In the book as well as in previous definitions of Whuffie, I've included the idea that reciprocity is a core part of the definition. But what I probably should have outlined is that the type of reciprocity I'm talking about is indirect and non-obligatory. Here is the rough definition taken from previous posts and from the book:

The sum of the reputation, influence, bridging capital and bonding capital, access to ideas and talent, access to resources, potential access to further resources, saved up favors, accomplishments (resumes, awards, articles, etc.) and the Whuffie of those who you have relationships with.

I first realized the power of reciprocity when I read Matt Ridley's The Origins of Virtue: Human Instincts and the Evolution of Cooperation. His main thesis (though I highly recommend reading as it's full of great anthropological evidence) is that human beings are wired to cooperate because that is how we survive. We help people out because there may be a time in our future that we will need help, too. But reciprocity in Ridley's thesis isn't direct - i.e. I do you this favor, then you do me that favor. In fact, the most powerful acts of generosity are without direct return. The more we help others, the stronger our own status becomes. If we help people out without request of the favor being returned, we increase our bank of goodwill. If the favors are performed as a tit for tat, the goodwill bank stays empty.

This theme continues through books like The Generous Man: How Helping Others is the Sexiest Thing You Can Do by Tor Norretranders and Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships by Daniel Goleman. Both books supply more evidence that helping others increases our status in society because of the idea of reciprocity. The power lies in the idea of reciprocity, not the direct exchange of favors.

Along the way I've encountered multiple misinterpretations of reciprocity where I've been challenged by contacts in my social network with the question, "I did this for you, now I want you to do this for me." There are two types of reciprocity at work. One, which is described by Ridley, Norretranders and Goleman is indirect reciprocity. You do me a favor and in the future when you need something that I can help out with, I will voluntarily help you. The ideal situation is that the favor is about equivalent to the favor you performed for me. For example, you introduce me to a contact that can help me out in a situation and, down the road, I see that you could use a similar introduction to help you out. There is time and a lack of obligation between the favors. The second situation is direct reciprocity, which is more transactional and can be with or without obligation. You make an introduction then ask me if I can also make an introduction to someone in your network. When obligation comes into play, you say, "I will make this introduction for you, but only if you make this introduction for me."

The thing about direct and obligatory reciprocity that bothers me is that there is no generosity involved. The motivation is clear. You want something from me and you are only willing to do something nice for me if I give that to you. It is no different than me paying directly for a good or service and there is no bond left between us. In fact, the obligatory nature of it may even leave a goodwill deficit behind. I no longer want to accept any favors from you in the future because I know they come with a price. And the price means there have been no favors performed. This is essentially where the idea of reciprocity has earned its negative reputation as it becomes more akin to coersion than cohesion between multiple parties.

It is always best to leave a surplus of goodwill in your account with friends and leave the transactions to a disconnected world. When it comes to increasing one's Whuffie/social capital, it's important to proceed on the side of generosity. Great generosity with people will be recognized and, when it is needed, reciprocity will be voluntary and bountiful. Anything less - favors bound by obligation or tit-for-tat - is part of a disconnected transactional context that is best left to bullies, cartels and gangs.

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