Practicing reciprocity in negotiation

by Giles Morgan |
11th April, 2019 |
How to | Insight
Giles Morgan
3 Jun, 2023

The practise of exchanging things with others for mutual benefit is called Reciprocity.

In negotiation, you will gain much from the practice of reciprocity. Reciprocal negotiators learn to trust each other more quickly than their cold and hard-nosed ‘lose lose’ counterparts.

Those hard, un-trusting negotiators may gain more in the first instance, but after that, the reciprocal negotiator wins far more. They win through long-term relationships built on mutual (reciprocal) respect and trust. With more trust comes more answers, with more answers comes more information and with more information comes mutual value gain.

Successful salespeople have mastered the art of reciprocity in terms of mirroring. People who like each other tend to reflect each other’s behaviour and assume the same basic body orientations as yours.

Tip – Have a little fun with people you meet and move slightly to see if they reciprocate and follow your movement. If they do, then you know you’ve got positive chemistry.

If you’ve attended my workshops, you’ll know that sales and negotiation are entirely different. What might be considered appropriate in sales might be wholly inappropriate in negotiation.

For instance, you wouldn’t want to mirror a nodding head, especially when it’s not in your interest.

So the question you need to ask yourself is;

  • what happens if your trust is used against you?
  • what happens if your actions are considered signs of generosity and therefore a weakness to be exploited?
  • What happens if you don’t receive reciprocity?

Well, as my Father says, “If in doubt, both feet out.”

In other words, stop and get out! Or consider making significant concessions in the early stages of the negotiation giving you the ability to hold if your counterpart shows no signs of reciprocating, also; use appropriate language that signals they are in your debt:

  • “I’ve moved, your move next.”
  • “I’ve offered a concession, it’s your turn.”
  • “My offer is a sign of good faith, I need a similar sign in return.”

make your exchanges conditional;

  • “under the condition that you.”
  • “if you were to consider X, then I would reciprocate with A.”


Reciprocity can be linked to the exchange of behaviours as well as the exchange of things.

If you act diplomatically, your counterpart is more than likely to reciprocate. If your counterpart rants and raves and you remain calm and diplomatic, you are more likely to see reciprocity.

If you or they behave childishly, competitively, untrusting or in a manner that reflects cold or hard behaviours, expect those behaviours to be reciprocated.

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