Picture this:

You’re a soldier, soggy, groggy… tired of sitting in the dirt and trenches with the threat of death overhead every moment. It’s the height of World War II, and although you can do nothing about the sloshing mud in your boots threatening trench foot or the ear splitting gunfire, well, at least you’ve got lunch. Mmm, the small pleasures of sliced bread filled with something besides the smell of gunpowder.

You settle in and unwrap your sandwich, ready to enjoy the briefest of respites. But alas… just as your mouth is about to close over that first bit of bread, your heart jumps. You’re face to face with a German soldier. In short order he knocks your hand down and takes your gun.

He stares with eyes gleeful at the prospect of an enemy capture. Well, sh*t.

Looking down, you have only one thing in your possession — a piece of bread from your sandwich. Not knowing what else to do at this inopportune moment, you meekly hold it out in offer to the enemy soldier.

And you wait agonizing seconds, as this soldier who — clearly confused by why on earth you’re holding out a piece of bread to him — slowly takes it from you.

What happens next?

Listen to the Persuasion Lab Podcast, #71: How to Leverage Reciprocity for a Winning Negotiation

Does he:

  • Toss the bread in the mud and smuggle you back across no-mans-land?
  • Take the bread and make the long, lonely crawl on his own?

Though it could be a fun choose-your-own-adventure story, this was a true story, and we know how it ends.*

In fact, the German soldier (sent for the sole purpose of capturing you) leaves you in your trench.

Say what??

But why?

But how?

You were an easy target, effortlessly overpowered while you focused on lunch.

The why and how can be summed up in one word:


In other words, the psychological principle that a small gift has the power to elicit a much larger one. I’ll give you a slice of bread in exchange for my life.

This case was likely also influenced by confusion, which, in and of itself improves compliance by throwing the other person off balance. But I digress.

The implications for real-world negotiation and influence should be fairly self-explanatory. Examples of this persuasive tactic this include:

  • Cultivating strategic partnerships by giving a small gift at someone’s birthday,
  • Sending a card during the holidays,
  • Calling a colleague to check in and see how they’re doing,
  • Buying a cup of coffee for a desired business partner.

You absolutely do need to be careful about giving gifts in the midst of frank negotiations, as you don’t want to be accused of bribery (read more on that here), but you can often leverage the power of reciprocity in many other ways and contexts.

Consider: If a piece of bread has the power to save a man’s life, how powerful can such a strategy be in heated negotiations? The answer is that, when combined with perceptual contrast (i.e. $5 seems reasonable after someone has asked for $10), reciprocity has the power to triple your chances of gaining compliance.

Triple. As in, your chances of success are THREE times higher. 3x.

3x Your Negotiation Success

Perhaps this is why ‘tis better to give than receive?

At any rate, if you’re ready to 3x your success in negotiation and sales, it’s time you joined us in The Persuasion Lab. If you join us in the Premium Plus Community, you’ll have exclusive opportunities for live consultations with the pros (namely, me).

Meanwhile, whether you join Premium or Premium Plus, you’ll find tactics, tools, strategic assessments, and deal points plans to help you persuade with ultimate efficacy, bread in hand or no.

Can’t wait to see you in there!