We often see this method at work when companies give out complimentary calendars, business pens, T-shirts, or mugs. This specialty advertising is an $18.5 billion dollar industry. It not only creates obligation, but keeps your name in front of your future customer. The studies show that 52% of people given a promotional product said they were more likely to do business with the person that gave them the item.
The same principle applies when you go to the grocery store and see those alluring sample tables. It is hard to take a free sample and then walk away without at least pretending to be interested in the product. Some individuals, as a means of appeasing their indebtedness, have learned to take the sample and walk off without making eye contact. The studies show that 70% will try the sample when asked and 37% of those will buy the product. Although some have taken so many samples, they no longer feel an obligation to buy or even pretend they’re interested in the products anymore. Still, the technique works, so well that it has been expanded to furniture and audio/video stores, which offer free pizza, hot dogs, and soft drinks to get you into the store and create instant obligation.
Pre-giving is effective because it makes us feel like we have to return the favor. Greenburg said this feeling of discomfort is created because the favor threatens our independence. The more indebted we feel, the more motivated we are to eliminate the debt. An interesting report from the Disabled American Veterans Organization revealed that their usual 18 percent donation response rate nearly doubled when the mailing included a small, free gift.
A men’s clothing store offers free pressing for suits bought in their store. This creates a sense of obligation among their customers, who when they next decide to buy another suit are more likely to buy it from the store that offered the freebie. Offering a free inspection or free estimate also will create obligation. Remember this does not guarantee they will do business with you. They will be more willing to listen and puts you higher on the list.
An interesting side effect to obligation is what is does to the giver. Those that help you or give you something feel more positive and have higher self-esteem. The other bonus is that the giver also feels more committed to the recipient. Which means always let them reciprocate back to you.
I’ve talked about common rapport-building obstacles and how you can know for sure that you’re not connecting. But how do you know that you are connecting, especially when your audience is not going to tell you? One of the most obvious signs of a good connection is that the initial defensiveness and skepticism begin to dissipate. The mood relaxes and your audience begins to relax. They begin to voluntarily offer personal thoughts and feelings without you having to pull it out of them. Openness increases, and resistance decreases. There is more eye contact and more open body language. It could best be summed up by saying things start to “feel right.” The exchange is natural, sincere, positive, and upbeat. You could compare it to how you feel when talking to a good friend.
One of the myths about having rapport with people is that you have to agree with each other on every point. Rapport and agreement are not the same. When you have good rapport you will no doubt agree on many things, but this is incidental and not essential. Your ability to connect with people cannot be conditional. To be a powerful persuader, your persuasiveness cannot have any contingencies. You must be persuasive no matter who comes to your table, and that means accepting people as they are and still respecting them, listening to them, and caring about them. Some may think I go too far in saying agreement is incidental. Is it possible to have rapport with someone with whom you agree on nothing? Think of your friends and family. You can probably think of someone you like and connect with very well even though you don’t agree on financial, political, or religious matters.
Another way to enhance your ability to motivate yourself and others is to make sure all things are balanced in your life. Great persuaders lead a balanced life and keep everything in perspective. I call this delicate balance “life alignment.” Make sure there is balance in every aspect of your life. Imbalance can undermine motivation and cause inaction and unhappiness. Many times, we quit early because of imbalance, even when we don’t realize an imbalance exists. It may be only one area of our life that is out of whack, but it can still have a direct effect on other areas of our life. Just as in a mutual fund, where one bad stock can pull down the fund’s overall value, one bad area in your life can also have a disproportionate negative effect.
Ask yourself these questions: Would I invest in my own mutual fund of myself? Would I suggest that my family or friends invest in me? These are hard questions to ask, but the answers to them are necessary as you get your life on track. Take a look at the stocks in which you have invested in your own life. What stock is pulling the rest of your portfolio down? Are you a growing mutual fund or is your mutual fund losing money? Is your fund stagnant? If you won’t invest in your personal mutual fund (yourself), who will?
When we look at life, we have to realize that it is not lived in segments, but rather, it is part of a greater whole. Every aspect of your life will either help or hurt the rest of your life. Our aim is to get all aspects working together to create a high-performing fund. Realize, however, that you can invest too much in one aspect of your life. When you do, you can get unbalanced just like a tire on a car. Even too much of a good thing can lead to disaster.
As you invest in yourself, you must make sure you are diversifying in the following six areas: We often spend too much of our time spinning our wheels and investing in stock that has no value or that is diminishing the value of our mutual fund. We get so busy buying the stock society recommends that we forget to examine whether this stock is helping or hurting us. There may also be times when you need to sell a stock (change a habit or belief) because it is not performing. We always need to make sure that we are a growth fund and that we are continually investing the right things in ourselves. If we neglect any one of the life-alignment areas, our overall happiness and success will diminish.
The Law of Obligation, also known as pre-giving or reciprocity, states that when others do something for us, we feel a strong need, or urge, to return the favor. Returning the favor rids us of the obligation created by the first good deed. The adage “one good turn deserves another” is a part of social conditioning in every culture. And, even beyond that, the maxim serves as an ethical code that does not necessarily need to be taught, but nevertheless is understood. For example, when someone smiles or gives us a compliment, we feel a great need to return the smile or compliment. Even when these gestures are unsolicited, we feel a sense of urgency to repay the person who has created the mental or psychological debt. In some cases, our need to subconsciously repay this debt is so overwhelming that we end up dramatically exceeding the original favor. The reciprocity trigger created by the car salesman’s water is a classic example of this principle. Most of us keep a mental scorecard of these favors.
The drive to alleviate feelings of obligation is so powerful that it can make us bend toward people we don’t even know. Accepting gifts or favors without attempting to return them is universally viewed as selfish, greedy, and heartless. It is often strictly due to this internal and external pressure that people conform to the rule of reciprocity. One university professor chose names at random from a telephone directory, and then sent these complete strangers his Christmas cards. Holiday cards addressed to him came pouring back, all from people who did not know him and, for that matter, who had never even heard of him. I had a student raise his hand at a seminar and said, I know him and he is still getting Christmas cards from strangers over 20 years later. Can you believe people have sent out Christmas cards all these years to someone they didn’t even know?