The best trick to use to ask for help

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Say you need someone’s help, if you try to remind them of your past assistance and good deeds. They will find a way to ignore you. Instead, you should show them how it benefits them. When that is done they will reply enthusiastically. Most people don’t like to do things that don’t benefit them.

 Historic examples of self-interest…

Just before the Peloponnesian War, the island of Corfu and the Greek city of Corinth was about to go to war. Both sides sent delegates to Athens to try to receive help from the Athenians. The stakes were high since whoever had Athens on their side was going to win. And whoever won the war would take everything.

Corfu decided to go first. Its representative began by admitting that the island had never helped Athens before, and in fact, had worked with Athens’s enemies. The only thing he could offer was an alliance of mutual interests. Corfu had a large navy that was superior compared to the navy Athens had; an alliance between the two states would be able to intimidate the rival state of Sparta. Unfortunately, that was all Corfu had to offer.

Afterwards, the delegate from Corinth gave a passionate and honest speech about why Athens should help Corinth. He talked about everything Corinth had done for Athens in the past. He asked how it would look to Athens’s other allies if the city helped a former enemy instead of a long time ally, one that had served Athens’s interest loyally. 

The other allies would probably break their agreements with Athens if they saw that their loyalty was not valued. He finally went on to list everything Corinth had done for Athens and the importance of showing gratitude to friends and allies.

After listening to both sides, Athens decided to help Corfu instead of Corinth. The reason was simple, Corfu had appealed to the interests of Athens instead of giving them reasons as to why they should be grateful like what Corinth had done. 

When asking for help, appeal to people’s self-interest, never to their mercy or gratitude.

Book: The 48 laws of power by Robert Greene 

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