How to Build Rapport Like an FBI Spy Recruiter

10 min read -
Tatiana Azman
Written by
Robin Dreeke talking about how to build rapport
Table of Contents
Highlights: Human connection plays a major role for a purposeful life. With tips from a former FBI spy recruiter, here’s how to build rapport and trust with anyone.

There’s a certain warmth when you connect with others. It’s like the comfort — even a sense of relief — that you feel when you come home from a long, crazy day.

For some, it’s second nature. For others, it takes practice. But learning how to build rapport with others provides us with the good vibes that come with “hitting it off” with someone.

Here’s a go-to guide on how to master the art of creating affinity with anybody:

While this is an important life skill, it’s also a huge aspect of coaching people (if that’s a path you’re exploring). Knowing how to build rapport and trust with anyone can help bolster their well-being, happiness, and purpose as well as yours.

What Is Rapport?

There’s a bond that happens when it comes to building rapport, meaning mutual trust, respect, and affinity are needed to develop that connection. It promotes harmony, compassion, and benevolence between people.

The word derives from the French verb rapporter, which means “to bring back.” It’s the idea that the energy one person sends out, the other sends it back. 

In addition to that, rapport in French can be used in terms of a relationship. For example, ils ont de bons rapport translates to “they have a good relationship.”

Here’s the thing, though: rapport is more than just sharing experiences for the sake of “clicking” with someone. It’s really a mastery of understanding what drives people.

Rapport is about understanding human behavior

What makes rapport so gratifying? It boils down to how we, as humans, are wired to seek psychological comfort.

We prioritize three things: safety, security, and prosperity, according to Robin Dreeke, former FBI behavioral expert and master spy recruiter. He adds that these factors drive us to act in our best interest.

In an interview on Selling With Love (formerly known as Superhumans at Work, a Mindvalley Podcast), Robin shares that to find common ground, “figure out what the other person’s priorities are and offer them resources in terms of those priorities.

Simply put, when you have a sense of what matters to them, you predict how they will behave and start to build rapport. The person, then, trusts and has confidence in the connection between you two, which triggers their brain to release dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin.

The result is the warm, fuzzy feelings we recognize as love and belonging.

Why Is It Important to Build Rapport?

Humans are social creatures and it’s in our nature to connect with one another. Science shows that social connection bolsters our mental, physical, and emotional well-being. And rapport is key to that connection. 

Nothing in life happens without relationships.

— Robin Dreeke, former FBI behavioral expert and master spy recruiter

As mentioned, it’s really about the need for love and belonging, which, according to Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, is an important factor of self-actualization. And when these desires — affiliation, trust, acceptance, etc. — are met, they empower our purpose in life.

Everyone is unique, so knowing how to build rapport with different individuals can be an asset. Here are a few benefits that come along with it:

  • Establishes mutual trust
  • Earns you respect
  • Allows you to practice effective communication skills
  • Boosts your confidence
  • Leads to numerous health benefits

It really is about helping other people. When your goal is to be a resource for the success of others, as Robin points out, their success is your success. And that triumph releases dopamine in your brain. 

Now, you become addicted to becoming a resource for the success of others,” he adds. And that becomes your new dopamine hit rather than making yourself look good.

What’s more, the 2022 World Happiness Report found that the more you’re around trustworthy, kind, and generous people, the more you practice being the same yourself. As a result, the better your life experience will be.

5 Things to Do to Build Rapport With Anyone, According to Robin Dreeke

While the basics of rapport are easy enough to grasp, building it takes a certain set of soft skills

Remember: people will act in their best interests in terms of their priorities — safety, security, and prosperity. And the truth is, it’s tough to convince a person to do something that they don’t think is in their best interest. 

The trick, according to Robin, is to inspire them to want to. “You need to make it about everyone else but yourself,” he advises. 

You can tune into the podcast episode and have a thorough listen. But here is a wrap-up of five things he recommends to do:

1. Suspend your ego and vanity

Ego is our arrogant selves, while vanity is excessive pride in our abilities. And in this digital age of chasing “likes,” social media provides the means to boost both, according to a study by the University of Michigan.

But part of learning how to build rapport with someone is being humble. And people respond to how you treat them. If they see that you let your ego and vanity take the wheel, they will likely turn the other way. 

So when you walk into a conversation, leave your ego and vanity at the door.

2. Seek their thoughts and opinions

When you seek a person’s thoughts and opinions, you gain insight into how they think and their experiences. This shows humility, which tells the person that you don’t know everything, so you’re curious and care to know more.

Here are a few examples of rapport-building questions that can help you get the ball rolling:

  • What are some of your personal goals and priorities right now?
  • What are the biggest obstacles you’re facing in work and life?
  • What are your thoughts on [insert topic]?
  • How do you feel about it?
  • What do you wish would happen?

Asking these open-ended questions allows your mind to see things from different perspectives. Moreover, when you take the time to understand their thoughts and opinions, you’re better equipped to determine how to interact with them or if you even feel comfortable around them to do so.

3. Speak in terms of their priorities

People can go on for hours about things that matter to them. So to hold the conversation, really get into what their priorities, goals, dreams, aspirations, challenges in life, needs, and wants are.

According to Robin, when the focus is on them, their brain rewards them with happy hormones. It’s like when you’re selling a product to someone, one of the top sales tips is to find out where their interests lie and what needs are not being met.

So distinguish what their priorities are and then find common ground there.

4. Validate them without judgment

A lot of us are hard-wired to let our egos be in the driver’s seat. However, when you can override the desire to make it about the other person, then it lowers their negativity bias and builds up trust.

