Wednesday, April 3, 2013

A Riff on Reciprocity

Guys like to solve problems. It’s in our nature. And we especially like to solve other people’s problems.

Tell us what’s wrong and watch how fast we start trying to fix it for you. We’ll offer up all kinds of solutions to whatever situation you’re in. It took me many years before it sunk in that most people I knew (and especially women in my life) just wanted me to listen, be understanding, and not actually try to solve their problem.

Buckminster Fuller was a pretty good problem solver. I like his 
take on it too: "When I am working on a problem, 
I never think about beauty but when I have finished, if the solution is 
not beautiful, I know it is wrong"

But let’s say that you aren’t simply seeking a sympathetic ear but are actually asking for help. Whenever you do it’s a smart artist who gives a little something in return.  It doesn’t have to be much, just a genuine* token of appreciation. An acknowledgement that someone else took time out to give you a hand goes a long way. A simple thank you note will do. 

So if you interview someone for a favor, about their technique, business practices, how they wrote their successful grant, technical tips, and so on, maybe write them a note, take them out to lunch, buy them a cup of coffee, a bottle of wine, or some other small pleasure to express your appreciation.

Providing a little tangible token of thanks is a gesture that builds goodwill and positive energy.  Think of it as providing karmic balance if you like. All it takes is a little reciprocity.

*Intention is important here. Sincerity counts. People pick up on it pretty quick if you’re the type that comes across as a calculating mooch. No body likes a mooch, even less a calculating one.