the art of making people like you

The Art of Making People Like You

Building Rapport and Creating Trust

When it comes to meeting new people, it’s not uncommon to feel a bit apprehensive. The initial awkwardness of breaking the ice can make anyone uneasy. But here’s the kicker: research shows that relationships are vital to our happiness, and mastering the art of networking can open doors to fulfilling careers. So, how can you ensure that you leave a positive impression and create lasting connections with the people you meet? Let’s dive into the wisdom of Robin Dreeke, a former head of the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Program and an expert in interpersonal relations.

1. Non-judgmental Validation: Seek, Listen, and Understand

Robin’s number one piece of advice for making people like you is simple but profound: “Seek someone else’s thoughts and opinions without judging them.” Non-judgmental validation is the cornerstone of building rapport. It’s about asking questions, listening actively, and withholding judgment. People don’t want to feel judged, and by avoiding judgment, you open the door to understanding their needs, wants, dreams, and aspirations.

But what do you do when you encounter opinions or ideas that seem far-fetched or even downright crazy? Robin’s approach is to replace judgment with interest. He suggests responding with something like, “That’s fascinating. I’ve never heard it put that way before. Help me understand; how did you come up with that?” This approach keeps the conversation flowing and allows people to talk about their favorite subject: themselves. Studies show that people derive more pleasure from talking about themselves than from food or money, so showing interest is a powerful way to connect.

Understanding Non-judgmental Validation:

Non-judgmental validation is about creating a safe space for open and honest communication. It means that when you engage in a conversation, your primary goal is to understand the other person’s point of view, needs, and desires without immediately evaluating or criticizing them. This approach fosters a sense of acceptance and respect, which, in turn, helps in building trust and rapport.

The Power of Validation:

Validation, in this context, doesn’t imply blind agreement or endorsement of every opinion. Instead, it signifies that you acknowledge the other person’s right to have their perspective and that you’re genuinely interested in hearing it. By validating their thoughts and feelings, you’re sending a powerful message that you respect their individuality and uniqueness.

Active Listening: The Heart of Validation:

At the core of non-judgmental validation is active listening. Active listening involves more than just hearing the words someone is saying; it means truly paying attention and engaging with what they’re expressing. It entails making an effort to understand their emotions, motivations, and underlying reasons for their statements.

Non-judgmental Validation in Practice:

So, how can you put non-judgmental validation into practice when meeting new people? Here are some practical tips:

Ask Open-Ended Questions: Start the conversation with open-ended questions that encourage the other person to share their thoughts and feelings. For example, instead of asking, “Do you like your job?” you can ask, “What do you enjoy most about your work?”

Listen Actively: As the person responds, give them your full attention. Maintain eye contact, nod occasionally to show you’re engaged, and use verbal cues like “I see” or “Tell me more” to indicate your interest.

Avoid Interrupting: Resist the urge to interrupt or interject with your own opinions. Let them finish their thoughts before you respond.

Empathize: Try to put yourself in their shoes. Understand their perspective, even if you don’t agree with it. Empathy goes a long way in demonstrating non-judgmental validation.

Show Genuine Interest: Display genuine curiosity about what the other person is saying. If they express an unusual or unconventional view, ask for more information instead of immediately expressing disagreement.

Non-verbal Cues: Your body language is as important as your words. Maintain an open and approachable posture, and use non-verbal cues like a smile to convey warmth and acceptance.

The Benefits of Non-judgmental Validation:

When you practice non-judgmental validation, you create an atmosphere of trust and respect. People are more likely to open up to you, share their thoughts, and feel comfortable in your presence. This approach not only helps in building rapport but also in strengthening the foundations of lasting and meaningful relationships.

In summary, non-judgmental validation is a powerful tool for making people like you. It’s about listening actively, understanding the other person’s perspective, and creating a judgment-free space for communication. By applying these principles in your interactions, you can create strong and lasting connections with the people you meet, whether in personal or professional settings. Remember, it’s not about agreeing with everyone; it’s about respecting their right to have their own thoughts and feelings.

2. Suspend Your Ego: Focus on Them, Not You

Suspending your ego, as suggested by Robin Dreeke, is a pivotal element in the fine art of making people like you. This practice requires setting aside your own needs, opinions, and desires to focus wholeheartedly on the other person. It’s a fundamental step in building rapport and establishing trust, as it emphasizes selflessness and genuine interest in the person you’re engaging with. Ego suspension is the antidote. Contradicting people doesn’t build relationships; it triggers a defensive response in their brains. Instead, focus on understanding their point of view and needs.

