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Sage Advice: The Importance of Reciprocity

When hospitality is extended, it is a rule of etiquette that you reciprocate. This may make some uneasy as they feel they are not in a position to entertain in similar fashion. That’s not the way it works. We are not expected to give back at the same, tit for tat, level. We simply need to give back and always with graciousness. The cocktail party or casual gathering is an excellent way to reciprocate with a large number of people in one go without breaking the bank. Perhaps you organize Friday night movie, pizza and popcorn gatherings or Sunday brunch. Including someone who has hosted you would be an appropriate way to reciprocate.

Friends that entertain frequently on a large scale appreciate gestures of reciprocity whether they accept or not. It is, however, important to not always be on the giving end so as not to appear that your way is the only way or that others may entertain in a way that is beneath you.

A few tips:

  • Hospitality gifts, though lovely, do not suffice as reciprocity.
  • Consider preference when making an offer. If they are not fans of dining out, ask them to a sporting event or museum exhibit.
  • It is never appropriate to ask why you weren’t included in a party, wedding or just to “hang out”.

Family falls into a separate category. If your parents or grandparents take you to dinner, you are not expected to do the same within two weeks. Nevertheless, gifts, dinners and the like deserve, at the very least, a thank you via text, better yet, a handwritten note. Just because we know they love us beyond measure does not warrant entitlement! Gestures of appreciation are always noted and welcome.

So, how do we handle friends that don’t reciprocate? We may finally need to assume that their personality quirks prevent them from being anything other than a passive friend. Otherwise, we accept that we need to do all the “work” in the relationship, and be willing to be a friend anyway. Generally, when friends never pick up the slack in a relationship, we see less and less of them.

For a list of smart biz tips or info on manners classes for children and adults, please email me at hperry@helen-perry.com.