Tag: Conversations

An FBI Agent Reveals 5 Steps To Gaining Anyone’s Trust

I had an opportunity to ask Robin Dreeke a few questions. Robin is in charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s elite Counterintelligence Behavioral Analysis Program and the author of It’s Not All About Me.

Robin combines science and years of work in the field to offer practical tips to build rapport and establish trust. In this brief interview he discusses building relationships, how to approach someone you don't know and ask for a favor, and the keys to establishing trust.

A lot of people are interested in strengthening and furthering relationships. How can people do this?

This is the most important aspect of everything we do in life. I'm going to give some light science behind each of my answers but to me it just explains the subjective simple explanations behind naturally great trusting relationships.

Both anecdotal (evidence) as well as science supports the fact that the greatest happiness is found in positive social interactions and relationships. The simplest answer to this is to “make it all about them.” Our brain rewards us chemically when we are able to talk and share our own views, priorities, and goals with others… long term, short term, etc. Our brain also rewards us when we are unconditionally accepted for who we are as a human being without judgement.

Both of these concepts are genetically coded in each of us (to varying degrees) because of our ancient survival instincts (ego-centrism) as well as our need to belong to groups or a tribe (tribal mentality for survival and resources). When you put these simple concepts together the answer is simple to understand, but oftentimes difficult to execute…. Speak in terms of the other person's interests and priorities and then validate them, their choices, and who they are non-judgmentally. Some people do this naturally, for the rest of us you can build this skill and it eventually becomes second nature.

Trust is a foundation to most situations in life. How can we develop trust? What are the keys?

I can only answer from my own background and experience because trust is a very difficult thing to measure and define and each individual's definition can vary and our brain takes in much more than verbal information when determining trust. For me and what I teach I start with what I said in question one. Trust first starts with a relationship where the other person's brain is rewarding them for the engagement with you by doing what I outlined above.

Part two of my trust process is to understand the other person's goals and keeping their goals and priorities on the top of my list of goals and priorities. By making the other person's goals and priorities yours, trust will develop. Over time (some people faster than others) a need to reciprocate the kindness and relationship will build. In other words, trust is built faster and stronger when there is no personal agenda.

What's the best way to approach someone you don't know and ask them for a favor?

Using sympathy and seeking help is always the best. If you can wrap the help / favor you are looking for around a priority and interest of the individual you are engaging, the odds of success increase. Add social proof (i.e., others around you helping already or signed a petition etc.) and you increase it even more. Again, focus on how you can ask a favor while getting their brain to reward them for doing so.

What are some strategies to build rapport while giving a talk, presentation, or interview?

Ego Suspension / self-deprecating humor… Make it all about them! How is the information you are chatting about going to benefit them? Talk about the great strengths and skills they each have already and that all you hope to do is to have them understand their strengths even better and be able to pass them on to others more effectively if they want to. Validate every question and opinion non-judgmentally. If you don't happen to agree, simply ask “that's a fascinating / insightful/ thoughtful opinion… would you mind helping me understand how you came up with it?” Again, their brain will reward them on multiple levels for this.

I suspect you spend a lot of time trying to figure out if people are manipulating you or the situation? Can you talk about this? How can you tell when people are attempting to manipulate you?

I'll start by saying I don't like the word manipulate. The word tends to objectify people and removes the human being from the equation. When people feel they are objects, trust will not be built. I tend to not think of anyone trying to manipulate me but at times a very self-serving agenda becomes evident. This is what manipulation generally is…. a self-serving agenda where the other person feels used with no reciprocity. When I notice that there may be an overabundance of a self-serving agenda (manipulation) I don't judge the person negatively. I try to explore two areas in order to understand them better. (go back to my first answers here… this process begins to build a relationship and trust :)) I try to understand what their objective is and why that is their objective. What are they trying to achieve, etc. I will also attempt to understand why they felt a certain way of communicating with me would be effective for them in the situation. I tend to ask questions to help them think about how they might be more successful in their objectives using other methods… such as I outlined above. In other words, help them achieve whatever objective with me they had…. because wasn't that their goal after all? :) See… keep it always coming back to them.

If you had to give a crash course in building a relationship with someone, what are the top 5 things people need to do? What carries the bulk of the freight so-to-speak?

1) Learn… about their priorities, goals, and objectives.
2) Place… theirs ahead of yours
3) Allow them to talk…. suspend your own need to talk.
4) Seek their thoughts and opinions.
5) Ego suspension!!! Validate them unconditionally and non-judgmentally for who they are as a human being.

If you haven't already, check out Robin's Ten Techniques for Building Quick Rapport With Anyone.

The Secret to Networking

networking
Maximize Your Potential: Grow Your Expertise, Take Bold Risks & Build an Incredible Career (Kindle), edited by Behance’s 99U editor-in-chief Jocelyn Glei, features an interesting question and answer with Sunny Bates — an expert in human network development.

