The FBI: Movies and Real Life
Beatrice: You here to make fun of me too?
Kay: No, ma’am. We at the FBI do not have a sense of humor we’re aware of. May we come in?
— from Men In Black (1997)
Set out below is an excerpt from an actual government training-manual on how to interview witnesses. Coupled with the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Salinas, it bespeaks caution to any corporate officer or employee who submits to a government interview without counsel (or, at least, without preparation by counsel).
Ten Techniques for Building Rapport
1) Establish artificial time constraints. Allow the potential source to feel that there is
an end in sight.
2) Remember nonverbals. Ensure that both your body language and voice are nonthreatening.
3) Speak slower. Do not oversell and talk too fast. You lose credibility quickly and appear too strong and threatening.
4) Have a sympathy or assistance theme. Human beings want to provide assistance and help. It also appeals to their ego that they may know more than you.
5) Suspend your ego. This probably represents the hardest technique but, without a doubt, is the most effective. Do not build yourself up—build someone else up, and you will have strong rapport.
6) Validate others. Human beings crave feeling connected and accepted. Validation feeds this need, and few offer it. Be the great validator and have instant, valuable rapport.
7) Ask “how, when, and why” questions. When you want to dig deep and make a connection, asking these questions serves as the safest, most effective way. People will tell you what they are willing to talk about.
8) Connect using quid pro quo. Some people are more guarded than others. Allow them to feel comfortable by sharing a little about yourself if needed. Do not overdo it.
9) Give gifts (reciprocal altruism). Human beings reciprocate gifts given. Give a gift, either intangible or material, and seek a conversation and rapport in return.
10) Manage expectations. Avoid feeling and embodying disappointment by ensuring that your methods focus on benefiting the targeted individual, not you. Ultimately, you will win, but your mind-set needs to focus on the other person.