Reader Friday – Influence and Reciprocation

How to win friends and influence people.

How to make friends and sell your books.

I recently heard of Robert Cialdini’s book, Influence, The Psychology of Persuasion, from a David Gaughran blog post. He discussed the book in the context of newsletters and convincing readers to take action. The book looks at the six facets of influence obtained from clinical research. The first is “reciprocation” – that nature and nurture character trait that makes us want to return the favor when someone does something for us or gives us something, including exceptional service.

Have you ever experienced service so exceptional that you wanted to give back something of value, as a way of saying “Thank you?” My wife and I experienced that Monday. We were sitting in our local branch of a large Ohio bank. Another bank we had used for decades had “merged” with yet a third bank, telling us that nothing would change, then began trickling out the truth. When we learned that basically we had to start all over with new accounts, new account numbers, and new checks, we decided it was time to move.

Our appointment with Jordan, our bank representative, was at 1:00. She was behind, still answering questions for a couple she was helping. The door was open, and from where we sat I could hear that a good discussion was taking place. And that’s a good thing. From my experience in a service profession, I’ve learned that people want you to give them your time and attention. They don’t want you looking at your watch, trying to hurry them out the door.

We waited patiently, knowing that Jordan would take time to answer our questions when our turn came. She ushered us into her office about ten minutes late, and did just that. Thorough, patient, going the extra mile. She must have read How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie.

When we finished, I realized that I wanted to give her a hand-crafted pen I had in my pocket and my writer’s card. She drooled politely over the pen, and listened patiently as I explained how she could go to my website and sign up for my newsletter, where she would find monthly opportunities to win other “legacy pens.”

We shook hands, then parted. But standing outside the door, and practically blocking our exit, stood an unhappy customer whom we had kept waiting ten minutes for her appointment. The unhappy one had apparently never read Dale Carnegie’s book and had the fiercest glare I had seen for a while, except in the movies. I said, “I’m sorry.” But the dragon kept her anger focused on Jordan.

My wife and I slipped out of the danger zone and determined that we would return for our next appointment with brownies and another pen.

  • Have you recently experienced service so excellent that you wanted to give back? Please tell us about it.
  • Or, have you met a dragon recently whose fiery breath you narrowly escaped? Change the name and the pronouns and tell us how you escaped.

And, Jordan, if you’re reading this, hang in there. You’re appreciated! And the next time the dragon comes visiting, hold out a plate (and a fire extinguisher) and say, “Would you like a brownie?”




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About Steve Hooley

Steve Hooley is the author of seven short stories published in four anthologies, a Vella serial fiction, and is currently working on the Mad River Magic series – a fantasy adventure series for advanced middle-grade to adults. More details available at:

36 thoughts on “Reader Friday – Influence and Reciprocation

  1. Good morning, Steve. Thank you for sharing your recent encounters and insight into both.

    I recently received excellent service from Kristin, a Social Security teleservice employee in Wilkes-Barre, PA. I was having a major problem with Medicare eligibility that she resolved favorably for me in less than fifteen minutes once we were connected. Government employees cannot accept gratuities (though that doesn’t stop some) but I did leave an extremely favorable comment when subsequently asked to evaluate the service.

    I haven’t encountered any dragons recently, though I do have swords at the ready.

    Good luck with the banking transaction and have a great weekend, Steve. Thanks for once again getting our TKZ creative juices flowing.

    • Thanks, Joe. It is always refreshing when we find a helpful person within a government agency, or any other agency that doesn’t have competition. And that feeling can lead us to complete an evaluation as a way of saying “thank you.” Otherwise, why complete the survey?

      Glad you haven’t encountered any dragons recently. If you had, I’m sure you would have tamed it one way or another.

      Have dragon-free weekend!

  2. Having been in banking for an entire career, I’ve dealt with many dragons – but more nice people than those awful ones. Now that I’m semi retired I work at a KOA campground. Last week I had a dragon phone me 4 times complaining- and she hasn’t even arrived at the campground yet! Like Jordan, I kept my cool and the next day she told my hubby I had been extremely gracious and professional. The saying is true – you can’t fight fire with fire.

    • Thanks for telling us of your experience, Jane. Four phone calls before the dragon even arrived. Wow.

      That’s a real tribute to your ability and professionalism. And there must be a sense of accomplishment when you can turn the dragon into someone who compliments you. “You can’t fight fire with fire.”

      Thanks for sharing.

