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An Often-Overlooked Secret to Success Practice the principle of reciprocity. You'll reap unexpected rewards.

By Meiko Patton Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

In his book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Robert Cialdini lists six principles of ethical persuasion. The first s reciprocity. "The reciprocity rule says that we should try to repay, in kind, what another person has provided us," Cialdini states. And therein lies the key to what I'll call the oft-overlooked secret to success: appreciation for what another person does for us.

Related: How Understanding Behavioral Psychology Can Help Your Business Blossom

Cialdini relates an experiment a university professor tried several years ago: He sent Christmas cards to a select list of complete strangers. And the response was overwhelming. He received dozens of thank-you holiday cards back from these people he'd never met. Why? Because they appreciated getting a card from him and, as the law of reciprocity says, we respond to a positive action with another positive action.

How can this help you as an entrepreneur?

When you are in a state of appreciation and gratitude for what has been given to you, you are actually in a state of abundance -- appreciating what you do have instead of focusing on what you don't. Because what you focus on expands, if you are constantly focusing on what you can do for others and at the same time appreciating the things you already have, you will inevitably get more of what you want because that is your focus.

Remember, like attracts like. The more you are in an appreciative state, the more you will attract that which you yourself are appreciative for.

My friend, Lamar, completely lights up whenever I give him a gift. I love his genuine reaction of thankfulness so much that now I look for special things I know he'll like, just so I can surprise him. His appreciation causes me to continue to give.

What if you similarly gave your audience something every day with no expectation of reciprocation? What would that do for your own psyche and your business's bottom line? There is a famous biblical scripture that says, "Practice giving and people will give to you." Have you tried that lately? Here are three practical tips on how you can display this concept in your life and business:

1. Create an alert on your phone to go off three times a day.

When it does, take time to be grateful for three things in your life. Make time to appreciate three people in your life. And look for three ways you can give something useful to your clients.

Related: 5 Simple Ways to Express Gratitude Every Day

2. Surprise someone.

Recall a time when you received a completely unexpected gift out of the blue. How did it make you feel? I want you to create that feeling for someone else. When you make someone else feel appreciated, you will be remembered. Look for ways to make your customers feel that they are one of a kind.

3. Think about the three ways in which our brains take in information.

There are three ways in which we can express our appreciation for others. Some people need to hear it, others need to see it and still others need to feel or experience it. Once you determine the dominant type preferred by those you're trying to reach, the sky's the limit.

Related: 3 Ways Two Little Words Will Transform Your Business

Meiko Patton

Federal Side Hustle News Magazine

San Diego-based Meiko Patton is a writer and editor for the federal government, a career consultant and the principal blogger at Career Savvy Fed.

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