The Top Tool to Tick Off Your Team

Our social world is governed by unspoken norms.

Want to freak someone out?

The next time someone says “hello” to you, just ignore them and don’t reply.

(Just thinking about doing that probably freaks you out.)

As someone who wants to influence others, you need to be particularly attuned to what people say to you.  When you’re attuned, you create emotional resonance with the people you lead, and they feel and see you as a more effective leader.

Robert Cialdini, in his bestselling book Influence outlines 6 principles of influence.

The first principle is Reciprocity: responding to a positive action with another positive action.It’s not accident this is first:  it’s a variation on the Golden Rule, found in nearly every culture on the planet.Ignore reciprocity at your own peril.

Last week, I had a business trip scheduled to fly from Boston-Paris on Monday night. Over the weekend, the weather forecast called for a massive blizzard in Massachusetts on Monday, which meant I wouldn’t be able to get to France.

Wanting to guarantee that I could get to Paris, I decided to change my flight to depart on Sunday.  It meant an extra day away from my family, including missing out on watching the Super Bowl with my son.

I emailed my client, my program coordinator and the client account manager about the change in itinerary.

My client emailed back:  Thanks for coming in early.  We’ve added an additional night stay at the hotel. Looking forward to seeing you.

My coordinator emailed back:  Thanks for being so heads up about the weather.  Great call.My account manager emailed back:  Happy Travels Alain. Have fun.

Happy Travels?!  Have fun?!

I just spent most of the weekend online sorting this issue out, left home a day early, and all I get back is “happy travels, have fun”?

I was ticked off.  I felt profoundly unseen and devalued.In the clear light of day, I get it.  I realize that he was probably just shooting off a quick reply, and didn’t think it all through. He didn’t intend to tick me off.

But I was ticked off–for quite some time.

I also judged him as clueless.

As a leader, people won’t give you the benefit of the doubt when you don’t reciprocate. They expect you to think things through, and to have empathy for their situation.

That’s where reciprocity starts:  with empathy and acknowledgement.

The good news is you don’t have to match their effort with exactly the same return effort.

In this relationship, reciprocity means matching their effort with your acknowledgement.

To put it plainly:  say thank you.

Otherwise, it’s as if they said “Hello!”, and you ignored them.

What things get cause you to “forget” to reciprocate the efforts of others?  Join the conversation by leaving a comment below.

Leave a Comment

Connect with Alain


I am interested in...
(please select all options that apply)*

I can be reached at...

What would you like Alain to know about your role and/or organization, and what you'd like to achieve?