Let’s delve deeper into the concept of suspending your ego and how it can be applied effectively in real-life interactions.

Understanding Ego Suspension:

Ego suspension doesn’t imply neglecting your own thoughts and feelings or suppressing your individuality. Instead, it’s about temporarily putting your ego aside during the conversation to allow the other person to take center stage. By doing this, you show a profound level of respect and interest in their thoughts and emotions.

The Pitfalls of Ego-Centric Conversations:

Engaging in conversations where your ego dominates can have several adverse effects. It can make the other person feel unheard, unimportant, or even attacked. It can lead to a defensive response or escalate conflicts. In professional settings, such as networking or job interviews, a self-centered attitude can hinder your ability to build meaningful connections and leave a lasting negative impression.

Practical Steps for Ego Suspension:

To practice ego suspension effectively, consider the following steps:

Listen Actively: Pay close attention to what the other person is saying. Avoid planning your response while they’re talking, as this can divert your focus from their message.

Avoid Interruptions: Resist the urge to interrupt with your own stories, opinions, or advice. Let them express themselves fully before you chime in.

Empathize: Try to understand the other person’s emotions, point of view, and motivations. Put yourself in their shoes to gain a deeper perspective.

Ask Open-Ended Questions: Encourage them to share more by asking open-ended questions that require thoughtful responses. This demonstrates your interest in their thoughts.

Give Validating Responses: Use validating responses like “I see,” “That makes sense,” or “Tell me more” to show that you’re engaged and accepting of their ideas.

Benefits of Ego Suspension:

Ego suspension is not just a selfless act; it’s also a strategic one. It yields several benefits:

Building Trust: By making the conversation about the other person, you create an atmosphere of trust. They feel valued and respected, which is the foundation of any strong relationship.

Effective Communication: When you suspend your ego, you’re more likely to truly understand the other person’s needs, desires, and concerns. This paves the way for effective and meaningful communication.

Conflict Avoidance: Ego suspension reduces the likelihood of conflicts arising during conversations. It promotes a harmonious and respectful exchange of ideas.

Positive Impressions: Whether in personal relationships or professional networking, ego suspension leaves a positive impression. People are more inclined to remember you as someone who listens, understands, and values their perspective.

In conclusion, suspending your ego is a vital component of creating strong connections with others. It’s about making the conversation about them, not you, by actively listening, empathizing, and showing genuine interest. By incorporating this practice into your interactions, you’ll be well on your way to building rapport, earning trust, and making people genuinely like you. Remember, it’s not about losing yourself; it’s about temporarily making the conversation revolve around the other person’s thoughts and feelings.

3. Be a Good Listener: It’s Not About Waiting to Talk

We’ve all heard that being a good listener is crucial, but what’s the right way to do it? Robin emphasizes that active listening involves more than just staying quiet. It means truly focusing on what the other person is saying without thinking about what you’ll say next. When you have a story or thought to share, consciously set it aside. Your goal should be to ask yourself, “What idea or thought that they mentioned do I find fascinating and want to explore?” This approach makes the other person feel valued and heard, enhancing the quality of the interaction.

Active Listening vs. Passive Hearing:

Active listening is the practice of fully engaging with what the other person is saying. It’s not just hearing their words; it’s understanding their message, emotions, and motivations. Passive hearing, on the other hand, involves merely registering the sounds without genuine comprehension.

When you actively listen, you convey to the speaker that you value their words and that you are fully present in the conversation. This creates a sense of trust and rapport.

The Common Pitfall: Waiting to Talk

One of the most common communication pitfalls is the tendency to “wait to talk.” This happens when, during a conversation, you’re primarily focused on what you’ll say next, rather than paying attention to what the other person is saying. It can be a barrier to effective communication and building connections.

When you’re waiting to talk, you may miss critical nuances in the other person’s message. This can lead to misunderstandings, misinterpretations, and missed opportunities to connect on a deeper level. Additionally, it can make the speaker feel unheard and undervalued, which is detrimental to building rapport.

Practical Tips for Active Listening:

To become a better listener and avoid the “waiting to talk” trap, consider these practical tips:

Stay Present: Make a conscious effort to be fully present in the conversation. Put aside distractions and give your undivided attention to the speaker.

Focus on Understanding: Shift your mindset from formulating responses to genuinely trying to understand the other person’s perspective. What are their emotions? What motivates their words?

Use Non-verbal Cues: Show that you’re engaged by maintaining eye contact, nodding, and using appropriate facial expressions. These non-verbal cues communicate your active involvement in the conversation.