Sunny believes that who you surround yourself with is the single most important factor in unlocking your potential. And like Robin Dreeke (see Ten Techniques for Building Quick Rapport With Anyone), she's an expert at cultivating relationships.

What do people struggle with the most?

I think people get very narrow-minded, thinking that they can only reach out to people who are already doing a similar type of job. But the underlying network science says that it's all about weak links Those people who are the friend of a friend of a friend. That's a much more likely place for something important to happen to you than your inner circle of close friends and colleagues.

On asking people for help:

If you don't ask, you'll never get. Sure you may only get a little bit at a time. But if you don't ask, 100 percent of the time you won't get. You've just got to get over yourself.

african proverb

Is networking disingenuous?

The underlying spirit of networking is generosity. If you engage with people in the spirit of generosity, as opposed to tit for tat — “I gave you three things, now you give me three things”—you'll go so much farther. What's more, the process can become joyful rather than an onerous task. Building a network is like cultivating a botanical garden: You don't want everyone in your network to be one color or one species. You want a variety of ages and stages and professions and passions, and to tend them carefully.

How to reach out? Just do it.

Look at the people whom you admire most in your field. And literally map it out. Here are the four people that are doing great work at the organizations I respect. And just reach out.

You always want to be specific about what you're asking for. Are you asking for a relationship? Are you asking for advice? Are you asking to follow up with them along the way, and occasionally reach out with a question? I think the best gauge for what's fair to ask is flipping the tables: How would you feel if somebody approached you and asked this exact same thing.

People in the creative world are different.

In the creative world, there is a lot of love for the shiny penny. People are attracted to what's new and are quick to leave behind what's tried-and-true in favor of what's getting attention. I think that's interesting fodder for how you think about intentionally building your network for the long term.

Maximize Your Potential: Grow Your Expertise, Take Bold Risks & Build an Incredible Career is full of wisdom for helping you take control of your career and navigate the waters yourself.

The Art of Ordinary Conversation

Some general guidelines for good conversation.

Bring out the cleverness in others.

Jean de La Brùyere:

The true spirit of conversation consists more in bringing out the cleverness of others than in showing a great deal of it yourself; he who goes away pleased with himself and his own wit is also greatly pleased with you.

Preserve silence.

Via – Martine’s Hand-book of Etiquette, and Guide to True Politeness:

The power of preserving silence is the very first requisite to all who wish to shine, or even please in discourse; and those who cannot preserve it, have really no business to speak. … The silence that, without any deferential air, listens with polite attention, is more flattering than compliments, and more frequently broken for the purpose of encouraging others to speak, than to display the listener’s own powers. This is the really eloquent silence. It requires great genius—more perhaps than speaking—and few are gifted with the talent …

Never give sharp answers.

Via – Martine’s Hand-book of Etiquette, and Guide to True Politeness:

Never give short or sharp answers in ordinary conversation, unless you aspire to gain distinction by mere rudeness; for they have in fact no merit, and are only uncivil. “I do not know,” “I cannot tell,” are the most harmless words possible, and may yet be rendered very offensive by the tone and manner in which they are pronounced.

People default to advocacy.

Via Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works:

In any conversation, organizational or otherwise, people tend to overuse one particular rhetorical tool at the expense of all the others. People’s default mode of communication tends to be advocacy— argumentation in favor or their own conclusions and theories, statements about the truth of their own point of view.

It's better to foster assertive inquiry.

“I have a view worth hearing, but I may be missing something.” It sounds simple, but this stance has a dramatic effect on group behavior if everyone in the room holds it. Individuals try to explain their own thinking— because they do have a view worth hearing. So, they advocate as clearly as possible for their own perspective. But because they remain open to the possibility that they may be missing something, two very important things happen. One, they advocate their view as a possibility, not as the single right answer. Two, they listen carefully and ask questions about alternative views. Why? Because, if they might be missing something, the best way to explore that possibility is to understand not what others see, but what they do not.

We wanted to open dialogue and increase understanding through a balance of advocacy and inquiry. This approach includes three key tools: (1) advocating your own position and then inviting responses (e.g., “This is how I see the situation, and why; to what extent do you see it differently?”); (2) paraphrasing what you believe to be the other person’s view and inquiring as to the validity of your understanding (e.g., “It sounds to me like your argument is this; to what extent does that capture your argument accurately?”); and (3) explaining a gap in your understanding of the other person’s views, and asking for more information (e.g., “It sounds like you think this acquisition is a bad idea. I’m not sure I understand how you got there. Could you tell me more?”).

