Delivering the goods

Back scratching and eye gouging –

Reciprocity influences all of our relationships – personal, business and even political. When good intentions and positive acts are returned in kind it builds a positivity and constructive actions. This reciprocal environment then, is conducive to cooperation.

However, there is some scientific evidence (and the world of anecdotal knowledge) that while prosocial actions tend to result in positive actions, negative antisocial actions tend to lead to negative reciprocity and rapidly deteriorating situations.

As one study puts it – ”You scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours, but if you take my eye, I’ll take both of yours.”

Darkness is the absence of light –

Reciprocity as a force in human relationships is more powerful and misunderstood than we may realise. Negative reciprocity helps to fuel all the conflicts and even the wars that surround us. However, just as darkness is not a power in itself but simply the absence of light, to combat negative reciprocity we need to shine some light by building positive reciprocal environments.

This requires action on our part but it is action we can all take.  One tiny positive act can join up with the next tiny positive act until, eventually, there is a tsunami of constructive action.

It’s time to harness the power of reciprocity and make it work for us instead of finding ourselves the victims of the tide of negative reciprocity threatening to engulf the world in which we live.


Photograph – People and the Post, Postal History from the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum

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