This simple application of the rule helped Hare Krishna members collect money by giving a flower and a book (usually the "Bhagavad Gita" or the "Back to Godhead" magazine. Even if people didn't want it, the gesture alone was enough for people to give them money. This simple change in fundraising tactic led to the growth of the Hare Krishna Society in the United States and overseas.
This technique is no longer used that much any longer by Hare Krishna members not because it is not effective, but people have become better at avoiding them so Hare Krishna members can't use this technique on them.
This technique works well in politics too. One of the reasons that Lyndon Johnson was so successful in getting many of the legislation passed when he was the President was that many politicians owed Johnson favors. Just to demonstrate how powerful this technique is that many of this voted for the legislation against their political interests. In contrast, not having been in Washington D.C. to use this technique hurt Jimmy Carter in getting many of his legislation passed after he became the President---very few had to reciprocate to him.
Even we all fall for the power of this rule. I am sure---like me---you send a Christmas cards to those who sent you one. This rule is universal, and it applies in everything and everywhere.
But there is another aspect of this rule that is even more powerful called rejection-then-retreat that incorporates the reciprocity rule in a subtle way. The way this works is supposed some students come to your house to sell you a candy bar, which is $1. But they lead with selling tickets to the high school play being staged for $7/ticket. Since most people are not going to juggle their schedule to attend the play, they will say no. After they say no, students will proceed to ask them to purchase a candy bar for fundraising to cover the production cost of the play. Many will purchase the candy bar to reciprocate a concession.
So you may think this is gimmicky? Think again.
The whole bungled Watergate break-in plan got the approval as a result of the power of the rejection-then-retreat technique. Even the most powerful and sophisticated people are not immune to its power of persuasion as we saw with the Watergate scandal. Below I show how the plan started and the actual plan that was executed. Was it approved because the plan was well-thought out? No. It was a concession that was finally offered to G. Gordon Liddy that led to one of the biggest debacle in American history.
The $1,000,000 Plan
The first plan that was hatched up by G. Gordon Liddy, who was in charge of intelligence-gathering operations for the Committee to Re-elect the President (CRP)). The plan was presented to John Mitchell (Attorney General), Jeb Maguder (Deputy Director of CRP), and John Dean (White House Counsel for President Richard Nixon), who were the key decision makers. Besides bugging the Democratic National Committee (DNC) office at Watergate in Washington D.C.; the plan also included "specially equipped 'chase plane.' break-ins, kidnapping and mugging squads, and a yacht featuring 'high-class call girls' to blackmail Democratic politicians." The decision makers rejected this plan.
The $500,000 Plan
The second plan removed some of the "bells and whistle" of the initial plan and brought the cost down to $500,000 and was again presented to Magruder, Mitchell and Dean a week later. The decision makers rejected this plan too.
The $250,000 Plan
Finally, Liddy proposed a plan for $250,000 that included the bugging of the DNC office at Watergate and it was approved by Magruder, Mitchell and Frederick LaRue (presidential aide of President Richard Nixon). The plan was still bad, but the cost was 1/4th of the original plan.
An interesting thing that was found out was that LaRue did not think the third plan was any good. He had the benefit of the only one not being in the first two meetings, but nevertheless he went along with the Mitchell, Magruder and Dean's decision to approve the "bare bones" plan. The rest is history, as they say.
Why rejection-then-retreat work?
Cialdini says that there are three reasons that rejection-then-retreat technique work.
- There is a rule of reciprocity built in with concession.
- There is also a perceptual contrast principle where, for example, if you start with a higher price, the lower price in contrast appears lot smaller and lead to a purchase.
- The last one is more structural in that if you get the person to buy the first offer; you win. If you lose the first offer and get the person to buy the second offer, you still win. As Cialdini says, it is like flipping a coin in which if you get heads you win, and if it is tails, the person loses.
These three factors make this technique very powerful, and it is something we can use as well as being susceptible to without even realizing it.
This rejection-then-retreat is a very powerful technique that we are all susceptible to or technique we can use in negotiation.
How can you use this technique?
You can ask someone to buy your ebook, say for $2.99. If they buy, you win. But if they don't buy then get them to retweet to their followers and spread the message so others may purchase the book.
But what do you do to counter this technique if you want to practice.
Ask them to pay you, say 10 dollars to not buy from them. If they say no, then ask them to buy you a cup of coffee. This way you are using what I call anti rejection-then-retreat method on them. Or you can just say no if you are not in a playful mode.
These are techniques we know, but we also have to practice them often since the people you are going up against are probably good at using this technique against you.