  3. For myself, in recent months, I have noticed a downturn in nearly all customer service, which I chalk up to the stress of life generally right now. Whether people talk about it or not, the uncertainty of our world can’t help but impact us. And oh the horror stories I could tell about trying to get simple coordination of medical care this week, but I’ll mention something else instead.

    At my day job, I love the people I work with. And among those, there are a few that I only occasionally interact with but when I do, they always do their utmost to help–take time to answer questions, help me find a solution, etc. And on those occasions that does inspire exactly what you say–wanting to give back. And I do.

    I know when someone from another department has worked with me on a project, or went above & beyond like that, when I can, I like to send them a small gift card. It’s not much, but I just like to send a token of thanks. And if nothing else, I send an email of thanks. All of us are accustomed to having our inboxes filled with “do this, do that” requests, so it’s a nice change of pace to receive a note of thanks.

    I also try to keep a few small gift cards handy for random, unexpected moments of thanks for great service, like if you have a sudden maintenance issue with your apartment, your car, etc and someone helps you out.

    When it comes to service, the best thing for all to remember is that old phrase “treat people like you want to be treated.” Makes life more pleasant for everyone.

  4. Great, BK. I like those cards and email messages that say “Thank you.” I know that when I have been the recipient of a card, it meant a lot to me.

    “Treat people like you want to be treated.” The golden rule.

    Thanks for your thoughts. We appreciate all your contributions and participation here at TKZ.

  5. Retired, live in the boonies, rarely have to interact with actual people, although my recent trip to Left Coast Crime required numerous face-to-face encounters. Since the conference people were all volunteers, they had nothing ‘on the line’ but I was impressed with the way anyone I spoke to was super-friendly and helpful. The other side of the trip was hotel personnel and restaurant servers. No complaints from me; I was impressed with how even the housekeeping staff, if you passed them in the hall, wished you a good morning/afternoon/evening.
    My pet peeve along these lines is no matter where you go or what you purchase these days, as soon as the bill is paid, you get a survey in your email wanting you to rate your experience, product, etc.

    • Good morning, Terry. I’m glad the service was great at Left Coast Crime. With the housekeeping staff and their friendly greetings, do you think they are hoping you will leave a tip?

      With the email surveys, after paying for something, I usually don’t answer unless the experience was excellent. I’ve been tempted to answer other times when things did not go so well, but after some consideration I’ve decided it wasn’t worth the effort.

      Thanks for your thoughts!

    • I especially hate it when they send you a product review request and you literally just received the doggone thing in the mail and haven’t had a chance to use it! I’d be more inclined to respond to those requests for feedback if they had the decency to give you a few weeks with the product before descending on your inbox.

  6. I’ve been extraordinarily lucky in this respect. Even with the abrupt change in politics to the hard right, Iowa Nice is still a thing, and the two physicians I see on a regular basis always make time for a little conversation and are interested in me as a person.

    One thing I learned while practicing law that they don’t teach you in law school is the fine art of getting the client to fire you, while making him or her think it was their idea all along. Every lawyer has had a few of “those” clients.

    So I had this client, Tim, and it’s a CINA (child in need of assistance) case. He’s an angry guy, a three time felon at war with the world over his status and his race, and the social worker signs him up for a psych eval, where you talk to the shrink for an hour and they come up with some recommendations.

    He calls me and he’s raging about the shrink’s report that recommends an anger management class. So I have the report myself and I say, “But Tim, in the middle of the interview you told the shrink you murdered someone.”

    “Oh, that was self defense but the judge didn’t think so.” He’d done time for it. He literally screamed at me. So I say “It’s obvious you don’t trust me and maybe you should get another lawyer who’s more aligned with your view of things. I don’t think I can work with someone who doesn’t think I know what I’m doing.”

    I was already typing up my motion to withdraw. It worked like a charm.

    • Great story, Robert. Dealing with angry clients/patients/customers is definitely learned with experience (and some failures along the way.) And it’s particularly tricky if the person is violent. It sounds like you found a good way to “allow” the client to “make the decision.”

      I often told dissatisfied patients who were becoming trouble, “If you don’t think my time and advice is worth anything, then you should find another physician whose time and advice is.”

      Thanks for telling your story.

  7. Good morning, Steve. Like you, My career was in a service industry. Customer service was at the heart of library experience for me. My job as a librarian was literally to help people use the library system, young and old, people from all walks of life and all parts of the world.

