obligation to keep things fair. Picture one of those old weighing scales. Every time someone gives to them, it gets a weight added to one side. They don’t like the scale to tip, so they quickly add a weight to their own side by giving back to the person who gave to them. They don’t necessarily let the scale tip in their direction either and are very reluctant to give first, but only to reciprocate.

There’s a great article on NPR about reciprocity and how it connects people. As an experiment in 1974, a man decided to send Christmas cards to 600 random people. He simply wanted to see if anyone would send him a card in return. The results – over 200 instantly reciprocated, and a few were even sent with very long letters included in the card. A handful remained sending cards for nearly 15 years after the experiment.…/give-and-take-how-the-rule-of-reciproc…

The article goes on further to describe other areas of our life where we instantly feel the need to reciprocate – when tipping the waitress, making a donation and even in the field of politics. Businesses and organizations use the law of reciprocity to their advantage when they want us, consumers and donors, to take action.

The concept of reciprocity is so ingrained in our minds and culture from a young age, that ‘Balancers’ use it as a philosophy for giving. They are smack dab in the middle of the Spectrum, not leaning one way or the other. It is hard for them to imagine altruism as a way to behave, or to even venture beyond the middle ground in either direction. While they may retain a relatively healthy lifestyle of giving, it lacks depth and acceptance to the benefits of generous giving.

As we learned earlier in the week, the act of giving forms connections and social bonds. When ‘Balancers’ are more interested in keeping a tally of deeds for themselves and others, they miss out on the happiness that is brought from true giving. Unbeknownst to them, they are ending the relationship before one even begins because the receivers of reciprocity feel the relationship is merely a set of transactions, or transfer of payments.

Additional reading on the Law of Reciprocity –…/Reciprocity_(social_psychology)

*Mindful Moments – How does the Law of Reciprocity shape your philosophy of giving? Can you think of any examples where it is necessary to maintain a balanced relationship of giving? Can you think of any relationships in your life that you’ve become complacent with a balance of give and receive, but would like to step it up a notch? What is ONE thing you can do today to help yourself reach your destination?

*Grateful Graces – What are you thankful for today?


to be continued…Week 1, Recap

New to the series? Start at the beginning here.


P.S. Sign-up for email notifications so you don’t miss a single post.



One thought on “The Law of Reciprocity

  1. Carla Gray says:

    Today I am thankful for the givers in my life. I feel kind of stuck in this law of reciprocity and I hesitate to give more than anyone has given to me right now. I’m burdened with the idea I will go into over-drive again. Basically, the law of reciprocity is a saving, or self-preservation, technique. If I only give when I receive, I protect my heart from pain. But, just as mentioned above, I will lose out on all the great connections, bonds and benefits that giving provides.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s