Performative Reciprocity

performative reciprocity

I have a friend who really loves to do calls where we get into the weeds of relationship-building methodologies.

He enjoys digging deeper into the frameworks I’ve developed and in all our calls he gets me to go even deeper into the work that I do.

And before I get into the topic he brought up, I’ll also add that having someone like this in your circle can be incredibly valuable to the rigor of your work.

There are those who will take your ideas at face value and then there are those who will challenge your ideas with questions.

The people with questions will often help you discover new angles and give you, even more, to write about.

What he brought up in our most recent conversation was the idea of introductions and how he has this feeling that if he meets with someone he’s been introduced to and feels he didn’t provide specific value in the conversation, he questions if the meeting was a good meeting.

When he brought this up, I realized that the dynamics of the meetings we have are often affected by the context of our introductions and can sometimes set us up to engage in what I’m calling Performative Reciprocity.

What is Performative Reciprocity? 

It’s when we engage in the act of doing something for someone else more because of how it will be perceived than the actual relevance to the situation.

For example, We get an introduction to someone and they refer to us in the intro as a “connector” so when we meet that person we try and connect them with someone even if it’s not relevant because we want to be consistent with the introduction that was given and show our expertise.

Or in my friend’s case, we feel bad if all we do is just have a conversation with someone and get to know them rather than help them in some way after we were introduced as someone who is “helpful” or a “giver.”

I reminded my friend that often for the people we meet we are providing something they need without knowing what that is.

Sometimes people just want someone to listen to them.

Sometimes they actually are getting more value from intellectual banter and than anything else.

And sometimes people just want to feel less alone.

Not every situation calls upon US to be the one who solves the problem. 

So I think it’s worth it when you get introductions yourself to explore this idea of performative reciprocity and ask if you are doing something for someone else because it makes sense to you and you want to

Or if the idea of how you’re going to be perceived is creeping into the picture and perhaps clouding your judgment?

It’s something I certainly plan to explore more in future meetings.

Something to chew on for sure.


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