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…”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.