Recently, I watched a television programme that absolutely has no bearing to the reciprocity fever. However as the programme was about to end, the presenter thought it be best to advise her listeners about the need for everyone to start planning their December!…Christmas; giving gifts, celebrations and events… you know the whole drama surrounding THE jolliest month of the year. Specifically though, she said it was important for people to buy their gifts as soon as possible, as opposed to scurrying around for last minutes gifts.
Hey, it’s usually more tedious when you don’t plan, right?
The festive season is here and we love it. Even those who claim not to celebrate Christmas can acknowledge the sheer beauty this season brings to every heart and home that does. The meaning of Christmas is as varied as the personalities we embody.
But let’s go back to the concept of planning, shall we?
What plans do you make during Christmas? What kind of gifts do you give and even more importantly, why do you give them?
In order to help you evaluate your reasons, let’s discuss the principle of reciprocity.
The reciprocity principle is one of the basic laws of social psychology: It says that in many social situations we pay back what we received from others. Essentially, if you get gifts from friends this season, colleagues, family etc., you might feel obligated to give back something in return.
That feeling of compulsion is something that riddles our minds every time (birthdays, weddings, naming ceremonies etc.) something is given to us freely; especially at a huge cost.
I will attempt to paint a picture. Here’s a little squabble between Sheldon and Penny from the seasonal programme “The Big Bang Theory”.
*TIP*: You might want to turn on your sense of humour to better understand the point made here…
Penny: [after the tale of Saturnalia] Okay, well, thank you for that, but I got you and Leonard a few silly neighbor gifts, so I’ll just put them under my tree.
Sheldon Cooper: Wait! You bought me a present?
Sheldon Cooper: Why would you do such a thing?
Penny: I don’t know. ‘Cause its Christmas?
Sheldon Cooper: Oh, Penny. I know you think you are being generous, but the foundation of gift giving is reciprocity. You haven’t given me a gift. You’ve given me an obligation.
Howard Wolowitz: Don’t feel bad, Penny, it’s a classic rookie mistake. My first Hanukah with Sheldon, he yelled at me for eight nights.
Penny: Now, hey, it’s okay. You don’t have to get me anything in return.
Sheldon Cooper: Of course I do. The essence of the custom is that I now have to go out and purchase for you a gift of commensurate value and representing the same perceived level of friendship as that represented by the gift you’ve given me. It’s no wonder suicide rates skyrocket this time of year.
Penny: Okay, you know what? Forget it. I’m not giving you a present.
Sheldon Cooper: No, it’s too late. I see it. That elf sticker says, “To Sheldon.” The die has been cast. The moving finger has writ. Hannibal has crossed the alps.
Howard Wolowitz: [Raj then whispers into Howard’s ear then they both laugh] I know. It’s funny when it’s not happening to us.
Penny: [Exasperated] Sheldon, I am very, very sorry.
Sheldon Cooper: No. No, I brought this on myself by being such an endearing and important part of your life.
[Turning to Howard and Raj]
Sheldon Cooper: I’m going to need a ride to the mall.
Howard Wolowitz: It’s happening to us.
Interesting conversation isn’t it? You really should have seen the exasperated look on Penny’s face.
So there…Are your plans this season to be like Sheldon who feels compelled to always give something back in return? *Gosh* Can you even afford to do that? Give back every time you receive? Or do you receive and it never bothers you to give? *Sigh* and you have several reasons to support the arguments in your head? OR
Are you Penny who just loves to give, not expecting anything back in return? Or, you might be the type who gives a certain category of people and you expect they’d return the favour?
Essentially what does sharing mean to you? Does it come from your heart or it’s a fulfilment of principle?
Either way, Penny or Sheldon, wondering what to get somebody this Christmas? Pick a LEAP Africa (click on this link) publication and sow a seed of greatness.
Would love to read your thoughts on this issue, so don’t forget to leave your comments below…. Reciprocity: Nay or Yay?