TIME psychology

Top 10 FBI Behavioral Unit Techniques for Building Rapport With Anyone

The FBI building is seen in Miami, Florida
Joe Raedle—Getty Images

Robin Dreeke is head of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Behavioral Analysis Program.

In his book It’s Not All About “Me”: The Top Ten Techniques for Building Quick Rapport with Anyone he simply and clearly spells out methods for connecting with people.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the methods.

1) Establish artificial time constraints

Nobody wants to feel trapped in an awkward conversation with a stranger.

Robin often begins a conversation with something along the lines of “I’m on my way out but before I left I wanted to ask you…”

Via It’s Not All About “Me”: The Top Ten Techniques for Building Quick Rapport with Anyone:

Have you ever been sitting in a bar, an airport, a library, or browsing in a bookstore when a stranger tried to start a conversation with you? Did you feel awkward or on your guard? The conversation itself is not necessarily what caused the discomfort. The discomfort was induced because you didn’t know when or if it would end. For this reason, the first step in the process of developing great rapport and having great conversations is letting the other person know that there is an end in sight, and it is really close.

2) Make Sure Your Body Language is In Sync

Make sure your words and body language are aligned and both are non-threatening.

A simple smile is the most powerful nonverbal technique, as Dale Carnegie let us know.

Via It’s Not All About “Me”: The Top Ten Techniques for Building Quick Rapport with Anyone:

When you walk into a room with a bunch of strangers, are you naturally drawn to those who look angry and upset or those with smiles and laughing? Smiling is the number one nonverbal technique you should utilize to look more accommodating. In Dale Carnegie’s book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People” it is principle number two of six.

3) Speak Slowly

Quick speech can sound nervous and jumpy, not confident. Crazy people speak quickly; self-assured people speak slowly.

Via It’s Not All About “Me”: The Top Ten Techniques for Building Quick Rapport with Anyone:

When individuals speak slowly and clearly, they tend to sound more credible than those who speak quickly.

4) Ask For Help

When a request is small, we naturally feel a connection to those who ask us for help.

Via It’s Not All About “Me”: The Top Ten Techniques for Building Quick Rapport with Anyone:

Have you ever felt a pang of guilt for turning down someone seeking help? I have personally found that there is no greater theme and tool for eliciting individuals for action, information, and a great conversation than the use of sympathy or assistance. Think for a moment about the times in your life when you have either sought assistance or been asked to provide it. When the request is simple, of limited duration, and non-threatening, we are more inclined to accommodate the request. As human beings, we are biologically conditioned to accommodate requests for assistance.

5) Suspend Your Ego

Avoid correcting people or anything that could be interpreted as one-upmanship.

Just listen. You don’t need to tell your story; just encourage them to keep telling theirs.

Via It’s Not All About “Me”: The Top Ten Techniques for Building Quick Rapport with Anyone:

Suspending your ego is nothing more complex than putting other individuals’ wants, needs, and perceptions of reality ahead of your own. Most times, when two individuals engage in a conversation, each patiently waits for the other person to be done with whatever story he or she is telling. Then, the other person tells his or her own story, usually on a related topic and often times in an attempt to have a better and more interesting story. Individuals practicing good ego suspension would continue to encourage the other individual to talk about his or her story, neglecting their own need to share what they think is a great story… Those individuals who allow others to continue talking without taking their own turn are generally regarded as the best conversationalists. These individuals are also sought after when friends or family need someone to listen without judgment. They are the best at building quick and lasting rapport.

6) Validate Others

The simplest way to do this is to listen.

Via It’s Not All About “Me”: The Top Ten Techniques for Building Quick Rapport with Anyone:

The simplest validation that can be given to another individual is simply listening. The action doesn’t require any proactive effort aside from the incessant need each of us has to tell our own story…

The difficulty most of us have is keeping from interjecting our own thoughts, ideas, and stories during the conversation. True validation coupled with ego suspension means that you have no story to offer, that you are there simply to hear theirs.