Yes, and …

Via The Plateau Effect: Getting from Stuck to Success:

Anyone who has ever taken a class in improvisation has learned the “yes, and…” technique. Ever wonder what keeps a great improv troupe from falling silent? It’s simple. No one is allowed to say no. Whatever is said, the other actors are forced to accept it and build upon it. This conversational style pays immediate dividends. Instead of creating blocks, or, “stops” to the chatter, it allows group discussions to build on each other. Talking takes on a spirit that floats higher and higher, as opposed to the use of what some called “conversation stoppers” thrown in by negative nellies. These sound like, “I don’t believe that,” or, “what’s your proof for that?” or, often, simply, “No.” Those stuck in a deconstructivist frame of mind often can’t help but bring down conversations. You know them because they often leave people feeling like a balloon has just been popped and its remnants have crashed to the floor. Popping other people’s balloons is a sure-fire way to discourage them from telling you how they really feel; and a terrible way to break out of plateaus caused by becoming stuck in a feedback-proof cocoon.

Where we learn the art of conversation.

Via Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation:

The shared meal is no small thing. It is a foundation of family life, the place where our children learn the art of conversation and acquire the habits of civilization: sharing, listening, taking turns, navigating differences, arguing without offending. What have been called the “cultural contradictions of capitalism” — its tendency to undermine the stabilizing social forms it depends on — are on vivid display today at the modern American dinner table, along with all the brightly colored packages that the food industry has managed to plant there.

Cicero and the rules of conversation.

In 44BC Cicero wrote the following rules, distilled for us by The Economist:

The rules we learn from Cicero are these: speak clearly; speak easily but not too much, especially when others want their turn; do not interrupt; be courteous; deal seriously with serious matters and gracefully with lighter ones; never criticise people behind their backs; stick to subjects of general interest; do not talk about yourself; and, above all, never lose your temper.

Probably only two cardinal rules were lacking from Cicero's list: remember people's names, and be a good listener.

Six Rules.

via the Financial Times:

1. Be curious about others; 2. Take off your mask; 3. Empathise with others; 4. Get behind the job title; 5. Use adventurous openings; 6. Have courage.

Compliment this with ten techniques for building quick rapport with anyone.

Ten Techniques for Building Quick Rapport With Anyone

ten techniques for building quick rapport

**Warning – the content in this post is so effective that I encourage you to think carefully how it is used. I do not endorse or condone the use of these skills in malicious or deceptive ways**

I'm not quite sure how I came across Robin Dreeke‘s It's Not All About Me: Ten Techniques for Building Quick Rapport With Anyone but I'm glad I did.

Robin is the lead instructor at the FBI’s Counterintelligence Training Center in all behavioral and interpersonal skills training.

And he wrote an awesome book on how to master the skills of communication.

His process not only includes research into social and evolutionary psychology, but it's been honed from years of field experience.

I've been trying these out over the last few days and I've already noticed an improvement. Most importantly, I've put away my phone and focused on the person with whom I'm talking. This simple act of giving people my undivided attention has made a world of difference.

There are not many places that teach these techniques and I couldn't have asked for a better guide than Robin.

1. Establishing Artificial Time Constraints

I suspect you've sat in a bar at one point or another and been approached by a stranger who tried to start a conversation. My guess is you felt awkward or possibly even uncomfortable. This is because you didn't know when or if the conversation would end.

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.

When you approach someone to start a conversation most people assess the situation for threat before anything else.

Humans have genetically survived because of this. This is a strong reason why these techniques work; they are specifically designed to lower the perceived risk to a stranger.

2. Accommodating Nonverbals

This is a pretty simple one. You want to look non threatening. The number one nonverbal technique to use to look more accommodating is to smile.

This isn't new. It's the second of six principles in Dale Carnegie's book, How to Win Friends and Influence People.

You can however accentuate your smile in a subtle way.

Adding a slight head tilt shows the other person that you have comfort with them and trust them. Another nonverbal to try and maintain is a slightly lower chin angle.

High chin angles make someone feel like you're looking down at them.

Another key nonverbal is body angle. Standing toe to toe with someone else can be intimidating.

A slight body angle or blade away from the individual you are engaging will present a much more accommodating nonverbal.

How you shake hands matters too.

An accommodating handshake is one that matches the strength of the other, and also takes more of a palm up angle.

3. Slower Rate of Speech

Speaking fast may mean you're excited. It may even mean that you know what you're talking about. However speaking slowly gives you more credibility.

Whenever I have a conversation that I believe is important for me to be credible in my content, I purposely slow down the delivery and take pauses for people to absorb the content of what I have just said.

4. Sympathy or Assistance Theme

If you're like most people, you've felt a bit of regret for turning down someone seeking help.

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. The compulsion is based upon the fact that our ancient ancestors knew that if they did not provide assistance when asked, the assistance would not be granted to them if requested at a later date.

5. Ego Suspension

This may be the most rewarding and most difficult of all of Robin's techniques.

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.

6. Validate Others

There are many types of validation. Robin identifies three of them.

