Law 13: When Asking For Help, Appeal To People’s Self-Interest, Never To Their Mercy Or Gratitude

In the image: Sergey Mikhaylovich Brin is an American computer scientist and Internet entrepreneur. Together with Larry Page, he co-founded Google. Brin was the president of Google’s parent company, Alphabet Inc., until stepping down from the role on December 3, 2019.

If you need to turn to an ally for help, do not bother to remind him of your past assistance and good deeds. He will find a way to ignore you. Instead, uncover something in your request, or in your alliance with him, that will benefit him, and emphasize it out of all proportion. He will respond enthusiastically when he sees something to be gained for himself.

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Keys To Power

  • There is an art to asking for help, an art that depends on your ability to understand the person you are dealing with, and to not confuse your needs with theirs.
  • Most people never succeed at this, 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.
  • Even the most powerful person is locked inside needs of his own, and if you make no appeal to his self-interest, he merely sees you as desperate, or a waste of time.
  • Self-interest is the lever that will move people. Train yourself to think your way inside the other person’s mind, to see their needs and interests, to get rid of the screen of your own feelings that obscure the truth.


  • Some people will see an appeal to their self-interest as ugly and ignoble. They prefer to exercise charity, mercy, and justice as a way of feeling superior to you.
  • When you beg them for help, you emphasize their position and power. They are strong enough to need nothing from you except the chance to feel superior. This is the wine that intoxicates them.
  • Do not be shy. Give them that opportunity.


In the image: Athenians

In 433 B.C., the Athenians found themselves in a favorable position. The Corcyrans & the Corinthians were preparing for war. Both parties wanted to secure the help of the Athenians. The Corinthians chose to remind them of existing debt. The Corcyrans on the other hand spoke only of mutual interests, the combined force of their navy directed at Sparta. The Athenians allied with the Corcyrans.

In sales of any kind, pragmatic arguments will always trump emotional appeals. The past does not matter. Don’t count on loyalty. Aim for win-win deals.

About The Book

The 48 Laws of Power (1998) is a non-fiction book by American author Robert Greene. The book is a bestseller, selling over 1.2 million copies in the United States.

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