7) Ask: How? When? Why?

Ask open-ended questions.

Via It’s Not All About “Me”: The Top Ten Techniques for Building Quick Rapport with Anyone:

One of the key concepts that every great interviewer or conversationalist knows is to ask open ended questions. Open ended questions are ones that don’t require a simple yes or no answer. They are generally questions that require more words and thought. Once the individual being targeted in the conversation supplies more words and thought, a great conversationalist will utilize the content given and continue to ask open ended questions about the same content. The entire time, the individual being targeted is the one supplying the content of the conversation.

Dreeke also recommends using a number of standard FBI active listening techniques you can read about here.

8) Quid Pro Quo

Some people don’t speak much. Other times you listen too well and people feel self-conscious about talking so much.

In these two cases it’s good to give a piece of personal information for every one they reveal to get a flow going.

Via It’s Not All About “Me”: The Top Ten Techniques for Building Quick Rapport with Anyone:

In my experiences, there are really only two types of situations where I have utilized quid pro quo. The first and more common of the instances is when you attempt to converse with someone who is either very introverted, guarded, or both. The second instance is when the person you are conversing with suddenly becomes very aware about how much they have been speaking, and they suddenly feel awkward. In both instances, giving a little information about you will help alleviate some of the issues.

9) Give A Gift

Reciprocation is deeply wired into human nature. When you offer people something, they will naturally feel the need to help you in return.

Doesn’t have to be a big box with a bow on it. Offering someone anything, tangible or not, counts.

Via It’s Not All About “Me”: The Top Ten Techniques for Building Quick Rapport with Anyone:

Most people would feel badly if they received a gift and forgot to say or send a thank you note to the giver. When someone does you a favor you most likely want to reciprocate with gratitude. Great rapport builders and conversationalists use this desire proactively during every conversation. This technique, coupled with ego suspension, are the cornerstones for building great relationships. This is also the easiest technique to utilize, because gifts come in many forms, from non-material compliments, to tangible material gifts.

10) Managing Your Own Expectations

If you don’t manage your expectations properly it can lead to disappointment, resentment and anger.

Play it cool. Focus on the other person’s needs and don’t let your expectations rise.

Via It’s Not All About “Me”: The Top Ten Techniques for Building Quick Rapport with Anyone:

When we are able to shift or manage our expectations, we reduce potential disappointment. When we are disappointed, we sometimes get angry and may even hold grudges and get hurt feelings. These emotions are not conducive to healthy or long term relationships. These emotions are definitely not conducive to developing quick rapport. The best technique to avoid these emotions is to manage expectations.

A number of the ten methods are similar to those espoused by other FBI specialists I have interviewed, including former head of international hostage negotiation, Chris Voss, and FBI profiler Jim Clemente.

The Right Attitude

And what does Robin say is the best attitude to take when trying to build rapport? Make sure the other person walks away better for having met you.

Via It’s Not All About “Me”: The Top Ten Techniques for Building Quick Rapport with Anyone:

Before I use these techniques or send any class out to practice these techniques, I remind myself and them of one everlasting rule that will dramatically increase your probability of success; it is all about them. The only goal I have either for myself or the individuals I teach is that in every interaction the other person should walk away feeling much better for having met you. You should brighten their day and listen to them when no one else will. Build that connection where others wouldn’t and you will have mastered both conversations and quick rapport.

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Related posts:

The top FBI hostage negotiator teaches you the art of persuasion

Persuasion expert Robert Cialdini explains the best ways to influence people

6 hostage negotiation techniques that will get you what you want

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

TIME psychology

How to Make People Like You: 6 Science-Based Conversation Hacks

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Hero Images—Getty Images/Hero Images

So you want to know how to make people like you? It’s easier than you think.