Avoid Interrupting: Resist the urge to interrupt or interject with your own stories, opinions, or advice. Allow the speaker to finish their thoughts.

Ask Clarifying Questions: To demonstrate your interest and understanding, ask clarifying questions about what the speaker has said. This shows that you’re actively engaged in the discussion.

The Benefits of Active Listening:

Mastering active listening offers numerous advantages, including:

Building Trust: Active listening fosters trust because it shows that you respect the other person’s perspective and value their words.

Enhanced Communication: When you actively listen, you’re more likely to grasp the speaker’s needs, desires, and concerns. This leads to more effective communication.

Strengthened Connections: Active listening enables you to connect with others on a deeper level, as you genuinely understand their thoughts and emotions.

Positive Impressions: Whether in personal relationships or professional settings, active listening leaves a positive impression. People remember those who truly listen and engage with them.

In conclusion, being a good listener means actively engaging with what others say, not merely waiting for your turn to talk. Active listening requires being fully present, understanding the speaker’s perspective, and demonstrating genuine interest. By practicing active listening, you can build trust, enhance communication, strengthen connections, and leave a lasting positive impression on the people you interact with. Remember, it’s about valuing the other person’s words and emotions, not just hearing their words.

4. Ask About Challenges: Building a Connection Through Shared Struggles

One of the most effective ways to build a connection with someone is by asking about the challenges they are currently facing. This simple yet powerful technique, advocated by Robin Dreeke, serves as a bridge to deeper, more meaningful conversations and can help you establish rapport and trust with others. Let’s explore why inquiring about challenges is so effective and how to use it to create connections with people.

The Power of Discussing Challenges:

Discussing challenges is a universal human experience. Regardless of our background, age, or status, everyone encounters difficulties in life. By asking about challenges, you tap into a shared human experience that instantly connects you with others. Here’s why it works so well:

Common Ground: When you ask about challenges, you’re addressing a topic that resonates with nearly everyone. People can relate to facing obstacles, making it easy for them to engage in the conversation.

Empathy and Understanding: Discussing challenges encourages empathy and understanding. It allows people to open up about their struggles, creating a space for authentic and vulnerable conversations.

Prioritizing Their Concerns: Inquiring about challenges shows that you genuinely care about the other person’s well-being. It places their concerns at the forefront of the conversation, signaling your interest in their thoughts and feelings.

Practical Steps for Discussing Challenges:

To effectively use this technique, follow these practical steps:

Start with Empathy: Begin the conversation with empathy by expressing your concern for the other person’s well-being. For example, you can say, “I hope everything is going well for you. Is there anything challenging you’re dealing with right now?”

Listen Actively: As they share their challenges, actively listen without judgment. Your goal is to understand their experiences and emotions. Use validating responses like “I see” or “That sounds tough” to show that you’re engaged.

Ask Open-Ended Questions: Encourage them to share more by asking open-ended questions. For example, you can follow up with, “Can you tell me more about how you’re managing this challenge?” This demonstrates your interest in their perspective.

Offer Support: Show your willingness to offer support or assistance if appropriate. Even if you can’t directly help, your offer conveys empathy and care.

The Benefits of Discussing Challenges:

Incorporating discussions about challenges into your interactions can yield several benefits:

Building Empathy: It fosters empathy and understanding by allowing people to share their struggles and experiences.

Strengthening Connections: Discussing challenges creates deeper and more meaningful connections. It brings authenticity and vulnerability to the conversation.

Demonstrating Genuine Interest: By prioritizing their concerns, you show that you genuinely care about the other person’s well-being.

Nurturing Trust: Engaging in conversations about challenges builds trust, as it demonstrates your willingness to listen and support.

In summary, inquiring about challenges is a powerful technique for building connections with people. It allows you to tap into shared experiences and create an empathetic and understanding space for communication. By prioritizing the other person’s concerns, actively listening, and offering support when appropriate, you can use this approach to establish rapport, strengthen connections, and demonstrate genuine interest in the people you interact with. Remember, it’s about creating a space for authentic and meaningful conversations, connecting through shared struggles, and building trust and empathy.

5. Make Strangers Feel At Ease: Create a Safe Space for Conversation

Approaching and engaging with strangers can be an intimidating prospect, both for you and for them. To ease this initial awkwardness and put strangers at ease, Robin suggests setting a time constraint by stating that you only have a minute because you’re heading out. This simple statement relaxes people, making them feel that they won’t be trapped in a lengthy conversation. Research supports this approach, showing that asking people if now is a good time makes them more likely to engage in the conversation.

