In times of modern communication, social networks and their effects can be found whenever human beings interact in order to exchange resources (intangible assets). When analyzing how these networks can be utilized there is one topic which plays a major role in multiple areas: the concept of reciprocity (Baker, 2000; Gladwell dot com, 1999; Mors, 2014).
In order to investigate in what way I am using the concept of reciprocity, this synopsis focuses on different theories. First, the balance between investing and requesting (Baker, 2000) is explored, followed by possible traps of getting stuck inside of a certain social network. This is followed by a narrative of mine about possible mutual benefits of reciprocity. This neatly fits into the topic of the union/disunion strategy (Baker, 2000) as well as building trust (Cross & Parker, 2004), which can provide a flourishing framework for the right use of the concept. Lastly, the intertwined relational links between personal and professional contacts are analyzed.
Finally, the synopsis will conclude with possible impacts on my future career and actions that could be taken. It is meant to be a starting point for the upcoming discussion, whether the design of a simplified ego-centric social network of mine shows patterns of the investigated theories.
This synopsis reflects the extent to which I am using the concept of reciprocity in my social network. Therefore, I am analyzing my behavioral approaches in the past and the present, as well as my observations with regards to the relevant literature. The implications will be discussed in the last part of the synopsis as well as my personal reflection and future actions that could be taken. In the appendix I will show and ego-centric map of mine in order to find patterns related to the theory.
How I am using the concept of reciprocity in my social network
People acting in a network of reciprocity try to help others because of their open mindedness and mental state - not because they expect something in return (Gladwell dot com, 1999). Baker (2000) explains that reciprocity means “we are helped because we help others”. As an example, people using the concept of reciprocity close structural holes in social networks, which means that foreign people are getting interlinked by the broker even though he could keep the contact secret in order to maximize short time benefits. Lois Weisberg incarnates the concept of reciprocity as she is connecting people without asking for favors in return (Gladwell dot com, 1999).
Invest & Request
When the mentioned theory is applied to my behavior, I use the concept of reciprocity by aiding people when I either have the right skills or know the right people. In contrast, when I need assistance I am somewhat cautious to ask for help for the following reasons: Firstly, when admitting that you need help some people would treat you as if you were worth less than them, as it was the case at one of my former workplaces; secondly, people sometimes use weaknesses of others to make them reliant (e.g. they provide you only with the minimum required amount of information, which means that their victims have to come back for more information if involved in this topic again); lastly, I get a lot of satisfaction from solving problems on my own - even though it would take me more time than asking someone else’s help (this could be closely connected to being a student, as I have learned to solve issues on my own).
I always try to keep the balance between investing and requesting in my networks (Baker, 2000). Sometimes I even invest a lot more than I request, as I do not want to be in debt to others. By pursuing this strategy I hope to get quality information out if my network in case I truly need assistance, such as finding a good job after my studies.
Nevertheless, not everyone uses a similar approach. My oldest friend Michael, for example, does not have any awe to request help from people in his network - no matter if strong or weak tie. I have witnessed that he is often able to facilitate his work and life by doing so. On the other hand, this behavior also comes with certain downsides: As he is requesting more than he is investing, some people retain from him after they feel exploited. This goes along with the found results of Baker (2000). Nevertheless, he can offer a substantial network, as he has got many contacts of different areas, which makes people stay in his network even though they know they are exploited. It is questionable, whether his approach will lead to long-term success, though.
Remaining inside your personal supply network
During my Bachelor’s studies, I have witnessed that one can get stuck easily in a network when spending too much time on it. As I tend to invest long hours into quality time with people from my personal supply network, I have witnessed that I did not get any new information out of it, as people with strong ties align and evolve the same focus over time. These findings are consistent with the ones that arose in our fourth lecture when discussing possible implications of information redundancy.
How did it happen that I built up these strong information redundancies? First, I have played the role of a boundary spanner (Cross & Parker, 2004) and brought new people into the network, which then maintained once they were interconnected. It did not pose an issue as long as new people were entering the system. However, after some time I stopped bringing new people in as the network of strong ties grew quite large. After the “closing” of the network, all the information and knowledge solely circulated within, but somehow could not be enriched by new thoughts.
Nowadays, I am using a different approach. I reduced the amount of time I am meeting up with people of the same groups in order to free time for other ties to emerge. In doing so, exchange semesters have a great impact on successfully completing this task as you are forced away from your home network and comfort zone, which enables you to connect into different fields again. I have already done this throughout my first semester in the US and I have met a great leader and my personal mentor, who gives me new insights from a distinct point-of-view as she also differs from me regarding cultural and personal traits.
Mutual benefits through reciprocity in the case of empathic listening vs listening to judge
When I read the book of Baker, I have immediately recognized one of my biggest weaknesses in how to use your social network: Empathic listening. I am a very energetic and enthusiastic person, but when it comes to listening, I am often too impatient or too narrow minded to think about the received information from a different perspective. However, I do know about this issue and I am working on myself to change. It is still harder than I thought and during stressful times I tend to fall back into my old behavioral patterns. Fortunately, I come by this issue by practicing empathic listening a lot with my girlfriend. I can talk to her openly about it and she gives me great input as she is one of the best empathic listeners I have ever met.
When I look about five years back on myself, I have to say that I could make big efforts in becoming a better listener by taking these following steps: Always think about why this person is sharing this information with you; ask people how they feel about their issues or your decisions; try to make others feel comfortable by finding good points in their arguments; offer help whether they ask for it or not. It made listening much more interesting to me, as it increased the value-output I obtained from the information.
I unconsciously returned the favor to my girlfriend by showing her a way of how to interact more easily with people, as she had issues in connecting with others. I believe that this approach of mutual learning is the perfect example of using the concept of reciprocity.
- Quote paper
- Alexander Kunst (Author), 2014, How I am using the concept of reciprocity in my social network, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/285265