Law 13: When You ask for Help, don’t be a Beggar, rather Appeal to Self-interest

48 Laws of Power

The lessons  Law 1  Law 2  Law 3  Law 4  Law 5  Law 6  Law 7  Law 8  Law 9  Law 10

Law 11  Law 12


When you need help from friends, don’t remind them of your previous assistance or good deeds. They will rather ignore you. Rather, show him what can also benefit him in your request. Let it be like a bargain, rather than beggarly. People are happy to support when they also see something to gain.

A local farmer in his garden has an apple tree, which was producing no fruits but serves as a shelter for birds and grasshoppers. The farmer decided to cut the tree down, however, the birds and grasshoppers jointly appealed to him not to cut down their home, and they would sing to him when working. 

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This didn’t satisfy him and he went on to cut the tree with different strokes. As he got to the hollow of the tree, found a beehive full of honey, he tasted it and was satisfied, he stopped the cutting and protected the tree henceforth. ‘Only self-interest moves some people’.

Most men are selfish that nothing else moves them or interests them except themselves. Should you go to them for anything, the first thing they think or consider is themselves, and once there is nothing in for them, they are uninterested. When people want to talk, either about the past or the future, of course, pragmatic people prefer the future and overlook the past. 

The Corcyrans believe that ‘it is most times best to speak pragmatically to pragmatic people. In fact, in the end, most people remain pragmatic, because they will hardly act against their own self-interest’.

In life, people think of their own interests, before right and wrong. The moment people start talking about morality, you should know they cant find their interest in such an issue. In the quest for power, we will always want to seek help, especially from more powerful people. When we ask for help, we have to understand the person we are seeking from, and also differentiate their needs from ours. 

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Rather, many people bore others with their own needs, wants, and desires. Firstly, we think the people we are seeking help from are selfless, forgetting that everyone has needs. Even the most powerful people also have their own needs. If we, therefore, do not appeal to their self-interest, they see us as desperate or a waste of time.

The only way you can reach a compromise with people helping you is to appeal to their self-interest. We need not be subtle, there is enough knowledge to share, fill their coffers with gold, he becomes happier. This is the language everyone understands, ‘Rub my back and I rub yours. And a way to achieve this successfully is to understand the person’s psychology. Is the person more concerned about his reputation or his social status? Does he have things you can do for him or enemies you can squash for him? Is he motivated by power or money?

The only lever that moves people is self-interest. Once people see how you can solve their problems or meet their needs, their resistance to your requests will be reduced. Therefore, we should not always go as beggars, but as negotiators. A cord of mercy and gratitude is light and thin, it will break easily. The cord of mutual self-interest is made and woven into many fibers and cannot easily be destroyed. Jean Bruyere says, ‘the shortest and best way to make your fortune is to let people see clearly that it is in their interests to promote yours.

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When you go for business negotiations, seek contracts, to source funds, always ensure you beforehand study the needs or interests of the partners you are meeting. See how they can also benefit from it, what they stand to gain and you will see them smile and sign your proposal. You can’t blame them after all, everyone sees everything as an investment and there should be a type of benefit they can point to.

Finally, when people want to show their greed, do not appeal to their mercy or charity, and when they want to appear charitable and merciful, don’t appeal to their greed.

The lessons  Law 1  Law 2  Law 3  Law 4  Law 5  Law 6  Law 7  Law 8  Law 9  Law 10

Law 11  Law 12

credit: Robert Greene

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