The 48 Laws of Power-Law 13: When Asking for Help, Appeal to People’s Self-Interest, Never to their Mercy or Gratitude

Advises framing requests in a way that appeals to self-interest rather than relying on mercy or gratitude.


In the realm of persuasion and influence, understanding human behavior is paramount. One of the fundamental principles outlined in Robert Greene’s “The 48 Laws of Power” is Law 13: When Asking for Help, Appeal to People’s Self-Interest, Never to their Mercy or Gratitude. This law emphasizes the importance of framing requests in a manner that aligns with individuals’ self-interest rather than relying on their sense of mercy or gratitude.

Understanding Law 13

Law 13 dictates that when seeking assistance or cooperation from others, it is more effective to appeal to their self-interest rather than expecting them to act out of kindness or obligation. This principle recognizes the inherent self-serving nature of human beings and advises leveraging this tendency to achieve desired outcomes.

The Psychology Behind Self-Interest

Human Nature and Self-Interest

At the core of Law 13 lies an understanding of human psychology. Individuals are naturally inclined to prioritize their own needs and desires. By acknowledging and respecting this innate inclination, one can navigate interpersonal interactions more effectively.

Why Self-Interest Matters in Persuasion

Appealing to self-interest taps into individuals’ motivations and desires, making them more receptive to your requests. When people perceive that fulfilling your needs aligns with their own interests, they are more likely to comply.

Examples of Appeals to Self-Interest

In various settings, from personal relationships to business negotiations, appeals to self-interest have proven to be highly effective. Consider the following scenarios where individuals successfully leveraged self-interest:

  • A salesperson highlighting the benefits of a product that directly addresses the customer’s pain points.
  • A manager offering incentives to employees for achieving specific targets, aligning their goals with the company’s objectives.

Crafting Requests Effectively

Strategies for Appealing to Self-Interest

When formulating requests, it’s essential to consider the recipient’s motivations and interests. Tailor your message to emphasize how fulfilling your request will benefit them personally.

Tips for Wording Requests

Use language that emphasizes the value proposition for the other party. Focus on outcomes and benefits rather than relying on emotional appeals.

Avoiding Appeals to Mercy or Gratitude

Pitfalls of Relying on Mercy or Gratitude

Appealing to mercy or gratitude can backfire, as it places the burden of obligation on the other party. This approach may lead to resentment or reluctance to comply.

Negative Consequences

Requests framed in terms of mercy or gratitude may be perceived as manipulative or insincere, damaging relationships and undermining trust.

Case Studies

By examining real-life examples, we can gain insight into the effectiveness of appeals to self-interest versus appeals to mercy or gratitude. Case studies offer valuable lessons on crafting persuasive messages.

  1. In a sales scenario, a company used an appeal to self-interest by highlighting how their product could solve specific problems for potential customers. This approach resulted in a higher conversion rate compared to previous campaigns that relied on appeals to mercy or gratitude.
  2. In a workplace setting, a manager offers bonuses and incentives tied to individual performance goals rather than appealing to employees’ sense of obligation or gratitude. This strategy motivated employees to achieve higher productivity levels and fostered a culture of performance-driven incentives.
  3. Conversely, a charity organization found that appeals solely based on mercy or gratitude were less effective in soliciting donations compared to campaigns that emphasized the tangible benefits of contributing, such as tax deductions or social recognition. This shift resulted in increased donation rates and engagement from potential donors.

Practical Applications

Law 13 has widespread applications in both personal and professional contexts. Implementing this principle can enhance communication, negotiation, and decision-making processes.

  1. Business Negotiations: In negotiations, appealing to the self-interest of counterparts can lead to more favorable outcomes. By demonstrating how an agreement benefits both parties, negotiations can proceed smoothly.
  2. Sales and Marketing: Crafting marketing messages that emphasize the personal benefits of a product or service can increase conversion rates. Highlighting how the offering meets the needs or solves the problems of the target audience is key.
  3. Leadership and Management: Effective leaders understand the motivations of their team members and align organizational goals with individual self-interests. Offering incentives and recognition tied to performance can drive productivity and engagement.
  4. Personal Relationships: Applying Law 13 in personal relationships involves recognizing the desires and interests of others. By framing requests or proposals in a way that highlights mutual benefits, individuals can strengthen their relationships.

Overcoming Objections

Addressing concerns and objections is essential when applying Law 13. Anticipate potential resistance and provide compelling reasons for individuals to prioritize their self-interest.

  1. Active Listening: Listen attentively to the concerns or objections raised by individuals. Understanding their perspective is crucial in formulating effective responses.
  2. Empathy: Show empathy towards the concerns expressed by others. Acknowledging their feelings and demonstrating understanding can help build rapport and trust.
  3. Provide Solutions: Offer viable solutions or alternatives that address the underlying interests or needs of the individuals. Showing how fulfilling your request aligns with their self-interest can increase receptivity.
  4. Highlight Benefits: Emphasize the benefits or advantages of complying with your request. Clearly articulating the value proposition can persuade individuals to prioritize their self-interest.

Cultivating Long-Term Relationships

Law 13 isn’t just about immediate gains; it’s about nurturing lasting connections based on mutual benefit and respect. Invest in building rapport and fostering trust over time.

  1. Consistent Communication: Regular and open communication is vital for nurturing long-term relationships. It helps in understanding each other’s needs and expectations.
  2. Mutual Respect: Cultivating mutual respect lays the foundation for strong and enduring relationships. It involves valuing each other’s opinions, feelings, and boundaries.
  3. Delivering Value: Continuously strive to provide value to the other party. Whether it’s through offering support, expertise, or solutions to their problems, adding value strengthens the bond.
  4. Building Trust: Trust is the cornerstone of any long-term relationship. Be reliable, transparent, and consistent in your actions to earn and maintain trust.
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Also read: The 48 Laws of Power-Law 14: Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy

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