Convince Your Picky Partner – Use Reciprocation

giftYou’re in the mall. And you’re hungry. But you have no idea where you want to eat. Sbarro? Burger King? Taco Bell?

Then a man from Panda Express walks up. He’s carrying a plate of orange chicken. He asks if you’d like a piece.

You would. And it’s delicious.

You’ve made your decision — Panda Express it is.


It isn’t because the orange chicken is so tasty. (Though, I’ll admit, orange chicken is pretty damn tasty.)

It’s because you feel compelled to return favors. The Panda Express guy did you a favor by giving you a free sample. You then felt obligated to return the favor by making a purchase.

In social psychology, this is called reciprocation.

Can we apply the power of reciprocation to baby name negotiations? Yes, I think so. Here are two ways:

Before Negotiating…

Do your partner a favor.

You could do it a few minutes before you start discussing names, a few hours before, a few days before — doesn’t matter, so long as your actions make your partner feel thankful and indebted to you.

What sort of favor should you do? Well, it depends on your situation, and on your partner’s tastes. Here are some ideas:

Think about things your partner likes to do. Go to baseball games? Go shopping? Go out for coffee, or lunch? Get a foot massage? Surprise him/her with a special treat.

Think about things your partner doesn’t like to do (but does anyway). Cook dinner? Vacuum the house? Get the oil changed? Fix the leaky faucet? Do it so that he/she doesn’t have to.

While Negotiating…

Don’t forget to bargain.

In many marketplaces, bargaining is a necessity. The seller starts high, the buyer starts low, and they expect to meet somewhere in the middle.

Why not use the same tactic when you play the baby name game? That is, start with an extreme request you expect will be rejected. Then, come back with a more reasonable request.

Studies show over and over again that this “door-in-the-face” technique produces more compliance than simply kicking things off with a moderate request. Why? Because, when you make a concession by lowering your initial request, your partner then feels pressure to make a reciprocal concession.

For instance, let’s say you want to name your baby Samantha. Start things off by pushing for, say, Samantha Frances. After a while, (pretend to) give in on Frances. “I love Frances as a middle, and I love the combination, but I’m willing to let it go. Could we at least give her the first name Samantha?”

You could also try both tactics together. Do something nice for your partner beforehand, then come to the table ready to bargain (i.e. ready to ask for more than what you really want).

Have you ever used reciprocation to help you succeed in baby name negotiations? Give us some details in the comments!


  • Cialdini, R.B., Vincent, J.E., Lewis, S.K., Catalan, J., Wheeler, D. & Darby, B.L. (1975) Reciprocal concessions procedure for inducing compliance: The door-in-the-face technique. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 31, 206-215.
  • Conformity: Ten Timeless Influencers

Image: Gift :D by mmlolek

3 thoughts on “Convince Your Picky Partner – Use Reciprocation

  1. Oh dear, orange chicken and baby names? It doesn’t seem honest or trustworthy to approach baby naming this way. I think I might always feel guilty knowing that I’d sort of conned my husband into going with a name for OUR child that I knew he didn’t like all that much. And I certainly would be upset if I thought my husband was trying to do that with me.

  2. I disagree, this is simply basic psychology. We do this sort of thing on a daily basis without even realizing it. Some partners just need a gentle nudge into a direction that is unfamiliar (and therefore rejected at first) but that they will love just as much as you do once they are more familiar with it. I’ve seen this time and time again with my DH. I will throw a name out and get a negative reaction. Later, when I move on to another he is like “but what about X!?” when I point out he didn’t like it his response is “well I do now!”
    To me doing a favor for him ahead of a name discussion will only help to speed up the process :)

  3. my husband seems to like names based on girls he has known with those names. he associates with the names i propose with either a pleasant or negative reaction based on personal experience. this is just something i have noticed, since i am continually compelled to look for the “perfect” name for our future children. if a name is unfamiliar to him, he seems to instantaneously vote against it. so, i try to bring it up time and time again in little ways, to let him familiarize himself. like another poster mentioned, my husband also will act indifferent to a name until i find another potential name, then he will say he liked the other. or, when i finally decide a name he likes has grown on me, this happened last night, he said “oh, i don’t like that one anymore.” which leaves me feeling a bit uncertain. he had two favorite names when i was pregnant. for a boy, he wanted Kingston, for a girl Annabelle. i tried to conceal my absolute detestation of these names for my child. fine for other peoples taste, mind you. i loved Claire and he picked a middle name, not annabelle. Well when she was around 2 years old, and family was hinting that it may be time for a little brother. i reminded him of kingston, and got the ‘i don’t like that now’ response, which blew me away. so, i wonder, would he change his mind, a couple years after naming a child and say he didn’t care for it now?! i have to have an absolute feeling about a name, like -this is the one! he is more casual and acts nonchalant or makes jokes when we discuss names. or passionately dislikes. any ladies relate to this? i would be very disinclined to name another child something that he didn’t seem excited about to begin with, when i have so many names that i completely love. i love the whole naming process, including origins and meanings. however, it is important to not be selfish, but i admit, as a namophile, it is difficult to not want to take control when your partner seems less interested in the naming process, but is a great dad. any thoughts, comments?

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