When Asking For Help, Appeal To People’s Self-interest

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

In your quest for success and power, you will constantly find yourself in the position of asking for help from more powerful than you. There is an art for asking for help, an art that depends on your ability to understand the person you are dealing with, and not to confuse your needs with theirs.

Most people will never master this art because they are completely trapped in their own wants and desires. They start from the assumption that the people they are appealing to, have a selfless interest in helping them. They talk as if their needs mattered to those people, people who probably could not care less. Sometimes, they refer to larger issues: A great cause or grand emotions such as love and gratitude. They go for the big picture when simple, everyday realities would have much more appeal. What they do not realize is that even the most powerful persons are locked inside needs of their own, and that if you make no appeal to their self-interests, they merely see you as desperate or, at best, a waste of time.

“The shortest and best way to make your fortune is to let people see clearly that it is in their interests to promote yours.”

Some people will see an appeal to their self-interest as ugly an ignoble. They would actually prefer to be able to exercise charity, mercy, and justice, which are their ways of feeling superior to you. When you beg them for help, you emphasise their power and status. They are powerful and successful enough to need nothing from you except the chance to feel superior. They are dying to fund your project, to introduce you to powerful people, provided of course, that all this would be done in public and for a good cause. Usually, the more public, the better. Not everyone, then, can be approached through cynical self-interest. Some people will be put off by it because they do not want to seem to be only motivated by such a public display. For those who are interested in such a display of public generosity, they need opportunities to genuinely and generously display their good heart.

Do not be shy, give them that opportunity. It is not as if you are cunning them by asking for help. It is really their pleasure to give and to be seen giving. Just remember: You must distinguish the differences among successful and powerful people and figure out what makes them tick. When they ooze greed, do not appeal to their charity. When they want to look charitable and noble, do not appeal to their greed.

Michel Ouellette JMD

J. Michael Dennis, ll.l., ll.m.



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