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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Are there principles we can take from what we’re already successfully doing in our workaday lives and apply to our artistic aspirations? What exactly are the qualities that define us as professionals?
1) We show up every day. We might do it only because we have to, to keep from getting fired. But we do it. We show up every day.
2) We show up no matter what. In sickness and in health, come hell or high water, we stagger in to the factory. We might do it only so as not to let down our co-workers, or for other, less noble reasons. But we do it. We show up no matter what.
3) We stay on the job all day. Our minds may wander, but our bodies remain at the wheel. We pick up the phone when it rings, we assist the customer when he seeks our help. We don’t go home till the whistle blows.
4) We are committed over the long haul. Next year we may go to another job, another company, another country. But we’ll still be working. Until we hit the lottery, we are part of the labor force.
5) The stakes for us are high and real. This is about survival, feeding our families, educating our children. It’s about eating.
6) We accept remuneration for our labor. We’re not here for fun. We work for money.
7) We do not overidentify with our jobs. We may take pride in our work, we may stay late and come in on weekends, but we recognize that we are not our job descriptions. The amateur, on the other hand, overidentifies with his avocation, his artistic aspiration. He defines himself by it. He is a musician, a painter, a playwright. Resistance loves this. Resistance knows that the amateur composer will never write his symphony because he is overly invested in its success and overterrified of its failure. The amateur takes it so seriously it paralyzes him.
8) We master the technique of our jobs.
9) We have a sense of humor about our jobs.
10) We receive praise or blame in the real world.
Now consider the amateur: the aspiring painter, the wannabe playwright. How does he pursue his calling?
One, he doesn’t show up every day. Two, he doesn’t show up no matter what. Three, he doesn’t stay on the job all day. He is not committed over the long haul; the stakes for him are illusory and fake. He does not get money. And he overidentifies with his art. He does not have a sense of humor about failure. You don’t hear him bitching, “This fucking trilogy is killing me!” Instead, he doesn’t write his trilogy at all.
The amateur has not mastered the technique of his art. Nor does he expose himself to judgment in the real world. If we show our poem to our friend and our friend says, “It’s wonderful, I love it,” that’s not real-world feedback, that’s our friend being nice to us. Nothing is as empowering as real-world validation, even if it’s for failure.
As someone who does a significant amount of freelance work in the arts, and has mentored many people who do the same, I am often asked to articulate my “Love or Money Policy.”
The “Doctrine of Love or Money” is based on a simple premise: Your time is valuable. In order to accept a job, you must either really love the people, really believe in the project at hand, or be appropriately compensated. Ideally all of the above would be true, but we do not exist in an ideal world.
Any freelance gig must be worth one’s time if one is to accept it. Compensation is most often financial, but might also be learning new skills and/or something with a high probability of leading to a higher goal. (Be very careful of any offer of “great exposure” in lieu of other compensation. If a project is so high profile that that’s an offer that can realistically be made, either you will have already heard of it independently and/or they can afford to pay you.)
It is fine to do things to gain experience, but if it is just about experience, that experience had better be worthwhile. If you are being compensated too far below what you think is fair, you will resent the time spent more than you would if you were doing it pro bono.
If you adopt this sort of doctrine, it means that you are only doing the work that you want to do. And you are far less likely to burn yourself out, or to miss the chance to take part in positive experiences because you are caught in draining ones.
Those of us who work in the arts do it for the love. Make sure the love is there when you take on a gig. That said, if and when you are asking other people to work for love, treat both them and the work you are doing with them with enough respect and professionalism that the experience is worth everyone’s time.
I make theatre in a wide spectrum of venues ranging from LORT houses to high schools. The places where I work for love have as high a professional standard as those where I work for money. When I am asking people to work for love, they are at the top of the list of those who I recommend and/or hire when there is material compensation involved and they are qualified.
This applies to anything really, but those who work in the arts need to hear it far more than say, aerospace engineers.
Get into the the best school possible, “do well” at
that school, get an internship that you could talk
about over wine and cheese, tell everyone how
“valuable an experience” it was (even though you
only applied because it seemed like that’s what
everyone else was doing), attend the various
recruiting sessions for a field you’re not
necessarily interested in, but are moving towards
because it’s relevant to internship you just did,
get an interview, ask them 2-4 questions at the
end of the interview, appear well adjusted, sign
the offer letter, answer superficial questions at
graduationey events and dinner parties, work at a
job you’re not sure you actually like, make enough
money to have family photos where you all wear
sweaters, send your kid to private school, watch
him graduate from your alma mater with a similar
offer in hand. Success, allegedly.