Former head of FBI’s behavioral analysis program reveals technique for building instant rapport with anyone
Everyone wants to be liked. From cradle to grave, it’s one of the most important things in life. Even people who claim they don’t care what anyone thinks of them – or perhaps especially those people – want to be liked. They just don’t know how to go about being likable, and so they defensively claim they don’t care.
And, of course, being likeable is essential to networking and career success.
The happy truth is that it’s actually very easy to be likeable. (I myself didn’t learn this until well into adulthood.)
Here are the two main things you need to do likable:
1. Be kind
That’s basically it. Sure, there’s more. But everything else, like remembering names, or performing random acts of kindness, is really just a variation on those two themes. If, in all situations, you make an effort to be kind and to pay attention, you’ll be likeable. Is there such a thing as being too kind? Yes, one can be obsequious, sycophantic and self-sacrificing to the point of martyrdom. But that’s not actually being kind, since it makes people feel uncomfortable and put upon. May you have the wisdom to know the difference.
I was thinking about all this while reading this Business Insider article, in which Robin Dreeke, a former head of the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Program and author of, It’s Not All About ‘Me’: The Top Ten Techniques for Building Quick Rapport with Anyone, offers his advice on being likeable. What most struck a chord with me is Dreeke’s suggestion for the most important thing to do with anyone you meet, because it is the perfect combination of both being kind and listening.
Dreeke’s top piece of advice: “Seek someone else’s thoughts and opinions without judging them.”
What a novel concept! Ask a person what they think about something, and don’t get into an argument with them? I … what? That’s just crazy.
But seriously, this is such a remarkably sound piece of advice.
Everyone has an opinion these days. On everything. And the way in which we disseminate and consume information means that those opinions are shared more widely and frequently than ever. On top of that, there is a tendency, more than ever, for people to tell others their opinions are wrong, so wrong in fact that they are stupid. In fact, they will tell you, not only are you opinions stupid, you are stupid.
Granted, this usually happens online, and more often with strangers than with people one actually knows – that perceived social distance makes people feel more comfortable about being buttheads. But we are entering a time in which there is really no difference between in-person and virtual encounters. They’re pretty much the same thing these days, and both can make or break a first impression.
Also, this does, to a lesser degree, happen in person. If you want to be likeable, don’t do it. Be more civilized, in both real and virtual life.
Dreeke told Business Insider:
- “The number one strategy I constantly keep in the forefront of my mind with everyone I talk to is non-judgmental validation. Seek someone else’s thoughts and opinions without judging them. People do not want to be judged in any thought or opinion that they have or in any action that they take.
“It doesn’t mean you agree with someone. Validation is taking the time to understand what their needs, wants, dreams and aspirations are.”
I reached out to Dreeke to get him to elaborate on this topic. He agrees that everyone wants to be liked. “As human beings we are hardwired to want to be accepted by groups, organizations, tribes,” he says. “It is a survival instinct that is built into us. Our ancestors had a greater chance of survival if they were part of a group, community, or tribe than they were if they were on their own. Part of being part of a tribe is being accepted. When we are accepted, our brain tells us this is good and rewards us for the survival behavior.”
But, he adds, there’s another instinct working against that one. “Another part of our hard-wiring is the need to correct someone or argue with their point of view or ‘context.’”
Avoid doing this, he counsels, because, “Whenever you argue with someone else’s context their shields and defenses go up because they are not being accepted. Overcome this desire and trust builds much more rapidly.”
Dreeke recommends that, should you disagree with someone, instead of putting their opinion down, ask them to elaborate, and see if you can at least develop an understanding of their point of view.
In doing this you might both learn something, and avoid breeding animosity. It’s not always easy. I, like many, have a hard time not getting into arguments sometimes. But it is worth the effort, particularly when it comes to networking and job seeking.
The more people like you, and the more connections you make, and the more job opportunities will come your way.