Listening
This is the simplest and one of the most effective. Just listen to someone can produce amazing results. Where we run into problems is keeping our own thoughts, ideas, and stories out of the conversation.

True validation coupled with ego suspension means that you have no story to offer, that you are there simply to hear theirs.

And there is another benefit. When the focus is on the other person and we're not anxious to tell our own story, we also tend to remember the details. We're mindful.

Thoughtfulness

… few people naturally use this to its fullest potential, and, most of the time, we don’t realize when it is being used; all we know is we really like the person who gives it.

Demonstrating thoughtfulness in words and actions with everyone in our lives is a simple and effective way to improve our relationships.

Validate Thoughts and Opinions
This technique is quite difficult because of “our innate need to correct others and the difficulty we have suppressing our own egos.”

But if you remember that we like people who are like us, you'll immediately grasp the power of validating thoughts and opinions of others.

The best way to get someone to do what you want them to do is to have them come up with the idea. The best way to have them come up with your idea is, no surprise, to honestly understand the other person's point of view and then build upon that base with your ideas.

7. Ask … How? When? Why?

It's hard to answer these questions with a simple yes or no.

Once the individual being targeted in the conversation supplies more words and thoughts, 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.

This means suppressing your ego and listening to what people are saying. You're not thinking about what you're going to say next. You're not thinking about how the person is wrong. If you're really listening then asking open ended questions based on the content of what they are saying should be pretty easy.

8. Connect with Quid Pro Quo

In the context of a conversation this means giving up a little information about yourself in order to further the conversation and get a little from others.

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. Gift Giving

This is conversational reciprocation in action.

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. Gift giving, or reciprocal altruism, is hardwired in our genetics.

The key is to do this without an agenda. If you have an agenda you'll come across as insincere.

10. Manage Expectations

Regardless of the situation, whether it is an altruistic intention or not, there is an agenda. The individuals in life that are able to either mask their agenda or shift the agenda to something altruistic will have great success at building rapport.

The surest way to avoid disappointment is to lower expectations.

If you're looking to improve the connections you have with others, give it a read.

Assertive Inquiry

You might be surprised at what A.G. Lafley, Procter & Gamble's former CEO, can teach you about conversations. This excerpt is from his book (kindle edition).

In any conversation, organizational or otherwise, people tend to overuse one particular rhetorical tool at the expense of all the others. People’s default mode of communication tends to be advocacy— argumentation in favor or their own conclusions and theories, statements about the truth of their own point of view. To create the kind of strategy dialogue we wanted at P&G, people had to shift from that approach to a very different one.

The kind of dialogue we wanted to foster is called assertive inquiry. Built on the work of organizational learning theorist Chris Argyris at Harvard Business School, this approach blends the explicit expression of your own thinking (advocacy) with a sincere exploration of the thinking of others (inquiry). In other words, it means clearly articulating your own ideas and sharing the data and reasoning behind them, while genuinely inquiring into the thoughts and reasoning of your peers.

To do this effectively, individuals need to embrace a particular stance about their role in a discussion. The stance we tried to instill at P& G was a reasonably straightforward but traditionally underused one: “I have a view worth hearing, but I may be missing something.” It sounds simple, but this stance has a dramatic effect on group behavior if everyone in the room holds it. Individuals try to explain their own thinking— because they do have a view worth hearing. So, they advocate as clearly as possible for their own perspective. But because they remain open to the possibility that they may be missing something, two very important things happen. One, they advocate their view as a possibility, not as the single right answer. Two, they listen carefully and ask questions about alternative views. Why? Because, if they might be missing something, the best way to explore that possibility is to understand not what others see, but what they do not.

Contrast this to managers who come into the room with the objective of convincing others they are right. They will advocate their position in the strongest possible terms, seeking to convince others and to win the argument. They will be less inclined to listen, or they will listen with the intent of finding flaws in other arguments. Such a stance is a recipe for discord and impasse.

We wanted to open dialogue and increase understanding through a balance of advocacy and inquiry. This approach includes three key tools: (1) advocating your own position and then inviting responses (e.g., “This is how I see the situation, and why; to what extent do you see it differently?”); (2) paraphrasing what you believe to be the other person’s view and inquiring as to the validity of your understanding (e.g., “It sounds to me like your argument is this; to what extent does that capture your argument accurately?”); and (3) explaining a gap in your understanding of the other person’s views, and asking for more information (e.g., “It sounds like you think this acquisition is a bad idea. I’m not sure I understand how you got there. Could you tell me more?”). These kinds of phrases, which blend advocacy and inquiry, can have a powerful effect on the group dynamic. While it may feel more forceful to advocate, advocacy is actually a weaker move than balancing advocacy and inquiry. Inquiry leads the other person to genuinely reflect and hear your advocacy rather than ignoring it and making their own advocacy in response.