123rf40766943 negotiating skills largeThe Law of Reciprocity says: People have a deep subconscious need to reciprocate for anything that is done to or for them.

This Law of Reciprocity is one of the most powerful of all determinants of human behavior. This is because nobody likes to feel that he is obligated to someone else. When someone does something nice for us, we want to pay him back, to reciprocate. We want to be even. Because of this, we seek an opportunity to do something nice in return. This law is the basis of the law of contract, as well as the glue that holds most human relationships together.

This Law of Reciprocity is most active in negotiating when the issue of concessions comes up. Ideally, every concession in a negotiation should be matched by a concession of some kind on the part of the other person. [quotesright]The giving and getting of concessions is often the very essence of a negotiation. [/quotesright]

The first corollary of the law of reciprocity is: “The first party to make a concession is the party who wants the deal the most.”

You must therefore avoid being the first one to make a concession, even a small concession. Instead, be friendly and interested, but remain silent. The first person to make a concession will usually be the person who makes additional concessions, even without reciprocal concessions. Most purchasers or sellers are aware of this. They recognize that [quotes]early concessions are a sign of eagerness[/quotes] and are prepared to take advantage of it. Be careful.

The second corollary of the Law of Reciprocity says: “Every concession you make in a negotiation should be matched by an equal or greater concession by the other party.”

If the other party asks for a concession, you may give it, but never without asking for something else in return. If you don’t request a reciprocal concession, the concession that you give will be considered to have no value and will not help you as the negotiation proceeds.

[quotesright]If a person asks for a better price, suggest that[/quotesright] it might be possible but you will have to either decrease the quantity or lengthen the delivery dates. Even if the concession is of no cost or value to you, you must make it appear valuable and important to the other party or it will not help you in the negotiation.

The third corollary of the Law of Reciprocity says: “Small concessions on small issues enable you to ask for large concessions on large issues.”

[quotesright]One of the very best negotiating strategies is to be willing to give in order to get.[/quotesright] When you make every effort to appear reasonable by conceding on issues that are unimportant to you, you put yourself in excellent field position to request an equal or greater concession later.

How you can apply this law immediately:

  1. Use the reciprocity principle to your advantage. Before negotiating, make a list of the things the other party might want and decide upon what concessions you are willing to give to get what you want. This preparation in advance strengthens your negotiating ability considerably.
  2. Prepare your best price or offer before you begin. Then, think through your first “fall back” position and how far you are willing to go to make a deal. Prepare your final fall back position as well, along with the maximum you are willing to concede. This exercise of thinking through these issues in advance will make you a much better negotiator.