On my mission, my Dad wrote me a letter and taught me something that has helped to improve all of my relationships since. He taught me about psychological reciprocity. I found that it is a very Christ-like way to live and it has really helped me in my life.
From what I understand about psychological reciprocity, it means that you treat someone the way that you want to be treated in return and eventually they will start treating you the same way that you treat them. It’s basically the “Golden Rule”. Relationships aren’t a 50/50 deal. It’s not like you give 50 percent and they give the other 50 percent. Psychological reciprocity means that you always give the whole 100 percent no matter what the other person gives back. Eventually, you will find that they will start trying to reciprocate back what you are giving them and then you are both very happy.
If you want someone to love you, love them first. Psychologically, people will reciprocate what you give them, whether you’re rude, selfish and grumpy or cheerful, kind and full of love. We easily forget that the way people act toward us is a result of our own behavior toward them.
This principle really helped me on my mission with mission companions and also in my marriage. On my mission after learning this, when things were tense I decided to change myself instead of my mission companion. I repented and started to do everything for my companion to be nice. I made her breakfast and carried her bag. I made her bed. I smiled at her. I told her how much I loved her and appreciated her. Even when she didn’t reciprocate it back I did it anyway and then I saw things start to change in our relationship. We were both serving each other and getting along great.
In my marriage, I’ve always tried to practice this principle. It’s been so good because I see that Matt is practicing the same principle. He serves me and loves me so much without expecting anything in return. I can’t help but serve him and love him back. It has made us very happy together.
The point is to treat everyone the best that you can and give 100 percent of yourself regardless of what people give back. You will find that eventually people will give back and every relationship that you have will be better. Even if they don’t ever give back . . . it’s still a Christ-like way to live your life.
Before my mission, I worked with a lady named Janet at a preschool for developmentally delayed children. She was 65 years-old and never been married. Everyone thought that she was so mean . . . and she was, but I decided that I was going to love her so much never talk badly about her even if she was mean. The whole school year I worked for her. I just loved her and was always kind to her. I never spoke badly to anyone about her even though she was sometimes unkind. At the end of the year on our last day, she said to me,”When I grow up, I want to be just like you.” 🙂 When I came back the next year to work for her again, she reciprocated that same love and kindness back to me. She respected me and we became great friends. People respond to love and kindness.
The principle of psychological reciprocity is a principle that will help us to become more like Jesus Christ. He was the ultimate example of living this principle. The way that He treated people made them want to be better. When he was beaten and bruised and spat upon, he turned the other cheek and still died for those who were His persecutors. I love Him and I am grateful for His example.