Top 10 Techniques to Build Quick Rapport with Anyone
Read Time: 6 Minutes
When I worked for the FBI, I recruited spies. I worked specifically against foreign spies in the United States. My job was to recruit them to our side. Recruiting an active intelligence officer is what I call the toughest sales job in the world. I’m selling American patriotism to a foreign intelligence officer. As you can imagine, their sales resistance is fairly strong.
You might assume my job was one of manipulation and subterfuge. That makes for a good movie or novel, but it’s the furthest thing from the truth. Simply put, recruiting a spy is like selling any product or service. You need to start with truth, or you will fail majestically.
Fundamental Facts of Human Nature
We’re biologically coded to seek psychological comfort. If you want to predict what a human being is going to do, it’s simple. Everyone is going to act in their own best interests in terms of what they view as their — and those they care about — safety, security, and prosperity. Our job is to be empathetic enough to figure out what they think that is. The first step to forging a good relationship is seeing the world through their point of view.
If you are the person who provides that psychological comfort and the person next to you isn’t, even if you’re selling the same product and service, they’re going to go with you. Why wouldn’t they? You’re the one that they trust.
People also connect to people who objectively listen. It’s a simple thing, but when somebody can share their goals and challenges with another who doesn’t judge, they feel good. They feel accepted for who they are. A person who listens might exhibit nonverbal affirmations: the head tilt, the nod, the smile. These things work on a biological level, releasing endorphins and dopamine that get the brain saying, “I feel psychological safety and comfort when I am interacting with this person.”
When we start forging deeper trust and connections, we’re starting to build rapport, which releases even stronger chemicals like serotonin and oxytocin.
Convincing vs. Inspiring
Beginning salespeople (or spy recruiters) believe their job is to convince someone to buy something, whether it’s a product or service or betraying their country. Here’s the hard truth. You can’t convince someone to do something they don’t think is in their best interest. You might be able to cajole them and twist them into it, but then they’ll get buyer’s remorse.
Instead, you need to inspire someone to want to. Convincing is trying to get you to do something I want you to do. Inspiration must come from within. It’s the difference between power, which is about me getting what I want, and leadership, which is me being a resource for your success in the areas you want. A great leader, a great communicator, meshes the two overlapping needs together.
To inspire someone, you need to see things from their point of view. It’s easy to think of your reward: money, prestige, career advancement. But you should be looking at what they want, you need to understand their needs and how you can fulfill them. What kind of challenges and pain points are in their lives that you can solve? And if you can’t answer that question, don’t have an engagement yet.
10 Techniques to Quick Rapport
The golden rule is to treat others how you want to be treated. The platinum rule is to treat others how they want to be treated. That’s where empathy comes in. This leads us to the 10 techniques you can use to build quick rapport. These are not sequential, but some of them you might want to do at the very outset. You don’t have to do all of them, but the more you do gives you a kind of cascading effect.
- Establish Time Constraints. When you establish a time constraint with someone, you’re basically telling them there’s an end in sight. It’s not open-ended, which is empowering them with a choice. It’s empowering them with knowledge. When people are empowered with knowledge, shields come down, they feel safer.
- Accommodating Nonverbals. These say, “Hey, I’m completely comfortable and open with you.” They can be eyebrow elevation, smiling, a head tilt, or exposing a carotid artery, which is basically saying, “I trust you not to rip out my jugular vein.” The opposite would be discomfort displays: eyebrow compression, lip compression, body coming in. Anything that’s squishing in says “stress.” And if you’re inducing stress because you see these signs, the topics you’re talking about are not resonating well at all.
- Slower Rate of Speech. You want to use a slower rate of speech, especially on first contact with someone, because we want to make sure we’re being extremely clear. If someone’s not understanding what we’re saying, we might get nonverbal miscues. You want to use a slower rate of speech for the demographic to which you’re talking. Here in the States, if you’re from the Northeast, where I am from, and you’re talking to someone from the Deep South, we have very different rates of speech or tempos. You want to accommodate but not be too slow because you’ll start losing some credibility.
- Sympathy or Assistance Theme. Seek to be a resource. We are genetically coded to render assistance and have sympathy for people in need because we are genetically coded for this. Our genetics and biology say, if you’re going to be part of a tribe and part of a collective, you need to render assistance when people need it.
- Ego Suspension. If you start using all these tools and techniques for your personal gain, it’s going to leak through because you will stop paying attention to their priorities, pain points, and what’s going on in their lives. If you start correcting someone from your own point of view — which we have this incessant need to do — you will not forge any rapport or trust.
- Validate Others’ Thoughts and Opinions. Validation doesn’t necessarily mean you agree with someone. It means you’re seeking to understand them with curiosity. Remember, listening doesn’t mean just shutting up. It means paying attention to what they’re saying and using active listening techniques.
- Seek Context. Use open-ended questions and seek context by asking how and when and using challenge questions. These give you great open-ended responses. And when somebody responds to that, their brain says, “Let me share what’s most important in my life right now.” And when they do that, you learn about their priorities and challenges for which you can be a resource.
- Connect with Quid Pro Quo. Establish commonalities because when you make it about someone else, you forge trust. If you hear someone sharing something that you have in common, connect it with a little quid pro quo. So you can say, “Oh, really? I had a similar experience. Oh, really? My daughter’s also…’” Again, this is establishing tribe and bringing down somebody’s shields. Be careful not to overplay your part in expressing your thoughts, opinions, and ideas, because as soon as you do, their brain starts shutting down and they’re going to start glazing over and walk away.
- Gift Giving and Reciprocal Altruism. This goes hand in hand with the sympathy and assistance theme. We are genetically and biologically coded for reciprocal altruism. A gift can be tangible or intangible (e.g., the gift of time, or of thought and opinion) if it’s about the other person. When you give great value to someone else, you build great rapport and great trust.
- Manage Your Expectations. If you’re a great forger of rapport and trust, your interactions are all about somebody else. Do not expect any of it back.
About Robin Dreeke
Robin is a best-selling author, professional speaker, trainer, facilitator, and retired FBI Special Agent and Chief of the Counterintelligence Behavioral Analysis Program. Robin has taken his life’s work of recruiting spies and broken down the art of leadership, communication, and relationship building into Five Steps to TRUST and Six Signs of whom you can TRUST. Since 2010, Robin has been working with large corporations as well as small companies in every aspect of their business. Whether it is newly promoted leaders, executives, sales teams, or customer relations, Robin has crafted his People Formula for quick results and maximum success.
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