10 FBI Tricks For Effective Persuasion

August 2nd, 2015 by LaRae Quy

Some of my biggest laughs come from watching Hollywood movies and TV shows depicting FBI agents as indestructible bullies walking that fine line between good and evil. They are either taking the law into their own hands in their pursuit of justice or abusing their power to crush the little people that get in their way.

10 FBI Tricks For Effective Persuasion

The silliness of it all is pure entertainment for someone like me, a former FBI agent. The danger that lurks, however, is that impressionable audiences actually start to believe all the crap they see, read, and hear.

Bullying, intimidation, and rudeness pump up hormones and get everyone’s juices flowing. The results are good ratings.

The fact is, FBI agents use persuasion to get the job done in the majority of cases—not brute strength and ignorance.

As sales people, executives, and leaders, you deserve to know the truth—persuasion is a skill that is as instrumental to your success as it is to an FBI agent.

Persuasion, at it’s core, requires emotional intelligence because it is essential that you have enough awareness of emotions to develop rapport with another individual.

Emotional awareness is an essential component of mental toughness, because if you aren’t savvy enough to read other people, you will never be able to adapt your own approach to accommodate different personalities.

There are a few tricks of the trade, and here are 10 that will help you to get people to lean toward your way of thinking when it matters most:

1. Leave A Strong First Impression

There is a reason FBI agents wear suits and workout every day. They portray the image of someone who is both professional and capable of handling themselves in every situation.

Most people make snap decisions within the first few seconds of meeting you. They then spend the rest of the conversation justifying their first impression.

The person who makes a good first impression is the one who controls the image they project to others. If you believe your are inferior, you are—regardless of your qualifications. The way we think affects our behavior, and this is the essence of mental toughness:

To make a great first impression, you need to manage your thoughts, emotions, and behavior in ways that set you up for success.

How you think determines how you act.

How you act determines how others react to you.

TIP: Take advantage by paying attention to your appearance, posture, voice, and mannerisms. The secret weapon is likability and it can make a huge impact on your success.

2. Greet People By Name

Dale Carnegie, the author of How to Win Friends and Influence People, believed that using someone’s name was very important. He said that a person’s name is the sweetest sound in any language for that person.

Research shows that people feel validated when they are referred to by their name—just don’t over do it!

TIP: Personalize your interactions with others by using their name. Not everyone is good at remembering names, so you may need to collect business cards and make notes on the back of them to help jog your recollection.

3. Tilt Your Head

Common sense tells us that if we nod when we’re listening to someone, it indicates that we are in agreement. A head tilt, however, is a gesture reserved for times when we are truly comfortable. A head tilt is a powerful signal that indicates we’re friendly. It’s difficult to do around people we don’t like.

TIP: When you tilt your head and nod, you are sending a more powerful non-verbal message that indicates you are listening, comfortable, and receptive.

4. Limit Your Speech

To be most effective, talk no longer than 30 seconds at a time in a given conversation.

According to researcher Andrew Newberg, the human brain can really only hold on to four things at a time, so if you go on and on for five or 10 minutes trying to argue a point, the person will only remember a very small part of that.

TIP: Speak briefly, sticking to one or two sentences or around 30 seconds worth, because that’s really what the human brain can take in.

5. Mirror Their Behavior

Mirroring is observing a person’s body posture and then subtly letting your body reflect their position.

Mirror neurons fire when you reflect an emotion you see in others. Researchers have discovered that those who had been mimicked were much more likely to act favorably toward the person who had copied them.

TIP: Mirroring is an effective way to build rapport and increase a person’s comfort level when you need to use persuasion to get your point across.

6. Paraphrase And Repeat Back

One of the most positive ways to persuade others is to show them that you truly understand how they feel—even if you disagree with them.

Studies have shown that when you listen to what someone has to say, and then rephrase it as a question to confirm that you understood it, they are going to be more comfortable talking with you.

FBI agents use this to help them get confessions, but you can use this same trick because people are more likely to listen to what you have to say once you show them that you care about them.

TIP: When you repeat back what you think you heard the other person say, you also give the other person an opportunity to clarify a misunderstanding or misinterpretation.

7. Smile, Always

It should be no surprise that a smile creates the highest positive emotion—but it has to be a real smile! In a genuine smile, the lips are drawn toward the cheekbone, eyebrows rise, and pupils dilate to open up. There is no more more powerful persuasion tool in the world, or more disarming, than a genuine smile.

