Have you ever noticed that many self-help books act like you exist in a vacuum? It is you who must change in order to succeed and it is you that must go through this transformation, alone. I don’t think that’s particularly helpful and nor should you.
In fact, success comes not from some internal brilliance but from learning to work in a bigger eco-system of human beings. Some of whom are competing with you but most of whom would be willing to help you, if they had a reason to.
Tyrion: Enters Stage Left
This is where Game of Thrones comes in. Tyrion, the dwarf, is one of the fans favourite characters. Despite his noble birth to a great house, he spends much of his life struggling thanks to the contempt his family have for his disability.
Yet, when we reach the end (caution: spoiler alert) Tyrion has achieved more than nearly anyone else in the show. How does he do it and why do we like Tyrion so much?
Tyrion’s Secret Sauce
Tyrion’s gift is that he is a clever man and a clever man knows something that many other people don’t seem to fully understand. He’s not psychic.
Tyrion doesn’t spend his life guessing what other people’s motivations are and then trying to cater to his guess work. He asks people directly, “What is it that you want?”
In fact, if you watch the show carefully, this is nearly the first question out of his mouth to almost every other character.
Tyrion asks because he’s genuinely interested. He knows that if he can help others get what they want, they are much more likely to help him get what he wants when he needs their help.
Good Intentions Are Best When They’re Directed In The Right Way
It is a good idea to help others whenever you can. Generosity is an attractive trait in others. The more that someone helps us, the more we feel obliged to return the favour (even when no such favour is asked for).
This is the law of reciprocity and it’s been ruthlessly exploited by marketers ever since the phenomenon was discovered. It comes from an understanding that humans are social creatures and we’re more likely to get on with each other when we all feel happy. No surprises, there, right?
The trouble is that sometimes when we think we’re helping, we’re actually hindering. Almost everyone has heard the hurtful words, “well, I didn’t ask you to do XYZ, did I?” Even if you think you’re doing someone a solid – sometimes, you get it wrong.
Tyrion shows us a way to ensure that every time we help someone, that they actually see our actions as helpful. We ask what it is that the person wants, and within reason, we then try to help them attain their objectives.
It’s useful to clarify anything that you don’t understand about what that person wants, before you take action. The idea being that you can find your destination in the easiest manner when you have a very clear map.
Don’t be afraid to check in along the way too and make sure that whatever you’re helping with is still what the person wants. People do change their minds.
“What is it that you want?” may be one of the most powerful questions in the English language. You can give people help that really helps armed with this information. You can also be pretty sure that in the future, people will want to help you in return. It’s the original win-win situation, thanks to Tyrion.