To that end, I picked up a copy of an underground indie best-seller called It’s Not All about Me: The Top Ten Techniques for Building Quick Rapport with Anyone. The author, Robin Dreeke, is in charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s elite Counterintelligence Behavioral Analysis Program. Robin combines hard science and years of work in the field to offer practical tips to build rapport and establish trust.
I asked him to give me a crash course in building a relationship with someone. He offered five practical tips, which I’ve expanded upon.
1. Ask them questions. It’s not about you, it’s about the other person. What are their priorities? What are their goals? What are they trying to accomplish? What do they want to talk about? How are they framing things? Probe their thinking with when, what, and how questions.
2. Don’t be a conversation dictator. Before I spoke with Robin, I had a bad habit. If someone wanted to steer a conversation a certain way, but I wasn’t done talking about what I wanted to talk about, I’d try to pull it back. By putting my needs first, I’d disrupt the tempo of the conversation. I wasn’t placing their needs ahead of mine. I’ve been working hard recently to get other people to direct not only the tempo of the conversation, but where it heads.
3. Allow them to talk. Don’t interrupt. One trick I recently pulled out of Daniel Pink’s best-selling book, To Sell is Human, is to pause for five seconds after the other person is done talking. That may seem like an implausibly long time, but it gives you a chance to collect your thoughts and allows the other person space to continue talking should they wish.
4. Genuinely try to understand their thoughts and opinions. You can start by asking. “How did that make you feel?” “Why did that happen?” These questions not only encourage the other person to talk, but they increase your understanding of the other person.
5. Leave your ego at the door. Dreeke writes: “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.”
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.
The number one goal of almost every conversation should be to leave the other person feeling better for having spoken with you. And for your part, extract as much knowledge from them as possible.
Whenever I talk to people about this, someone always asks what to do if they are talking to a complete fool. In this case, it’s best to heed the advice of Churchill, who said: “The greatest lesson in life is to know that even fools are right sometimes.”