We are better looking when we smile. When we smile, people treat us differently. We’re viewed as attractive, reliable, relaxed and sincere. Recent studies indicate that seeing an attractive smiling face activates the region in your brain that process sensory rewards. This suggests that when we view a person smiling, we actually feel rewarded.

TIP: A smile is contagious. It can make us appear more attractive to others. It lifts our mood as well as the moods of those around us.

8. Don’t Correct People When They Are Wrong

Dale Carnegie also pointed out in his famous book that telling someone they are wrong is usually unnecessary and is a catastrophic move if you want to persuade someone to do something for you because it’s an attack on their ego.

This doesn’t mean you let people off the hook, but I’ve used something called the Ransberger Pivot many times and it’s an effective approach (unless you’re dealing with a nut or a radical in which case nothing will work

The Ransberger Pivot has 3 steps:

Step 1: Remain quiet and listen to what the other person is saying.
Step 2: Ask yourself, “What is this person really concerned about? What do they really want?” Make an intelligent and thought-provoking response to their side of the issue.
Step 3: Share your concern for the values you and the other person have in common.

So, instead of arguing, listen to what they have to say, and then seek to understand how they feel and why. Then you explain the common ground that you share with them, and use that as a starting point to explain your position. This makes them much more likely to listen to what you have to say, and allows you to correct them without them losing face.

TIP: The Pivot diffuses hostility and builds harmony by showing that you share the other person’s concerns. They are then more likely to listen to, and hear, your answer. This also means you are more likely to persuade them to your point of view. The Pivot doesn’t come naturally. You’ll need to practice it.

9. Say Please And Thank You

“Please” and “thank you” are one of the most powerful combination of words in our language. They are simple words, and yet it seems that most people don’t use them enough. When we make someone else feel important and appreciated, we’ve brightened up their day. That person is more likely to pass on that feeling to someone else.

Most of us don’t intend to be rude, but we’re so caught up in our cell phones, iPads, or our own lives that we don’t see what is around us.

Researcher Robert Cialdini has shown that people respond to politeness! Treat people with respect. By simply adding the phrases “please” and “thank you” when making a request, compliance is much easier to achieve.

Successful people do what the unsuccessful are unwilling to do.

TIP: You can make yourself stand out in a rude society by remembering your manners, treating people as respected individuals, and doing what others are unwilling to do.

10. Flattery Works

This one may seem obvious at first, but there are some important caveats to it.

For starters, it must be sincere for it to be persuasive.

Second, remember that we look for cognitive balance by keeping our thoughts and feelings organized in a similar way. So, if you flatter someone who has high self-esteem, they will like you more because you validated how they feel about themselves.

TIP: People can sense a suck-up a mile away, so be sincere in all that you say.

What other persuasion tricks would you add?

© 2015 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

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Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.” 

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5 Responses to “10 FBI Tricks For Effective Persuasion”

  1. Great post LaRae! I don’t think I will ever get tired or your FBI or Ranch stories! (And yes the FBI part has a lot to do with television and movies!)

    #3, #4, #8 – stood out to me!
    The head tilt made me imagine our four-legged furry companions that do the same thing and how much I love that!
    #4 – because talking comes more naturally than listening. (Thank you for the reminder!)
    #8 – Duh! – But it never hurts to have a V-8 Moment! THANK YOU!

  2. Alli Polin says:

    Absolutely fantastic, LaRae! Years ago, there used to be a course on How to Win Friends and Influence People at my university. I didn’t take it but my boyfriend did. When we went out to dinner and had to send back a meal (it was rancid, yuck!) he put several of these into motion. It was amazing the difference using the waiter’s name made. It immediately brought us into a person to person relationship instead of complaining customer vs waiter.

    Can’t wait to share!

    ~ Alli

  3. Excellent list LaRae!! Such a great article. I am going to continue to share with my community. Thank you!

  4. Karin Hurt says:

    This is an awesome list. What I love is that all of the behaviors are simple– with a little extra effort we can all be more persuasive. I’m going to share tghis with my MBA class tonight.

  5. Terri Klass says:

    Excellent article LaRae!

    Your first point about dressing for an initial impression reminded me of how I would get a nicer room in a hotel if I arrived looking more professional. So I rarely wear jeans if I need to fight for a great room. When I worked in healthcare there were many studies done about how ER professionals judged a patient and provided different treatment based on how people were dressed when they arrived in the ER. It may sound crazy but we do tend to look how people dress and behave and form quick judgements.

    I look forward to sharing this with my network!

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