    So, I’m attuned to good and bad customer service. My wife recently had her driver’s license renewed at our local DMV and the service was stellar. DMV gets a bad rap, but here at last, they were customer service focused, helpful, and professionally upbeat. Speaking of matters relating to cars, my garage, which also serves the base for a Portland cab company, always provides great customer service because, Dan, an immigrant from Romania, does his best to help, in scheduling, in working with the mechanics, and keeping customers informed.

    Finally, I think of myself as a writers as working in a service industry, since I’m endeavoring to provide engaging and entertaining fiction for readers, as well as non-fiction (newsletters and blog posts at the moment) that inform and inspire.

    Thanks for another great Reader Friday post. Have a wonderful weekend!

    • Great points, Dale. Some of my most favorite people during my youth were librarians.

      You had me for a while there with the cab company. I thought you were running it out of your personal garage. Now that would be service.

      And, good point about us thinking of ourselves as working in a service industry – providing entertainment.

      Thanks for all your contributions here at TKZ. Have a wonderful weekend!

  8. Thanks for sharing your experience with reciprocation, Steve.

    As Brenda mentioned, I’ve noticed a big uptick in discourtesy, rudeness, and outright hostility in society that’s distressing. Recently we were in Tampa and dragons were driving most of the vehicles around us. They push into your lane then honk, curse, and flip birds b/c you didn’t get out of their way. Then they run red lights with gleeful abandon. Daily T-bones at major intersections.

    But on the positive side, when my Windows 7 computer crashed, a young tech at Staples went an extra 10 miles trying to save it. He’s a journalism student and fellow writer. We gave him a restaurant gift card and one of my books. He’s a serious guy but he broke into a big smile.

    I had a wonderful family doctor from the time I was four until my late 30s when he died. He always ran a half hour or more behind in his appointments. I couldn’t be upset by his lateness b/c he was taking extra time to help other patients whose problems couldn’t be solved in 15-20 minutes. He certainly did that for me many times in 30+ years. Still miss him.

    Steve, I’m betting you were that kind of doc, too, and your patients still miss you.

  9. Thanks, Debbie. That Tampa driving sounds like a good reason to stay in Montana. I wonder if the Covid lockdown and people staying home didn’t aggravate things. I heard people talking about how they loved the empty streets in the city, and how fast they could drive. Now with all of us back out and about, the roads are congested and tempers are flaring. Too many people crowded too close together. Can you tell I’m a country boy?

    Your story about Win 7 and the computer guy made me break into a smile. That feeling of reciprocation and giving him a restaurant card and one of your books was what I was hinting at with this post. Rewarding excellent service with a gift of appreciation – but taking it to the next step by adding some marketing – a book, a gift, whatever, and don’t forget to include one of your cards.

    We’ll discuss this idea next week with a discussion of Side Hustle.

    Thanks, Debbie. Have a terrific weekend!

  10. Great topic, Steve. Like others, I’ve noticed the downhill slide in customer service over the last few years.

    I was involved in an automobile accident several weeks ago when someone ran into the back of my car at a stop light. No one was injured (I’m giving thanks to whoever it was that invented headrests), but the other driver’s SUV was a lot bigger than my Camry, and my car had parts hanging loose and a crumpled trunk lid. My poor car was drivable, but I didn’t want to drive it with stuff hanging off. However, the car repair shops around here are scheduling repairs months out. The other insurance company didn’t want to pay for a rental car for more than a few days, so I was stuck until we found a repair shop that would do a “bandaid” job on a walk-in basis.

    The shop was in a not-very-great part of town, and I was a little concerned when we parked our cars and walked into a tiny, dusty office. But what we found there was an office manager who jumped up from behind her desk to shake our hands and take all the information needed. Even though they had a lot of business, she seemed happy to be of service to us. They kept the car for several hours and completely exceeded our expectations in the quality of the repairs they did. We still have to take the car back for final repairs, but it’s drivable now without being a danger to society. 🙂

    That experience restored my faith in people who work hard and do the right thing. I gave the office manager a copy of one of my books. I’ll take a plate of brownies for her to share with the staff when we take the car back for final repairs.

    • Great story, Kay. That repair shop sounds like an owner-operator shop, the kind of place to look for service. Those big fancy car dealership repair shops look great, but you’re often paying two or three layers of management plus the repairman.

      I’m glad you didn’t suffer any injuries and your car is drivable until you have the final repairs made. And best of all, when you go in the next time, the office manager will be reading your book. That quick service even fits in with the theme of time.

      Have a great weekend!

