Here’s a core principle of human behavior, so simple: When people receive something they value, they’re more inclined to give back in return. Pretty obvious, right? But it’s absolutely true, and is one of the reasons why those charities send you small gifts in the mail. They’re hoping you’ll find some value in them, and give back in return.
But suppose you’re the one trying to sell something: You have a great idea, you want a job, or you want to have influence over other people. You can use the above principle in several ways:
People need to know what you have to offer. A great way to do this is to show it in action, not just tell people about it. Do you know how to do something interesting or valuable? Show them. Do you have a product you’re trying to sell? Show it doing something useful and interesting. Trying to sell an idea? Show a mock-up, an analogy, or how the idea has already worked in other situations.
People need a reason to prefer you over the competition. You’ll be thought of as more valuable if you’ve already demonstrated an inclination to give value. Are you after a particular job? Look for ways to help the employer solve real problems, whether by volunteering or even what value you give during the interview.
Let’s say you’re trying to have influence over a decision. If you have demonstrated an ability to understand the bigger picture – that of the decision-maker – you’ll have more credibility. If people in power have seen you exercise skill and expertise, they’ll be more likely to listen to what you have to say.
Here’s the bottom line: Don’t be stingy with your skill, knowledge, time, and resources. When people see you giving freely, they’ll be inclined to help you in return.
But remember: What you give has to have value in the recipient’s eyes. Otherwise, it’s just a useless trinket.