Here is another article from our resident behavioral expert, Robin Dreeke.

Robin Dreeke, a 1992 graduate of the United States Naval Academy and former US Marine Corps Officer, has been studying interpersonal relations for the past 23 years of his government service. Through the use of non-verbal behavior; the Personal DISCernment Inventory, the Myers Briggs Type Indicator and personal anchoring, Robin has built highly effective tools for all aspects and stages of interpersonal communication. For the past thirteen+ years Robin has applied and taught his tools and techniques for the FBI as a member of the Counterintelligence Division’s elite Behavioral Analysis Program. Robin has combined all these tools and techniques and created a very unique, People Formula.

Today Robin is a recognized expert, author, and gifted lecturer, in the art of interpersonal communication.  These skills are used every day in the areas of leadership, sales, human resources and all relationships both business and personal.

In article two he discusses…

Social Engineers Utilize the “Gift Giving” Technique

Gift giving is one of the most basic of human survival functions. From the time when humans were living in caves, we gave gifts in advance in hopes we would have the favor returned when we most needed it. Early hunter gatherer society’s routinely demonstrated gift giving for survival. A hunter would share his food with others after a good kill. The hunter was hopeful that should he have a bad hunt or become injured, his earlier generosity would be rewarded by a gift of food from another hunter that felt the need to reciprocate the original generosity (Burnham T. & Phelan J., 2001).   Understanding that humans are genetically coded to reciprocate gift giving is a great advantage. A simple gift can be in the form of flattery or validation.  A simple yet meaningful compliment, if delivered in a nonthreatening manner, can be an excellent gift. The individual often receiving the gift will have a compulsion to return the gift, most often with dialogue. An accomplished Social Engineer capitalizes on these human traits.


John is a successful manager for a well known defense contractor. He is in his mid-40s, has two teenage children and has been married for 20 years. John lives a comfortable lifestyle in the suburbs of an East coast metropolitan area. John is a friendly, outgoing individual who enjoys meeting new people. John is also known as an “idea guy”, always thinking of new ways of doing things and the future. John’s personality, coupled with his sharp ideas, generally has him traveling the country on behalf of his company. John typically represents his company with existing and prospective clients.

Steve is a former military officer who has spent most of his professional career interviewing and developing human sources for the purpose of overseas force protection. Following his career with the military, he was able to re-frame his skills to that of a Social Engineer. He currently works with a number of clients as a corporate intelligence gatherer. His job is to identify individuals with access to confidential company information and elicit the same. He also is able to ascertain security passwords and protocols when necessary.


Building the Desire to Reciprocate a Favor:

John was preparing to travel to a large conference that he was asked to attend on behalf of his company. While at the conference, he is going to be meeting with a prospective client that his company has recently made an open contract bid for. John made his flight arrangements and hotel accommodations. He was planning on staying at the host hotel for the conference. The meetings with the prospective client were very close to the conference venue.

Prior to his departure, John logged onto his laptop and updated his social networking site that his children had set up for him. They had explained that it was an excellent way for all of them to stay connected. John was resistant to the use of social networking sites, but his clients seemed to like to stay connected with him this way as well. John posted his upcoming conference trip and where he would be staying. A few of John’s colleagues replied to his post that they would be there as well. They asked John what flight he was on and they hoped they could get together for a beverage before the conference began. John thought nothing of it, posted his information and was looking forward to catching up with his friends. John had his privacy settings set so that the general public was able to read most of his posts. Steve read John’s posts. Steve contacted the airline and asked them if they wouldn’t mind moving Steve’s seat so that he was sitting next to his friend John. The airline confirmed for Steve that John was on the flight and moved Steve’s seat so that he was next to John.

Arriving at the airport without incident, John went through security and proceeded to his gate. John took out his laptop while waiting to board and reviewed some material from his company’s website for his upcoming meetings. While boarding, John became aware that the overhead bins were pretty full. Arriving at his seat, John couldn’t find space for his roller-board suitcase in the overhead bin and all the others were full as well. Sitting in the seat next to John’s was a pleasant, clean cut man approximately John’s age (Steve). He was wearing a light blue dress shirt and had a warm, genuine smile. The man stood up and attempted to help John locate a space for his suitcase. Looking up and down the aisle, the man saw that there wasn’t any more room. Without asking, he took his own suitcase out of the overhead bin and put John’s in for him. Before John had time to react, the man calmly went up to the flight attendant, and said, “The over head bins appear to be out of room, would you please check this under the plane for me.” Seeing what the man had done for John, she told the man she would take care of it and complimented him on his selflessness. John felt both relieved and indebted to this kind stranger and looked forward to trying to return the favor.

Steve is a well trained Social Engineer that has effectively given a gift. John feels a burning need to reciprocate such a meaningful and apparently non-threatening gift. Steve said nothing, has his ego well in check and appears to be an innocent and helpful person. Steve makes John feel as though he and his needs are more important that his own. As a Social Engineer, Steve has planned this entire interaction out and will be patient to reap the benefits.


Beware of strangers bearing gifts. Gifts can take the form of something as simple as a compliment, hand sanitizer, gum, or an action as noted in the story above. I typically travel with hand sanitizer, gum, breath mints and an array of pins and challenge coins to give people. I will typically start with the gift of validation and escalate from there.

One aspect of Social Engineering is the one-on-one personal interaction. In the story above, Steve is demonstrating non-threatening personality traits. Social Engineers will typically have a well thought out plan. One important characteristic in the plan is patience. Time is required to establish the proper conditions in which to exercise the elicitation techniques necessary to acquire desired information. Nonthreatening demeanor and gift giving are very effective methods to induce an individual to lower their guard. Once the guard is lowered, information will flow from the individual much more freely.

Some airlines will move your seat for you if you provide them with your flight information and the full name of the individual on your flight you would like to sit next to. I just did this the other day for an upcoming flight.

In the next post, Steve will begin to capitalize on John’s desire to reciprocate the favor. Steve will begin using the elicitation theme of flattery and validation (Nolan, 1999). Flattery and validation will induce John to become more open about the content of his dialogue and less on his guard. Steve, as an accomplished Social Engineer, will read these nonverbal indicators of comfort and continue to capitalize (Navarro, 2008).

Burnham, T., & Phelan, J. (2001). Mean genes: From sex to money to food: taming our primal instincts. New York, NY: Penguine.
Navarro, J. (2008). What every body is saying: an ex-FBI agents guide to speed reading people. New York, NY: Harper Paperbacks
Nolan, J. (1999). Confidential: Business secrets – getting theirs, keeping yours. New york, NY: Yardley – Chambers.