The Binding Rule of Reciprocity

The rule of reciprocity explains the universal tendency for humans to feel compelled to reciprocate or repay when an action is done in generosity. The action can be a kind deed or a gift. This triggers the receiver to repay favors or gifts. The interesting part is that people feel like they owe you more than what was given to them. Feeling indebted transcends the value of the original action so people go above and beyond when reciprocating.


The work of a direct support professional is very selfless. It’s centered on what their client with a developmental disability needs and wants. None of it revolves around them getting anything in return aside from the salary. If the feeling of indebtedness in the rule of reciprocity goes beyond what was given in the first act, what’s reciprocated on their part? How does the rule come into play in their relationship with their clients?


When our direct support professionals take their shifts, they attend to all the needs of our clients. The support they give can vary between household chores, recreational activities, appointments to the doctor, personal development, improving their skills and many other actions. The time, effort and heart they put into their work to let their clients live the best life is immeasurable. It’s a selfless act to constantly give by dedicating their lives to make a positive impact in the lives of their clients. What do they get in return? A smile, a happy face, and a warm hug are usually the three simple gestures from clients. This might not seem like a big deal to some, but for our direct support professionals it means the world. It’s a sign that they did something valuable for their clients that resulted in a genuine positive reaction.




Our direct support professionals care for their clients expecting nothing in return. They help them daily, not looking for a reward at the end of the day. They continue to do their job because they are passionate about it; they love to help and they have a heart for service. However, as they spend more and more time with their clients they slowly realize they’re actually getting more than what they’re giving. They get to know themselves better through the job. They develop self-awareness and learn things they didn’t know. They gain a better perspective in life, and that affects them positively. They become better people, children to their parents, parents to their children and better friends too. Helping the developmentally disabled gives meaning to their lives; it gives them a purpose. They live life happier knowing they have a purpose and then pursuing that purpose.


As the fox says in the book The Little Prince, the most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or touched, they are felt with the heart. This makes the job of a direct support professional very rewarding. What they get for all the hard work and commitment they give are the intangible lessons in life. Their lives become better and they grow as individuals just as their clients progress and live their best lives. The love and bond they develop goes beyond the daily activities they do together. What binds them with their clients is the mutual benefit of growth and fulfillment.