Giving Without Expectation

Love, truly is the essential foundation upon which relationships are built. Give with no thought of getting.

When you approach others—and they know you care for them and are really genuinely interested to help them —you are following the law of reciprocity and taking the necessary first steps to building a lasting, rewarding network from which you will benefit both personally and monetarily.

These budding relationships are then nurtured with time, emotional investment, and service, and bloom into lasting friendships of mutual support—the ultimate goal of networking. I always emphasize, in the speeches I give, the importance of walking into a business networking event with the mindset of uncovering what the other people at the event are there looking for and how I might assist them.

A Common Misunderstanding of Networking

Recently, I gave an Executive Lecture to several large classes at a prominent college business school. I was gratified by some of the comments I received back that reinforced the importance of giving without a thought of getting in and launching your network. One student by the name of Nate wrote to me via LinkedIn following the lecture and said:

“In regards to your lecture: I always thought networking seemed very self-centered. It felt like using people for my own ends. What you taught, however, was the important piece I was missing: networking should be about the other person. I need to ask myself, “What can I do for them?” and by this approach networking becomes much more beneficial and desirable to both parties.”

Networking should be about the other person. I need to ask myself, “What can I do for them?”

Another student by the name of Eric wrote me and added these insights:

“The main thing that I got out of your message is to help others. I had never really looked at business as a service opportunity, but I realized that I was missing the point. Starting networking relationships with the principle of giving with no thought of getting is so obvious, but I didn’t get it. In the past, I was always trying to strike a deal, especially because I’m at a point in my life where I am looking for help all the time. I didn’t think that I have much to offer, but I now realize that it’s the complete opposite. I can help others and will feel good because of it. Perhaps it will help me in the long run.”

The Law of Reciprocity

The Law of Reciprocity dictates when we help others, help will return to us down the road in some form. In business and personal relationships, I can confirm the truth of the adage, “Relationships are investments—the more you put in, the more you get back.” But here’s the irony of the situation: for the law of reciprocity to work, you have to be motivated to give because you desire to serve, not because you have an expectation for reward. When you invest in others without controlling the outcome or imposing your interests, people feel a great sense of loyalty. It has been shown that great leaders have a gift at showing compassion for others and it helps drive their success. By supporting their goals, and celebrating their victories others will automatically be drawn to do the same for you. As Ralph Waldo Emerson states,

“It is one of the most beautiful compensations of life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.”

You have to be motivated to give because you desire to serve, not because you have an expectation for reward.

When you give your time, emotional capital, and resources, the law of reciprocity will send that goodwill right back to you and help you network your way to the top.


Here is the take-away: Take the time to help people. You never ever know who may be the one that introduces you to a life-changing opportunity or experience. When we respond to the needs of others with no thought of what we might get out of it, the universe conspires to facilitate powerful and wonderfully reciprocal business and personal relationships.

How has the law of reciprocity worked in your life? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments section below.


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Copyright: cteconsulting / 123RF Stock Photo

David Bradford, “The Bottlecap Kid”, is Executive Chairman and former CEO of HireVue, former CEO of Fusion-io, and a member of the Utah Technology Council Hall of Fame. David is known for accelerating the growth and performance of game-changing organizations by utilizing his “UP Principles” which he outlines in his new book, UP YOUR GAME: 6 Timeless Principles for Networking Your Way to the Top. His last two companies, HireVue and Fusion-io are two of the fastest growing tech businesses in the U.S. Learn more about David and UP YOUR GAME at

  • JohnRichardBell

    This is a great post, David, particularly your take on the law of reciprocity.

  • Laura Mansfield

    Thanks for the great post! The law of reciprocity works! Unfortunately, many people think there is a timetable associated with giving and getting.There isn’t. Give because helping others is the right thing to do. Give because it feels good to help someone else. It will come to back to you in one way or another. But it’s not a case of tit for tat. The goodwill may not always come back to you in the way you expect it to, but it will come back.

  • Thanks for this terrific post. Yes, reciprocity can be frustrating, e.g., when we bring people together and they go off and collaborate productively without appearing to acknowledge your effort. Still, we have to let it go.
    I do think there is an opportunity in letting people know why you do things without seeking direct return. I often end a helping / supportive effort by asking, ‘suppose our conversation is useful to you what will you see yourself doing?’ And, ‘what one small step do you see yourself taking right away?’ After they respond I state how useful it has been to me in sharing with them. This seems to a) let them acknowledge your support, b) raise their consciousness of the quality of the interaction. Still, I let it

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