The momentum behind the conversation

Reciprocation. It’s the momentum behind every conversation.

Do you ever learn a new word and suddenly hear it constantly? Or see a bright, tropical color and then recognize that exact hue in advertisements and fashions everywhere? I feel that way about the concept of reciprocation. Suddenly, I’m noticing that idea is everywhere.

Yes, reciprocation: the back and forth that occurs in practically every human interaction. It’s Newton’s 3rd law of motion with a anthropological twist: for every action there is a reciprocated action.

Here are some examples:

1. You cut someone off in traffic. The probable reciprocated action: a furious person swears at you while making some sort of naughty gesture.

2. You send a bouquet of flowers to your special someone. The likely reciprocated action: your sweetheart greets you with a hug and an extra-long kiss.

3. You take credit for someone else’s work. Inevitable reciprocated action: that person becomes wary of sharing ideas.

And we can expect all those things. For every action we take, we have an intuitive sense of the reciprocated action that will happen next. And suddenly, we can see two, three, four steps ahead. Our actions usually trigger reciprocations we can count on. We give; we get. We ask; we receive. We make a friend; we make plans to keep in touch. We offer solutions; we make sales. We launch an attack; war is declared.



But when we encounter a reaction we weren’t expecting, we are stunned. We expect reciprocated actions, not non sequitors. And so we investigate. Was it something we did? Were we misunderstood? Did we send mixed messages? And this, to conjure the image of old Isaac Newton again, is the friction that slows down the momentum of communication. And oh, how it burns. The needle flies of the record and the room stops dancing.

Gulp. We’re only human, after all. And sometimes we misunderstand each other or infer the wrong information. So we do our best to be understood and we reciprocate what we encounter.

We want to keep the momentum in our relationships going. Action; reaction. Talk; listen. Give; get. When we get out of that rhythm, we try to set things right again. To get back into the swing of things. Back in sync with each other.

Reciprocation. It’s like a pop-song earworm you can’t get out of your head. You’ll start seeing it everywhere now. Your order; you pay. You hold open a door; you get a smile. You help a customer; you keep a customer. You say something twisted; you get a drink tossed in your face. You help; you are appreciated.


You reciprocate; they reciprocate. It’s a ubiquitous equation.


by Jessica Hagy via Forbes


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