A while back I posted about how to master conversation skills. Here are 6 more research-backed tips:

1) Encourage people to talk about themselves

It gives their brain as much pleasure as food or money:

Talking about ourselves—whether in a personal conversation or through social media sites like Facebook and Twitter—triggers the same sensation of pleasure in the brain as food or money, researchers reported Monday…

“Self-disclosure is extra rewarding,” said Harvard neuroscientist Diana Tamir, who conducted the experiments with Harvard colleague Jason Mitchell. Their findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “People were even willing to forgo money in order to talk about themselves,” Ms. Tamir said.

2) To Give Feedback, Ask Questions

If you use questions to guide people toward the errors in their thinking process and allow them to come up with the solution themselves, they’re less likely to feel threatened and more likely to follow through.

Via Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long:

It’s not you searching for problems; it’s him searching for gaps in his thinking process. You want people to look for assumptions or decisions that don’t make sense upon further reflection…The more you can help people find their own insights, the easier it will be to help others be effective, even when someone has lost the plot on an important project. Bringing other people to insight means letting go of “constructive performance feedback,” and replacing it with “facilitating positive change.”

Here’s more on feedback.

3) Ask for advice

Stanford professor Jeffrey Pfeffer, persuasion expert Robert Cialdiniand many others have all recommended asking for advice as a powerful way to influence others and warm them to you.

Wharton professor Adam Grant breaks down the science behind it in his excellent book Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success:

New research shows that advice seeking is a surprisingly effective strategy for exercising influence when we lack authority. In one experiment, researcher Katie Liljenquist had people negotiate the possible sale of commercial property. When the sellers focused on their goal of getting the highest possible price, only 8 percent reached a successful agreement. When the sellers asked the buyers for advice on how to meet their goals, 42 percent reached a successful agreement. Asking for advice encouraged greater cooperation and information sharing, turning a potentially contentious negotiation into a win-win deal. Studies demonstrate that across the manufacturing, financial services, insurance, and pharmaceuticals industries, seeking advice is among the most effective ways to influence peers, superiors, and subordinates.

4) The Two-Question Technique

Ask them about something positive in their life. Only after they reply should you ask them how they’re feeling about life in general.

Sounds silly but this method is based on research by Nobel Prize winning psychologist, Daniel Kahneman.

A positive answer on the first question will lead to them feeling more positive about their life in general when you ask the second question.

Via Thinking, Fast and Slow:

The same pattern is found if a question about the students’ relations with their parents or about their finances immediately precedes the question about general happiness. In both cases, satisfaction in the particular domain dominates happiness reports. Any emotionally significant question that alters a person’s mood will have the same effect.

More on this powerful technique here.

5) Repeat The Last Three Words

I’ve posted before about the incredible power of active listening and how hostage negotiators use it to build rapport.

What’s the quick and dirty way to do active listening without training?

Social skills expert and author Leil Lowndes recommends simple repetition.

Via How to Talk to Anyone: 92 Little Tricks for Big Success in Relationships:

…simply repeat—or parrot—the last two or three words your companion said, in a sympathetic, questioning tone. That throws the conversational ball right back in your partner’s court.

It shows you’re listening, interested, and lets them get back to telling their story.

You’ve got to be slightly savvy about this one but it’s surprisingly effective.

Surprisingly effective?

Yes, it is.

It is?

Research shows repetition is effective in negotiations as well.

6) Gossip — But Positively

Research shows what you say about others colors how people see you.

Compliment other people and you’re likely to be seen positively. Complain and you’re likely to be associated with those negative traits you hate.

Via 59 Seconds: Change Your Life in Under a Minute:

When you gossip about another person, listeners unconsciously associate you with the characteristics you are describing, ultimately leading to those characteristics’ being “transferred” to you. So, say positive and pleasant things about friends and colleagues, and you are seen as a nice person. In contrast, constantly complain about their failings, and people will unconsciously apply the negative traits and incompetence to you.

Want more?

Here are the previous five conversation hacks.

Join 45K+ readers. Get a free weekly update via email here.

Related posts:

What are the four things that kill relationships?

“Nice guys finish last.” Really? What does the research say?

The top FBI hostage negotiator teaches you the 5 secrets to getting what you want

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

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