The Power of Setting a Time Constraint:

Setting a time constraint, such as stating that you only have a minute because you’re headed out, serves several important functions in making strangers feel comfortable during a conversation:

Removes Pressure: By informing the other person that the interaction will be brief, you alleviate the pressure often associated with talking to strangers. They know they won’t be stuck in a lengthy or uncomfortable conversation.

Creates a Relaxed Atmosphere: A time constraint can make the atmosphere more casual and laid-back, as both parties understand that the conversation will be short and informal.

Encourages Openness: Knowing that the interaction is time-limited can encourage people to be more open and candid. They may feel more willing to share their thoughts and experiences without the worry of a long commitment.

Demonstrates Respect: It shows respect for the other person’s time and boundaries. This consideration can be particularly valuable when approaching strangers.

Practical Application of the Time Constraint:

To use the time constraint effectively and make strangers feel at ease, follow these practical steps:

Start with a Friendly Greeting: Begin the conversation with a warm and friendly greeting. For example, you can say, “Hello, I hope you’re having a great day.”

Set the Time Constraint: After the initial greeting, introduce the time constraint. You can say something like, “I only have a minute because I’m on my way out, but I’d love to chat with you briefly.”

Engage in the Conversation: Make the most of the limited time you have. Listen actively, ask questions, and express interest in what the other person is saying.

Respect Their Boundaries: As the conversation progresses, remain conscious of the time constraint. If you approach the time limit, politely let the other person know and express your gratitude for the conversation.

The Benefits of Setting a Time Constraint:

Using this technique provides several advantages when interacting with strangers:

Encourages Approachability: Strangers are more likely to be open to a conversation when they know it won’t be overly time-consuming.

Alleviates Anxiety: It reduces anxiety for both parties, making the initial interaction less intimidating.

Demonstrates Consideration: Setting a time constraint shows consideration for the other person’s time and boundaries, which can be appreciated.

Establishes a Relaxed Atmosphere: The approach promotes a more relaxed and informal atmosphere, conducive to comfortable conversations.

In summary, setting a time constraint when approaching strangers is a valuable technique for creating a safe space for conversation. It eliminates the fear of being trapped in a long interaction, eases initial awkwardness, and allows both parties to engage in a relaxed and open dialogue. When used effectively, this approach encourages approachability, alleviates anxiety, demonstrates consideration, and establishes a comfortable atmosphere for meaningful interactions with strangers. Remember, it’s about making the initial engagement less intimidating and more inviting for all parties involved.

6. Use Positive Body Language: Align Your Words and Actions

While the words you use are crucial, your body language also plays a significant role in building rapport. Robin provides several tips for using positive body language. First and foremost, smile – it’s a powerful way to engender trust. Keep your chin angled down to avoid appearing judgmental or condescending. Maintain an open and comfortable posture, and use upward non-verbal cues like high eyebrow elevations. Positive body language should be in harmony with your positive words, creating a congruent and genuine impression.

The Significance of Positive Body Language:

Positive body language complements your verbal communication and plays a pivotal role in how others perceive you. When your words and non-verbal cues align, it sends a consistent message of sincerity and trustworthiness. Here’s why it’s vital:

Non-Verbal Cues Matter: Research indicates that a substantial portion of human communication is non-verbal. Your body language, facial expressions, and gestures convey information, emotions, and intentions.

Consistency Equals Trust: When your body language aligns with your words, it creates a consistent message. People naturally trust those whose words and actions are congruent.

Positive Impressions: Positive body language can leave a lasting positive impression. It signals that you are genuine and reliable.

Practical Steps for Using Positive Body Language:

To ensure that your non-verbal cues align with your spoken words and create a positive impact, follow these practical steps:

Maintain Eye Contact: Establish and maintain appropriate eye contact during a conversation. It shows that you are engaged and attentive. Avoiding eye contact can convey insecurity or insincerity.

Smile: A genuine smile is one of the most powerful positive body language cues. It conveys warmth, approachability, and friendliness. A smile can make you more likable and trustworthy.

Posture: Maintain good posture to appear confident and approachable. Avoid slouching, as it can signal disinterest or a lack of confidence.

Nod and Use Affirmative Cues: Nodding occasionally while the other person is speaking shows that you’re actively listening and agreeing with what they’re saying. Use affirmative cues like “yes” and “uh-huh” to acknowledge their words.

Maintain an Open Stance: Avoid crossing your arms or legs, as it can create a defensive barrier. An open stance, with your arms at your sides, conveys openness and willingness to engage.

