Everyone thinks that being nice and giving things to other people is the most important thing. But sometimes taking is more important than finding something to give.
Two stories about new neighbors
Imagine that a new neighbor moves in next door. A day after moving in, they ask to borrow some milk. No problem, right? They’re probably all frazzled from the move.
The next day, they ask for some eggs. And the next day for some sugar. And the next day they ask for some cereal right when you’re running out of door to a meeting you’re already late to. At first you were happy to help, but when the requests became too frequent and inconsiderate, you can’t help becoming annoyed.
But here’s a true story that happened to me.
I moved into a new apartment, and for the first two months I had nothing to do with my neighbor at all. We said hello as we walked past, and that was about it.
But then one day, I was in the middle of cooking something, and I was out of eggs. I reluctantly knocked on their door and asked for some eggs, which they gave me happily. And then a week or so later, they knocked on my door, asking for some milk. It didn’t take long after that for us to become much more friendly and we started hanging out after work.
All of a sudden we had a relationship – just because I had asked them to do me a favor.
Relationships have to be two-sided
It turns out, that by asking for something from someone else, you accomplish a few things.
First, you show them that they have things of value to offer you – making them feel special and wanted.
Second, you create a sort of social-debt with them that makes them feel that they are able to ask things from you without it being awkward.
And third, and possibly most importantly, you create a “giving relationship” where they felt good giving to you, and are more inclined to give to you again in the future.
Positive and strong relationships are built on giving and not just taking from the other person. In Hebrew, the word for Love is Ahava/אהבה. This word is derived from the root word “hav” which means to give. By giving another person the opportunity to give to you, you are enabling them to create a relationship with you.
The Ben Franklin Effect
It turns out, that this is actually a psychological phenomenon called the Ben Franklin Effect:
A person who has performed a favor for someone is more likely to do another favor for that person than they would be if they had received a favor from that person.
By finding a way to enable another person to give to you, you end up building a stronger relationship than if you had given them a present yourself.
How your business can use this
If done right, businesses can really use the idea of taking to build stronger relationships with your customers and suppliers.
Find a good time to ask your customers for some feedback (when they’re not in a rush, of course). Look for chances to ask them for help with something small, like telling their friends about a particular sale that you know they’ll appreciate.
But make sure not to be like that guy from the beginning who kept asking his neighbor for things. That’s just annoying and your customers will get annoyed with it really fast.