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How to Charm a Complete Stranger

These techniques worked for an FBI agent charged with building rapport with spies and criminals, so surely they'll work on your customers and co-workers.

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We all know the feeling: you want to meet someone -- maybe it’s that pretty person across the party, maybe it’s that big-time player in your industry -- but actually going up to him or her and moving from total stranger to warm connection just seems so stressful and awkward. As a result you sit on on the sidelines and let opportunity pass you by.  

Wouldn’t it be great if you could unlock the mysteries of charm and learn the secrets of building rapport so starting a relationship wouldn’t be so daunting?

That’s just what Robin Dreeke claims to be able to teach. A 15-year veteran of the FBI, Dreeke’s speciality was building relationships (often with rather unsavoury characters) and getting them to open up to him. In short, the federal government paid him to make fast friends with spies and criminals. Now he writes books sharing what he learned so you can connect not with villains, but with sales prospects, job candidates and perhaps even potential dates.

So what are his top rapport building-secrets? Consistently fascinating blog Farnam Street recently rounded them up, offering the top ten takeaways from Dreeke's book It’s Not All About Me. Some, like smiling, you’re probably doing already. Others are ninja-level charm techniques, such as:

Establishing Artificial Time Constraints. I suspect you’ve sat in a bar at one point or another and been approached by a stranger who tried to start a conversation. My guess is you felt awkward or possibly even uncomfortable. This is because you didn’t know when or if the conversation would end. "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."

Ego Suspension. This may be the most rewarding and most difficult of all of Robin’s techniques. "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."

Ask … How? When? Why? It’s hard to answer these questions with a simple yes or no. "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." This means suppressing your ego and listening to what people are saying. You’re not thinking about what you’re going to say next. You’re not thinking about how the person is wrong.

Check out the complete post for the other seven tips. Or if you prefer to get your rapport-building tips via video, Dreeke is quite active on YouTube where he offers short clips explaining his techniques.

Do you believe charm can be taught?

 

 

IMAGE: Vivian Chen/Flickr
Last updated: Jul 9, 2013

JESSICA STILLMAN is a freelance writer based in London with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM, and Brazen Careerist.
@EntryLevelRebel




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