Influencers from Around the World – Some Acts of Giving Can Span Decades and Lifetimes

This month we have another new guest writer. Like
myself and several other guest bloggers for Influence PEOPLE, Debbie Hixson is
a Cialdini Method Certified Trainer®.
Debbie is a manager in the Leader Strategy and Programs division at Kaiser
Permanente where she’s been for nearly 20 years. She earned her B.A.,
Psychology, has an M.Ed. in Counseling and Educational Psychology, a Masters of
Arts in Human Resources Development and is currently working on her
Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership! I know you’ll enjoy Debbie’s insightful
perspective on influence and persuasion.
Brian Ahearn, CMCT® 
Chief Influence Officer
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.

Some Acts of Giving Can Span
Decades and Lifetimes
I read in my Sunday paper about a cemetery in Holland where
American soldiers who fought the Nazis in World War II are buried.  It seems that each of the 8,300 graves in
Margraten, a small village in the Netherlands, are tended by Dutch, Belgian or
German families, along with schools, companies, and military organizations. On
Memorial Day this year they came as they do several times a year to place
flowers in front of headstones of people they didn’t know and to honor their
At the
cemetery’s annual commemoration 6,000 people flooded the 65-acre burial grounds
including many descendants of the American soldiers who traveled from all over
the U.S. They came to pay tribute to their parents and grandparents who fought
to defeat the Nazis. And they came to thank the people who had been tending the
graves of their loved ones for over 70 years. Some of the caretakers have passed
the responsibility on from generation to generation. The responsibility is felt
so deeply that there is a list of over 100 people waiting to become caretakers
of the graves.
What would
cause a nation recovering from the trauma of being invaded during World War II and
their own personal losses to adopt the fallen of another nation? And what would
keep this commitment alive all these years later, when the pain and significance
of the war had faded. It is unique in this world, wouldn’t you say?
September 1944, the village of Margraten and its 1,500 inhabitants had been
freed from Nazi occupation. The war was not over and many American soldiers
died in nearby battles with the goal of breaking through the German lines and
trying to capture bridges that connected the Netherlands to Germany. The losses
sustained were heavy and the American nation needed a place to bury its dead.
They choose a fruit orchard just outside Margraten.
The villagers
of Margraten embraced the Americans and grieved for their fallen. They provided
food and shelter for the U.S. commanders and their troops. After four years of
being occupied by the Nazis, they were free. Life could return to normal and
once again they could enjoy the freedoms they had before the invasion. They
realized that they had the Americans to thank for that freedom.
For the
gift of their freedom, the people of Margraten reciprocated by tending year
after year to the graves of the solders who gave their lives to restore it. The
rule of reciprocity, according to Dr. Robert Cialdini,
says that when we receive something, a favor, a kindness, etc., we feel obligated
to repay it. He says that “so typical is it for indebtedness to accompany the
receipt of such things that a phrase like ‘much obliged’ has become a synonym
for ‘thank you,” not only in the English language but in others as well.” Although
obligations extend into the future they can be short lived unless they are notable
and memorable such as the American sacrifice to free the people of Margraten.
In some cases such as this, the obligation is felt so keenly that the thank you
never ends.
We can
see this illustrated in a recent ceremony in Margraten to honor the fallen
Americans. One American conveyed the essence of the bond between the Dutch and
the U.S. His name is Arthur Chotin and the Naaijken family tends his father’s
grave. He said to the audience of Americans and current caretakers, “By making
these dead part of your family, you have become part of our family. You have
created a bond between us that will never be broken. So, from this day forward,
from now until the end of time, a heartfelt thank you.”
In our
own lives we have experienced reciprocity. We all learned as children that when
someone does something nice for us, we do something nice for that someone in
return. It works well for us and in our society to reciprocate. We have not-so-nice
words for people who do not reciprocate. Reciprocating with others establishes
relationships whether they are professional or personal in nature. 
In my
work, I use reciprocity to develop long-lasting relationships with my clients
that are mutually beneficial. Before I make a request of them, I consider
giving them something first. It might be giving time to listen to their concerns,
or sharing ideas to address their problems. In return I ask for their trust to
be completely honest in our coaching relationship. Then I ask them to listen to
my feedback as well as try out my suggestions for addressing their leadership
challenges. Because we keep reciprocating the relationship continues
indefinitely for as long as we work together.
is a powerful tool to influence others. It is based on the idea that we help
those who help us. It begins by giving someone a gift – your time, your advice,
etc. In turn they will usually support your request because the rule says we’re
to give back to those who first give to us. It is a powerful motivator for us
to comply with other’s requests when they have given to us and it’s powerful
because others will do what you ask when you give to them first.
So start
with this thought, “Whom can I help?” rather than, “Who can help me?” Do so and
you will initiate and develop long-lasting, mutually beneficial relationships. Try

Hixson, CMCT®
2 replies
  1. Ryan Graham
    Ryan Graham says:

    Wonderful website you have here but I was wondering if
    you knew of any community forums that cover the same topics
    discussed here? I’d really like to be a part of community where
    I can get opinions from other knowledgeable people
    that share the same interest. If you have any
    recommendations, please let me know. Kudos!. My invention: best
    corded electric lawn mower AGreenHand

    • Brian Ahearn, CMCT®
      Brian Ahearn, CMCT® says:

      I have a Facebook group and LinkedIn group you might want to join. Both groups can be found by searching “Influence PEOPLE”. You’ll continue your learning and perhaps get input from others. Best of luck!


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.