You’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:
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 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.
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