Can you help me OR can you help me?

After my speaking engagement at a recent conference, I met a few people. One of them had an offshore software development company. We talked for a few minutes and exchanged our cards. A day later, I promptly received an email requesting a meeting.

According to the email, the purpose of the meeting was to find out

a) how the person could help one of my companies and

b) explore how I would be able to help his company.

Of course, I didn’t have the time to meet the person with everything going on in my life but I could not NOT observe the way the request was made. At first pass, it appears like there is a fair exchange of value. Upon closer look, you will see that this is a one way street.

Here is the reason:

a) how the person can help one of my companies – typically by getting a deal for his company

b) how I would be able to help his company – typically by getting a deal for his company

So the email was crying out loud – “can you help me or can you help me?”

This might have been an oversight so I don’t want to make any negatie assessments. It just teaches a lesson for all of us.

Take a look at a diagonally opposite approach I learnt from Ashwin Rangan (GM of Walmart Global.) Ashwin was talking about relationships. In his view, relationships are like bank accounts. You can’t withdraw before you make a deposit. It’s a powerful metaphor.

In the above case, the person wanted to communicate that he is trying to make a deposit and a withdrawl but REALLY he was trying to make two withdrawls.