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When Asking For Help, Appeal To People's Self-Interest, Never To Their Mercy Or Gratitude

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, which will benefit him, and emphasize it out of all proportion. He will respond enthusiastically, when he sees something to be gained for himself.
THE PEASANT AND THE APPLE TREE A peasant had in his garden an apple tree, which bore no fruit, but only served as a perch for the sparrows and grasshoppers. He resolved to cut it down, and, taking his axe in hand, made a bold stroke at its roots. The grasshoppers and sparrows entreated him not to cut down the tree that sheltered them, but to spare it and they would sing to him and lighten his labors. He paid no attention to their request, but gave the tree a second and a third blow with his axe. When he reached the hollow of the tree, he found a hive full of honey. Having tasted the honeycomb, he threw down his axe, and, looking on the tree as sacred, took great care of it. Self interest alone moves some men. - Aesop's Fables600B.C.

In your quest for power, you will constantly find yourself in the position of asking for help from those more powerful than you. There is an art to asking for help, an art that depends on your ability to understand the person, with whom you are dealing, 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. They talk as if all their needs mattered to these people, who probably couldn't 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 every day realities would have had much greater appeal. What they do not realize is that powerful people are absorbed in needs of their own, and if you make no appeal to his self-interest, he merely sees you as desperate, or, at best, a waste of his time.

A key step in the process is too understand the other person's psychology. Is he vain? Is he concerned about his reputation or his social standing? Does he have enemies, which you could help him vanquish? Is he simply motivated by money and power?

Most men are so thoroughly subjective that nothing really interests them but themselves. They always think of their own case, as soon as ever any remark is made, and their whole attention is engrossed and absorbed by the merest chance reference to anything which affects them personally, be it never so remote. - Arthur Schopenhauer, 1788-1860

When the Mongols invaded China, in the twelfth century, they threatened to obliterate a culture, which had thrived for over two thousand years. Their leader, Genghis Khan, saw nothing in China that lacked pasturing for his horses, and he decided to destroy the place, leveling all its cities, for "it would be better to exterminate the Chinese and let the grass grow." It was not a soldier, a general, or a king, who saved the Chinese from destruction but a man named Yelu Ch'u-Ts'ai. A foriegner himself, Ch'u-Ts'ai had come to appreciate the superiority of Chinese culture. He managed to make himself a trusted adviser to Genghis Khan, and persuaded him that he would reap riches out of the place, if instead of destroying, he simply taxed everyone. Khan saw the wisdom in this and did as advised.

When Khan took the city of Kaifeng, after a long siege and decided to massacre its resident, Ch'u-Ts'ai told him that the finest craftsmen and engineers in China had fled to Kaifeng, and it would be better to put them to use. Kaifeng was spared. Never before had Genghis Khan shown such mercy, but is really was not mercy that saved Kaifeng. Ch'u-Ts'ai knew Khan well. He was a barbaric peasant, who cared nothing for culture, or indeed anything other than warfare and practical results. Ch'u-Ts'ai chose to appeal to Khan's greed.

Imagine A Cord That Binds. The cord of mercy and gratitude is threadbare and will break, at the first shock. Do not throw such a lifeline. The cord of mutual self-interest is woven of many fibers and can not easily be severed. t will serve you well for years.

Self-interest is the lever that will move people. Once you can make them see how you can in some way meet their needs or advance their cause, the resistance to your requests for help will magically fall away. At each step on the way to acquiring power, you must 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 and there will be no limits to what you can accomplish.

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