The Twelve Essential Components
Of Reciprocity

  1. Be Nice First.
  2. Notice when someone is nice and be nice in return.
  3. Provide consequences when someone is nasty.
  4. Never be nasty first.
  5. Be Fair. Don’t escalate nasty behaviors.
  6. People make mistakes. Be forgiving.
  7. Accept an apology and give a second chance.
  8. Give an apology when you do something wrong.
  9. Everyone wins. Don’t be envious.
  10. Live in the present. Don’t hold grudges.
  11. Seek help when you need it.
  12. Your personal safety is the most important thing.

Number One: Be Nice First

     Starting off on the right foot lets others know we are willing to cooperate, and invites them to cooperate in return.

     It’s easier to be nice to people we like, but it’s just as important to be nice to people we don’t know very well or don’t like very much. It would be a lot to expect for us to like every person we meet. We don’t have to be overly nice, or be good friends with everyone, but we do need to let them know we are willing to cooperate.

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Number Two: Notice when someone is nice and be nice in return.

     We have to pay attention because we don’t always notice when someone is being nice, especially if its someone we don’t know very well, or don’t like very much. Being polite and kind to others in return for politeness and kindness can help build cooperation, and avoid nasty interactions that can lead to violence. 

     Why not just be nice all the time?

     Being nice even when others treat you badly or bully you:

  • sets you up for being treated badly or being bullied more and more often.
  • encourages bullies to exploit you and others.
  • eaves the job of reforming the bullies to others.
  • keeps the bullies from getting the rewards of mutual cooperation

Number Three: Provide consequences when someone is nasty.

     First we have to judge whether the person was being nasty on purpose, or if it was just an accident. If we think it was just an accident, we have to check it out by asking the person if he or she meant to be nasty. If we are sure the meanness or nastiness was intended, then we have to let them know their behavior will not be tolerated. We can let them know by being nasty to them in return.

     Remember being nasty in return is not revenge or punishment. It’s a message that says I will not tolerate this kind of behavior from you.

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Number Four: Never be nasty first.

     Being nasty first sets up a negative course. It tells the other person that you are not willing to cooperate with them and it invites that person to be nasty to you in return. Even when you don’t like someone, you do not have the right to be nasty without being provoked.

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Number Five: Be Fair. Do not escalate nasty behaviors.

     It’s not fair to punch someone if all they’ve done to you is call a name. A fair thing to do is no worse than what was done to you. Just calling a name in return would be fair. It’s not fair to steal a dollar from your little brother if all he’s taken from you is a piece of gum.

     Remember being nasty in return is not revenge or punishment. It’s just a message that says I will not tolerate this kind of behavior. You will not be allowed to get away with it.

     There are lots of ways you can let people know they will not be allowed to treat you badly. If you can’t think of a way that will fit a particular situation, ask someone to help you think of something.

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Number Six: People make mistakes. Be forgiving.

     Make allowances. Did you ever yell at someone who didn’t deserve to be yelled at because you were just having a bad day?

     If people yell at you when you don’t deserve to be yelled at, you still need to let them know they have offended you. Having a bad day is no excuse to take it out on someone else. However, after you have let them know, you might want to consider giving them another chance to be nice at another time.

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Number Seven: Accept an apology and give a second chance.

     When people say they’re sorry, there is no need to let them know they have hurt or offended you. They already know it. Give them another chance.

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Number Eight: Apologize when you do something wrong.

     We all make mistakes. When you know you’re wrong, say so. Letting others know that you are aware of what you have done to hurt or offend them can avoid a consequence for you. The best apology is clearly connected to what you did without disclaimers. Lengthy explanations for your behavior tend to sound like excuses, and therefore insincere.

Number Nine: Everybody wins. Don’t be envious.

     When someone else has good things happen, it just means there are more good things happening. When more good things happen you are more likely to have good things happen to you.

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Number Ten: Live in the present. Don’t hold grudges.

     Holding grudges keeps us in the past and sets us up for being nasty when we’re not provoked. Escalation of violence is more likely to happen when we try to get revenge.

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Number Eleven: Seek help when you need it.

     Reciprocity is usually the best way for you to handle differences and disagreements between yourself and others, and to promote cooperation. However there are times when a situation has escalated beyond your control. There are times when you might be in physical danger, or times when the same person bullies you repeatedly. When this happens seek help from a trusted adult.

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Number Twelve: Your safety is most important.

     If someone is bullying or abusing you and you cannot get help from an adult, the best thing to do is to avoid contact with that person completely. There are times when reciprocity is not the best option. When another driver on the freeway cuts in front of you reciprocating by cutting in front of that driver could endanger your life, the life of the other driver, and the life of innocent people in other cars.

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