  11. In the locally-owned grocery store . . . I love shopping there instead of the big boxes.

    I’m wandering the aisles looking for parchment paper the other day so I can make a batch of homemade artisan bread, and I can’t find the foil/plastic wrap shelf anywhere.

    I stop and ask an employee which aisle it’s on, and he cheerfully walks me there and hands me my parchment paper.

    Love it! Small stores rule . . . 🙂

    • Isn’t that wonderful when they usher you to the correct pew, rather than run the other way? That’s my kind of store. And that’s why I hate to see the big box stores running the little guys out of business.

      Thanks for sharing, Deb! Long live the little guys!

  12. I had the opposite service, Steve. My husband snapped his ATM card in half by accident (long story). When he went into our credit union, the teller told him I had to come in a request it since the account is in my name. It’s a joint account! Days later, I drove 30 minutes north to go in the bank. And the same teller told me only he could request the card, as the account was in his name. Ugh. Needless to say, all my patience drained in an instant. After telling her the what’s what, I walked out with new cards. All of this could’ve been avoided if she’d taken two seconds to look at the screen in front of her that listed both our names.

    • I feel your pain, Sue. I’m guessing you didn’t give her a book or your business card. I wonder what Dale Carnegie would do in that situation. I’m glad you didn’t reach over the counter and strangle her. Maybe you should take Poe with you the next time – baring the talons. I can see a character in a bank (in an upcoming book) being scalped by a crow.

      Glad you finally got your cards. Have a great weekend!

  13. Yup…great experience recently with a Delta airlines rep. We fly back and forth Tallahassee to upper Michigan twice a year. It means 3 layovers each way. With two dogs in cabin. Not easy. Airlines are cancelling and/or changing flights a lot these days. When we got the latest notice of such, we anticipated a bad phone call. Nope…the lady was patient and kind, staying with us to find flights with enough layover time. (Connection times are getting really tight!)

    So grateful for her. And not easy to get good service with airlines, I know.

    • Wow, Kris, that’s quite a feat with 3 layovers and two dogs. Glad the Delta rep was so patient. Hope all your future flights go as well.

      Safe travels this year! I hope Michigan weather is good this summer.

      Have a wonderful weekend!

    • Speaking of airlines, I’ll piggyback this morning’s experience with United. Hubster and I have a major trip planned next December, and on the advice of the group leader, we went to book our flights today. Having had issues in the past with one of us buying two tickets, we opted to each book our own flights. Hubster’s went through. The airline website wouldn’t load for me, then kicked me out several times. When I finally got to the payment screen, I got a “cannot process your reservation at this time” message. I tried a couple more times, then gave up and called the customer service number. The rep assured me she would see what the problem was, but ultimately, she said there were no seats left in that class, but for a grand more, I could upgrade to first. I ‘suggested’ that she try to find another solution, since it was their website issues that apparently let someone else buy that last seat via their code share partner. I finally moved up to a supervisor. An hour later, I got that first class seat, but at the price I’d been quoted initially, which meant the supervisor had to go the extra mile to override things the first rep couldn’t. I can’t really fault the first rep, and ended up being happy with the supervisor, but …. there went my morning.

      • So, Terry, you’re in first class and your hubby’s back in economy. I bet he’ll be suggesting that you flip for the first class seat. And you’ll be toasting that supervisor from you first class seat. It might give you some ideas for your next mystery.

        Bon voyage!

        • Nah — we’re both in business class; the difference, based on their website, is the first class seat is refundable, but it’s still the same as a business class seat. On an overseas flight, I need those creature comforts.

  14. Hi Steve,
    It was an absolute pleasure assisting you and your wife! I hope I can continue to exceed your expectations. You were both a ray of sunshine on both an actual and metaphorical gloomy day.

    From the customer stand point, I think how you treat others also has a massive impact on how you get treated. If you are made to wait 10 minutes do you become a dragon during your wait or are you understanding and patient? A bit of kindness goes a very long way! A lot of times when I meet dragons in my line of work it’s not necessarily something I did wrong but what is required of me or enforced by the institution I work for. In short, if you are working with someone’s finances they don’t like to hear no. It can be hard to be professional when encountering these dragons especially when emotions arise. I have to tame these dragons and give them piece of mind rather than slay them and sometimes that’s not the easiest when I can’t give them the exact answer they want.

  15. Steve –
    Thanks for consistently sharing a positive vibe in your posts.
    Much enjoy them! 👍🏼😊

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