Let’s say the person’s priorities include getting coaching clients for their business. The conversation could go like this:

You: What are your thoughts about the coaching techniques in Mindvalley’s coaching programs?
Them: Well, I think…[insert thoughts and opinions here]
You: Wow, I never thought about it that way. Help me understand how you came up with that.

And as they continue to share their perspectives on the matter, their brain rewards them and their “shields” continue to lower.

Robin does note that validating them doesn’t always mean you agree with them. It just means you’re seeking to understand them better.

5. Empower them with choices

None of us like being what to do. Our brains feel like it’s threatening our freedom or that our choices are being limited. And when we are ordered around, many of us react in annoyance, frustration, or anger.

So rapport isn’t about giving advice or telling them what to do. It’s about presenting them with options so they feel they have the freedom and power to choose.

Women shaking hands as a way to show how to build rapport

How to Build Rapport: Simple Techniques to Use In Different Situations

Building rapport can immensely benefit you and those you interact with. However, while you can take the driver’s test, you still need to know the skills to maneuver the car.

When we have some kind of connection with someone, it makes it easier for the person to really respond [to you]. You’re a little bit more open when you find yourself in good energy and a good vibration with the person you’re talking to.

— Ajit Nawakha, co-founder of Evercoach by Mindvalley

That’s where learning coaching skills can come in handy. And the Evercoach by Mindvalley’s programs can help you master how to build rapport in different situations.

1. How to build rapport with coworkers

Strong connections between coworkers can help boost morale, increasing productivity. So how can you get to know people in your organization better? 

Ajit Nawalkha, co-founder of Evercoach by Mindvalley, teaches an acronym that can be applied here. It’s called BRAVING.

  • B (Boundaries): Understand what’s okay or not okay and respect it.
  • R (Reliability): Be consistent and dependable with your coworker.
  • A (Accountability): Take responsibility for your actions, whether you’ve done it or you were supposed to do it.
  • V (Vault): Provide a safe space for them to be open with you.
  • I (Integrity): Be honest and transparent in your communication. Be courageous to act in line with your core values and your coworker’s best interest at heart, if necessary.
  • N (Non-judgment): Be open-minded and understand that everyone comes from different backgrounds and that we’re all working through something.
  • G (Generosity): Show up with an open heart and serve from a place of love. 

Not only will these elements build trust between you and your coworker, but they will also help you reflect on what trust means to you.

2. How to build rapport with clients

Ajit has some great suggestions on how to build trust quickly, especially with new clients:

  • Be honest and competent. [Honesty] is a very important determinant if your client will really commit to being honest with you.”  Moreover, if a client gives you all their trust, it helps if you can show that you’re competent in your abilities.
  • Be vulnerable. This is when “you are presenting what is happening in your life vulnerably and honestly to them” and not for the sake of being vulnerable. Remember that it’s about your client, not you. 
  • Have clear boundaries and agreements.That’s an important factor in building trust, in knowing what’s okay to do and what’s okay to do.” When you both clarify your boundaries, it creates a safe space for everyone. 
  • Understand their learning styles. It gives you an opportunity to create learning models around the way they learn better.
  • Build empathy. Empathy is often mistaken for shared experiences. It’s actually about being able to “reflect into somebody’s experience, then be able to see ‘how would I like to be supported at that time?’ and then supporting the person in the same way.

If you want more clarity on each point, you can watch Ajit explain it here:

How To Create Trust With New Clients (FAST!) – Video

3. How to build rapport over the phone

While some prefer sending messages, there are still those who’d rather get on the line. Now, it’s one thing to have face-to-face communication, but grasping how to build rapport over the phone is another. 

To create a bond of understanding and truth in this manner, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Be aware. It allows you to recognize your views on your experiences as well as how others see them. With awareness, you can also explore emotions and situations without bias or judgment. 
  • Be present and listen. When you’re in the moment, you give the other person permission to do the same. 
  • Ask powerful questions. These are open-ended questions asked with genuine care and curiosity. It helps your clients discover insights and move past their limitations.

There are, without a doubt, more techniques to build rapport that are not in person. You can discover them through life coaching if that’s something that interests you.

Connect With Your Greatness

Being an FBI behavioral expert and master spy hunter may not be your calling (or maybe it is!), but being able to effortlessly and confidently connect with people is an indispensable skill to have.

The soul needs human connection, like the body needs water. So if you want to learn how to build rapport and trust with anyone, you can start with one of the Mindvalley Coaching Certification programs:

  • Certified Life Coach. You’ll discover the powerful art of goal setting and goal getting, know how to rapidly trigger motivation and inspiration, create a conscious and positive influence in all relationships, and more.
  • Certified Business Coach. You’ll be able to enhance team performance, help businesses grow ten times faster, attract and land high-level clients, and more.
  • Certified Holobody Coach. You’ll gain powerful mind-body practices, be able to create personalized nutrition game plans, harness science-based protocols to accelerate healing and recovery in the body, and more.

As William Shakespeare said, “Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them.

And as you start to truly connect with your authentic self, you awaken to your greatness. Welcome in.

Image sources: @rdreeke, @realcoachajit

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Tatiana Azman

Tatiana Azman

Tatiana Azman is the SEO content editor for Mindvalley and a certified life coach. With a background in spa and wellness as well as having gone through a cancer experience, she's constantly on the lookout for natural, effective ways that help with one's overall well-being.
Written by

Tatiana Azman

Tatiana Azman is the SEO content editor for Mindvalley and a certified life coach. With a background in spa and wellness as well as having gone through a cancer experience, she's constantly on the lookout for natural, effective ways that help with one's overall well-being.
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