Talk to Strangers- Part 2: Keeping Them on the Hook

Last month at we taught you how to approach strangers and get them to at least entertain the idea of having a conversation with you. If you haven’t yet read Part 1 of our Talking to Strangers series, I recommend you do that now. For those of you that have read it (and those just returning… welcome back, btw!), let’s recap what we learned from our last newsletter.

We worked on the approach, taught you how to walk up to a complete stranger, and have them engage you in conversation. We learned that the single most advantageous thing one can do is to introduce an artificial time constraint. Introducing this constraint gives your target a “light at the end of the tunnel”, so to speak. It makes them feel like there is an end in sight and that it won’t be a never-ending conversation. We then learned to illicit a person’s natural desire to help or assist. This natural tendency can be a very strong force. A lot of people can’t resist the urge to help or assist. Next, we discussed nonverbals and the importance of managing your nonverbals during an interaction. Facial presentation, head tilt, body alignment, and rate of speech are all critical nonverbals to master in order to place your target in the most comfortable position possible. For this month, we will focus on how to keep your target on the hook, continually engaging with you, and being happy for having done it.

There are five techniques we will cover in this newsletter which will aid you in keeping your target interested in talking to you: ego suspension, validation, asking questions, quid pro quo, and gift giving.

We touched on ego suspension a bit in Part 1, but let’s dive a little deeper. First, what is ego suspension? We’re hard-wired as humans to be egocentric. We have a deep desire to be right and to be able to provide correct answers. These desires are not in our best interest when trying to elicit information from people or when trying to get someone to talk to us. Why?

The fact is that people don’t care about you or what you know, people care about themselves, just like you do, but if you want to appeal to others, you must suspend your ego and allows others to shine. This is a hard thing for some people to master, especially those that fall into the Influence category of the DISC assessment (like yours truly). As stated in Part 1, the key is “to get the other person’s brain to reward THEM for talking with YOU.”

Doing this releases dopamine in your target’s brain; their pleasure center. Make liberal use of phrases like, “I don’t know”, “I’m sorry”, “I can’t”, etc. Suspending your ego can really make a difference as to how people view you and how much people want to share with you or open up to you. In addition to suspending your ego, you’ll also want to make sure to validate your target.

Validating others is a critical piece of the equation and should not be taken lightly. Validating others makes them feel good, releases dopamine, and they feel part of the tribe. Think about yourself for a moment. Think about the last time you were telling someone something and they appeared genuinely interested in what you were saying. Maybe they complimented your vast and impressive knowledge on the topic you were speaking about. How did that make you feel? Pretty awesome, right? Well, that’s how most people feel when they’re being validated. It behooves you to validate your target. How, exactly, do we give validation to our targets?

The first one is the easiest, simply listen. This doesn’t mean pretend to listen, this means to actively listen and respond by rephrasing or paraphrasing their points to show you’re paying attention. Instead of waiting to speak, listen attentively and digest what your target is saying to you. Being thoughtful of other people is a great way to validate them.

Giving someone a sincere and non-creepy compliment can go a long way. A compliment can refer to your target or someone immediately identifiable as being in the target’s life, such as a child. Validate people’s thoughts and opinions by not disagreeing with them or being combative or argumentative, even if they’re totally wrong or misinformed. Suspending your ego will assist in validating their thoughts and ideas. Here are some examples of validating statements:

“Wow, I hadn’t thought about it that way…”

“You’re right…”

“Great idea!”

The key with validation is it has to be thought through. It cannot be fake or put on. If it is, the target will feel it and you lose credibility. Also, it doesn’t matter if they’re right or wrong, always treat them as if they’re intelligent humans worthy of listening to.

Asking questions is another excellent way to keep your target on the hook and spilling information to you. Be sure to always ask open-ended questions that encourage wordy answers and not closed questions that only elicit a “yes” or “no” response.

In addition to open-ended questions, minimal encouragers can be used. Examples of minimal encouragers, in the North American English languages, are things like “uh huh”, “ok”, “right”, “ohhh”, “mmmhmmmm” while accompanied with a head nod of affirmation. These actions not only show your target that you’re listening, they encourage the target to continue.

Reflective questions are one of my personal favorite techniques for keeping the target on the hook. Simply restating what your target said, in question form, is an extremely powerful way to keep them talking and interacting.