Keep Hands Visible: Having your hands visible, preferably with palms up, is a sign of openness and honesty. It shows that you have nothing to hide.

Mirror the Other Person: Subtly mirroring the other person’s body language can create a sense of connection. It signifies that you are in sync with them.

The Benefits of Positive Body Language:

Using positive body language offers numerous advantages in your interactions:

Builds Trust: Positive body language conveys authenticity and trustworthiness, which are essential for building rapport and trust.

Enhances Communication: Your non-verbal cues can complement and enhance your verbal communication, making your message more effective.

Leaves Positive Impressions: Consistent, positive body language leaves a lasting positive impression on others, making you more likable and approachable.

Fosters Authenticity: When your non-verbal cues align with your words, it fosters authenticity in your interactions, which is a key element in connecting with people.

In conclusion, using positive body language is a vital aspect of creating trust and making people like you. It involves aligning your non-verbal cues with your spoken words, conveying authenticity and trustworthiness. By maintaining eye contact, smiling, adopting an open stance, and using affirmative cues, you can leave a positive impression and establish deeper connections with others. Remember, it’s not just what you say but how you say it through your body language that matters.

7. Deal With People You Don’t Trust: Be Direct and Clarify Goals

Interacting with individuals you don’t trust can be challenging and uncomfortable. In these situations, Robin Dreeke recommends a straightforward approach: be direct and clarify goals. By openly discussing each other’s objectives in the interaction, you can navigate through potential manipulation and ambiguous motives. This technique helps establish transparency and ensures that both parties are on the same page. 

The Importance of Being Direct and Clarifying Goals:

When you encounter individuals whose intentions are unclear or seem untrustworthy, being direct and clarifying goals serves several crucial purposes:

Promotes Transparency: Openly discussing your respective objectives in the interaction promotes transparency. It ensures that both parties understand the reasons behind the conversation.

Eliminates Misunderstandings: Clarifying goals helps prevent misunderstandings and assumptions. By explicitly stating your intentions, you reduce the chances of misinterpretation.

Establishes Boundaries: It allows you to set boundaries and expectations for the interaction. This is particularly important when dealing with individuals you don’t fully trust.

Encourages Honesty: By initiating an honest conversation about goals, you encourage the other person to be truthful about their intentions. This can help reveal any hidden motives.

Practical Steps for Being Direct and Clarifying Goals:

To effectively apply this technique when dealing with untrustworthy individuals, follow these practical steps:

Express Your Intentions: Begin the conversation by expressing your own intentions and goals for the interaction. For example, you can say, “I want to understand the purpose of our conversation and clarify our goals.”

Encourage Reciprocity: Encourage the other person to share their goals as well. You can ask, “Could you please tell me your objectives in this interaction?”

Listen Actively: Pay close attention to what the other person says. Listen actively to ensure you understand their perspective and intentions.

Seek Common Ground: Look for areas where your goals align or overlap. Identifying common ground can help establish a basis for a productive conversation.

Set Boundaries: If necessary, set clear boundaries for the interaction to ensure that both parties feel comfortable and safe.

The Benefits of Being Direct and Clarifying Goals:

Employing this approach offers several advantages when dealing with untrustworthy individuals:

Establishes Transparency: It creates an environment of transparency, reducing the chances of hidden agendas and ulterior motives.

Reduces Misunderstandings: By clarifying goals, you minimize misunderstandings and misinterpretations that can lead to conflicts.

Encourages Honesty: The approach encourages honesty and open communication, potentially revealing the other person’s true intentions.

Provides Clarity: It offers clarity and mutual understanding, allowing both parties to move forward with a shared sense of purpose.

In conclusion, when dealing with individuals you don’t trust, being direct and clarifying goals is a valuable technique. It promotes transparency, eliminates misunderstandings, establishes boundaries, and encourages honesty in the interaction. By openly discussing your respective objectives, you can navigate through potentially manipulative situations and ensure that both parties are on the same page. Remember, it’s about creating an environment of trust and clarity, even when trust is lacking in the initial stages of the interaction.

In summary, building rapport and creating trust with new people is a valuable skill that can open doors in various aspects of life. Robin Dreeke’s insights emphasize the importance of non-judgmental validation, ego suspension, active listening, and positive body language. These techniques, combined with a genuine interest in others, can help you make a positive impression and establish lasting connections. Remember, it’s not about manipulation but about building authentic relationships based on trust and respect. So, go ahead, use these techniques, and watch as people naturally gravitate toward you.