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Reciprocation: what to do if you're trapped under it?

Hey everyone! Hope you'll are doing well.

So here is my experience. A certain relative of mine helped get me admission in a prestigious school when I was 6 y.o. Now that act is being used as a chip against me and my parents in other matters, like property dispute, favours and to softly punch us down etc.

How do you suggest I approach this situation? We all have seen the power of reciprocation, but it seems hard when the tide is against us. Any suggestions or resources would be very helpful.

I have been trying to acknowledge the favour and trying to call them out on their behaviour, but I get the classic reply of not being grateful. Even my parents are defenseless against this attack.

Hey Dan,

Yeah, this is typical social exchange negotiation.

A few ideas:

  1. Pre-empt: once you receive a big favor, seek to do a favor bag, or string a few of them, so when you're dealing a player like this, you can always retort "we did that thing back for you"
  2. Shame: "that's unfair, we're a family, families help each other, that's what we do. Family doesn't give and then throw it back to someone's face" (notice that you wanna use a strong expression here, that's the point of shaming: you shame, and go on the attack until they defend")
  3. Judge power move: next level of shaming. "dear ungle, I don't know what to say frankly. I'm sad to hear that from you. You've alwyas been such an example for us. I expected better from you".
  4. Debt erasing: "that's in the past man", "what's been done is done", "the past is the past, now we're talking about today"
  5. Debt deflating: "it was nice, but it's not like it was this huge thing", "it was nice, but I would have done it anyway"

I personally don't like the latter two, albeit they can be effective.
Your relative is playing a bit of a cheap game, but it doesn't mean you gotta be cheap about it, too.

So I'd personally go for a different approach.

They've done a favor?
Fine, thank you. Now you wanna negotiate it? OK, not the nicest thing you could do, but fine. Let's put a price tag on it. And you negotiate it like any other negotiation chip. It seems like right now he is putting a huge price tag on it, and you're struggling because you're implicitly accepting his price tag.

Instead, negotiate it.

  • Put the ball back in their court

I'd negotiate it with this attitude:

You: Yes, and thank you, that was helpful. I am still grateful for it, dear uncle. Well, personally, I wouldn't use it as a negotiation chip (slight shaming). But still, if you wanna go down that road, fine, we're not gonna hide and pretend it was nothing. It was indeed nice of you. Now the question is, what would you think that was worth?

Let them come down with a price tag.
Just by asking it, you take the high road and slightly frame them as takers, which hopefully will nudge them to be reasonable. And if they're not reasonable, then... That's also great intel, and you know that you're dealing with a certain type of negotiator (and that you have "cart blanche" to be nastier).

The Silver Medal Negotiation

One nice power move here is to use a frame that: "your help was great, and still... I would have found a great second-best option".

This is another application of the silver medal negotiation technique.
Such as, you avoid negotiating on a binary "your help, or nothing", but instead negotiate "your help, or some other great school I would have gotten anyway".

This silver medal is easy to defend in your case, since if he attacks, you can get offended and say something like:

You: well, dear uncle, frankly... That's a bit offensive of you to imply. I'm not a stupid person and I wasn't a stupid kid. Implying that it was either your help or I'd be screwed is offensive".

Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

P.S.:

Man, 6 y.o. and in a "prestigious school"? That sounds like a hell of a competitive society πŸ™‚

Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

Thanks bro.. you have given me multiple ways to approach the issue. I'll certainly try these the next time around and will keep you guys in the loop. For now as you said, I am excluding the 2 actions coz they seem sure to inflame the issues. Actually I am kind of already using the first one- I am not accepting any new favours from them at all cost.

Quote from Lucio Buffalmano on October 11, 2020, 9:00 pm

P.S.:

Man, 6 y.o. and in a "prestigious school"? That sounds like a hell of a competitive society ?

Welcome to Asia πŸ™‚

Quote from Dan on October 12, 2020, 4:49 pm

Welcome to Asia ?

LOL, I see.
In some parts of Asia "open exchange talk", what your lovely family man is doing, is more common than in the West.
I've even heard more than once of parents who nag their children they must "pay them back" for their effort in raising them.

 

Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

On the same topic I have a question:

With dysfunctional colleagues, if they bring food as a habit and you do as well. Let's say one of them who's been actively bullying me: would you eat the food she's bringing or not?

I ate it as a sign of appeasement and collaboration (and I was hungry and it was yummy). What would you say about that?

Because it does make one vulnerable to criticism as they can say: I bring more than you or you ate what I brought. They buy it in France so they can buy twice more stuff and better quality than what we would buy in Switzerland. So it's skewed in their favour. Power Move I know.

How would you react in this situation?

John,

With bullies, power moves, status inflaters, social climbers, etc... I'd never want to be one down in terms of exchanging goods or favors.

I rarely take what they "share", as I know there are nasty strings attached, and if I do, I pay back as soon as I can.

You can definitely expect some of them will turn around and blame you, or laugh at you for being a cheapo:

Can you imagine, he's a doctor, I'm a nurse, and he's always taking my food

Or they might feel entitled to even poorer behavior or even less collaboration just because they feel they are giving more.

Take when they're sharing, it's great appeasement, you're right.
But I'd make sure you bring back as well -or you can tell them you'd be happy to give them money for buying some more, since it's better quality, cheaper, and win-win for all-.

Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

Yes you are right. This kind of a competitive behaviour for limited resources(Asia is highly populated) is actually not very good in the long run, as one ends up becoming a victim of unhealthy high standards. No wonder suicide rates here are very high and productivity not that great either. I am sure that you have noticed these things as you have been to some places here. And hierarchy is very important. For example when I use the methods suggested by you I also have to convey a respectful attitude, else even when the elder person is right, I'll be blamed for acting like a brat.

.."open exchange talk", what your lovely family man is doing, is more common than in the West.
I've even heard more than once of parents who neg their children they must "pay them back" for their effort in raising them.

 

 

It's true. Great advice, thanks! I do bring food as well. So I think I'm on an even foot.

But you're right there: are nasty strings attached as this particular one said: "Oh I brought some food, GO AND TAKE SOME (of my delicious food that I brought that is of so much value)".

When I arrived, I wanted a coffee and one of the nurses offered me one from the general stock. And so there was this grey area where I thought I could take some coffee and I'm still quite sure it's for the personnel. Also as personnel, we're not supposed to eat the food left by the patients but one of my supervisor did when he forgot to bring some food. I never did.

What I want to say is that the people who are "in" can take what they want even if they're not supposed to because the others have your back. However, if you're "out", then taking anything even if it's just powedered coffee (10 cents) can be used against me.

Even if it’s allowed (and I’m not 100% sure), people can use it against me. So this made me realize I have to clear this coffee thing up with supervisors, haha.