“My favorite plaid is Maxwell plaid.”

“Maxwell plaid?”

“Yeah, it’s the finest plaid pattern in all of Scotland, originating from Clan Maxwell, the very powerful Lowland Border Family.”

All I did was take the target’s statement of “Maxwell plaid” and restate it as a question, “Maxwell plaid?”

Here’s another example:

“I graduated from San Jose State with a Masters in Applied Anthropology.”

“Applied Anthropology?”

“Yes, Applied Anthropology is the application of the method and theory of anthropology to the analysis and solution of practical problems.”

Reflective questioning is easy and can be extremely powerful. Like everything we teach, use discretion and moderation. Don’t reflectively question every statement you hear, mix it up. Throw in some open-ended questions, some minimal encouragers, some paraphrasing, and reflective questions during the same elicitation. These questions also validate the target and show him/her that you’re listening or paying attention. You’re releasing dopamine in your target as you’re asking these types of questions and everyone likes a dopamine release.

Next up is quid pro quo. Directly translated from the Latin, quid pro quo means “this for that”. In a social engineering engagement, sometimes it’s important, or even requisite, to give a little so that you can gain a lot. You may want to use quid pro quo in your opener.

Offer up some information that you think your target will respond well to. If your target has a dog in tow, say something in like, “Oh, nice dog, I’ve got two myself… what type of dog is that?”. Another situation in which quid pro quo becomes imperative is in the case of your target suddenly realizing that they’ve been dominating the conversation.

Now, if you’re using the tactics and techniques described to you in this newsletter and in Part 1, they will be monologuing. This is a good thing, but is often embarrassing to the target once they realize they’ve been doing it. This is the perfect time to interject some quid pro quo. Offer up a little information about yourself and then follow up with an open-ended question to swing the conversation back to them. Keep validating and getting their dopamine flowing and before they know it, they’ll be monologuing again!

Caution! Be sure to keep your information sharing short, concise, and get the conversation back to them quickly. Remember two things: no one cares what you have to say and we don’t have to offer up truthful information during the quid pro quo. Though I will say that it’s much easier to tell the truth or some variant based on truth than it is to outright fabricate. As an example, the bond that parents have with their children is unquestionable as is the emotions evoked when mentioning or referring to their children. It may not be a good idea, if you’re child-less, to try and pretend you’ve got “three little ones at home”.

Finally, we’ll discuss the big gun, gift giving. Everyone likes gifts, right? Giving someone a gift triggers the principal of influence called reciprocation. When someone gives us a gift, we feel compelled to return the gift in some form. Our December 2012 Newsletter, Vol 3 Issue 39, Giving to Receive goes into reciprocation at a much deeper level, give it a read. Ok, so we know people like gifts, but how can we gift a total stranger we just met? The easiest gift is validation. Validate their thoughts and ideas by using active listening and asking questions. Give a little information about yourself (quid pro quo) and you will receive the gift of their information. Another way to gift give is to carry some hand sanitizer or gum with you. This works especially well in travel situations like when on a plane or train. The great part about gift giving is that it doesn’t matter if the person wants the gift, if the person likes you, or the monetary value of the gift. The offering itself will create the feeling and the feeling will ensure that the gift will be returned.

There you have it, a beginner’s guide to talking to strangers. We’ve taught you how to approach strangers so they’re not put off by you and how to keep them talking along with keeping them on the hook. The next step is on you, go out and practice. You will never be good at eliciting information from people unless you practice and hone your skills.

Start simple and just dialog with people, then work your way up to harder tasks. Challenge yourself. Create an information goal for yourself, come up with tidbits of information you’d like to extract from your target and go out and get that info. Practice threading your conversations and directing them in the direction you want to head, all while making them feel like they’re in control.

The “gift of gab” is that, a gift. Most of us need the “honed skill of gab” and the only way to do that is to go practice. So step away from the computer and go outside. Meet people who aren’t on IRC. Oh, and if you really want to perfect your rapport building skills, I highly recommend Robin Dreeke’s “It’s Not All About Me”. It’s an excellent read and serves, in conjunction with Chris Hadnagy’s work, as the basis for this newsletter series.

Written by: Eric “urbal” Maxwell

The Art of Human Hacking by Chris Hadnagy – See 2nd Edition The Science of Human Hacking by Chris Hadnagy