The Like Switch: An Ex-FBI Agent’s Guide to Influencing, Attracting, and Winning People Over
When you hear “FBI,” you likely don’t think the Friendly Bureau of Investigation. But my twenty years as an agent specializing in behavioral analysis enhanced my ability to quickly read people and gave me a unique understanding of human nature and shared human behaviors. And my work, which ranged from convincing people to spy on their own country to identifying perpetrators and convincing them to confess, allowed me to develop many incredibly powerful methods for getting people to trust me, often without me saying a word. In my role as behavioral analyst for the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Program, I developed strategies to recruit spies and make friends out of sworn foes. In other words, I developed specific skills and techniques that could turn an enemy of the United States into a friend who was willing to become a spy for America.
My profession boiled down to getting people to like me. My work with “Vladimir” (I have changed the names and identifying characteristics of those I discuss and have created some composites to best illustrate what my work has demonstrated) illustrates this point well.
Vladimir had illegally entered the United States to commit espionage. He was caught in possession of classified defense documents. As an FBI Special Agent, I was assigned to interview Vladimir. At our first meeting he made a vow not to speak to me under any circumstances. I then began the process of countering his defiance by simply sitting opposite him and reading a newspaper. But at a carefully planned time, I deliberately folded the newspaper and left without saying a word. Day after day and week after week I sat across from him and read the newspaper while he remained mute, handcuffed to a nearby table.
Finally, he asked why I kept coming daily to see him. I folded the newspaper, looked at him, and said, “Because I want to talk to you.” I immediately returned the newspaper to the upright position and continued reading, ignoring Vladimir. After a while, I got up and left without saying another word.
On the following day, Vladimir again asked me why I came every day and read the newspaper. I again told him that I came because I wanted to talk to him. I sat down and opened the newspaper. A few minutes later, Vladimir said, “I want to talk.” I put the newspaper down and said, “Vladimir, are you sure you want to talk to me? When we first met, you told me that you would never speak to me.” Vladimir replied, “I want to talk to you, but not about spying.” I agreed to this condition but added, “You will let me know when you are ready to talk about your spying activities, won’t you?” Vladimir agreed.
Over the next month, Vladimir and I talked about everything except his spying activities. Then, one afternoon, Vladimir announced, “I’m ready to talk about what I did.” Only then did we finally speak in great detail about his espionage activities. Vladimir spoke freely and honestly not because he was forced to talk, but because he liked me and considered me his friend.
The interrogation techniques I used with Vladimir may, at first glance, seem to make little sense . . . but everything I did was carefully orchestrated to achieve Vladimir’s eventual confession and cooperation. In The Like Switch, I will reveal the secrets of how I won Vladimir over and how, using the same techniques, you can get anyone to like you for the moment or for a lifetime. I can do this because it turns out that the same social skills I developed to befriend and recruit spies are equally effective in developing successful friendships at home, at work, or anywhere else that personal interactions take place.
At first, I did not see this one-to-one crossover from my fieldwork to everyday life. In fact, it was initially brought to my attention near the end of my career with the FBI. At that time I was teaching classes to young intelligence officers on how to recruit spies. On the first day of a new class I arrived a half hour early to set up the room for a group exercise. To my surprise, two students were already there. I didn’t recognize them. They sat quietly in the front row with their hands folded on their desks and a look of anticipation on their faces. Considering the time of day and the fact that most students were not known for arriving early to class, I wondered what was going on. I asked them who they were and why they had decided to show up at such an early hour.
“Do you remember Tim from your previous class?” one of the students asked.
“Yes,” I said.
“Several weeks ago the two of us went to a bar with Tim. He told us about your lecture on influence and rapport building.”
“And . . . ?” I still didn’t see where this was leading.
“Tim bragged that he learned in class how to pick up ladies.”
“Obviously, we were skeptical,” said the second student.
“So we put him to the test,” the first student continued. “We picked a random woman who was in the club and challenged Tim to get her to come to our table and have a drink with us, without saying a word.”
“What did he do?” I inquired.
“He took us up on the challenge,” the student exclaimed. “We thought he was nuts. But then, about forty-five minutes later, the woman came over to our table and asked if she could join us for a drink. We still find it hard to believe, and we saw it happen.”
I gave the students a quizzical look. “Do you know how he did it?”
“No!” exclaimed one of them. And then, in unison, both of them said, “That’s what we came here to learn!”
My first reaction to their comments was to assert the professionalism expected of me, and I told them the purpose of the classroom training was to teach students to be effective intelligence officers, not pickup artists. It was my second reaction that took me by surprise, an epiphany of sorts. Thinking of Tim’s antics, I suddenly realized that the same techniques used to recruit spies could be employed to become a victor in the so-called dating game. Even more important, in a broader sense, these techniques could be used whenever a person wants to win anyone over in virtually any personal interaction. It was that realization that served as the launchpad for this book and all the information contained within it.
After retiring from the FBI, I went on to get my doctorate in psychology and a university teaching position. It was during this phase of my life that I fleshed out my Like Switch strategies to help you achieve successful interpersonal relationships at home, at work, or anywhere else person-to-person interaction is involved. For example:
• New salespeople can use the techniques presented in this book to establish a clientele list from scratch.
• Experienced salespeople can also benefit from learning how to maintain or enhance existing relationships as well as from developing additional clients.
• All levels and types of employees, from managers at Wall Street firms to restaurant waitstaff, can use these tactics to interact more effectively with their supervisors, colleagues, subordinates, and customers.
• Parents can use the strategies to repair, maintain, and strengthen their relationships with their children.
• Consumers can use this information to get better service, better deals, and better personalized attention.
• And, of course, people seeking friends or romantic relationships can use these social skills to overcome this inherently difficult experience (made even more challenging in our digitally focused society).
The Like Switch is for anyone seeking to make new friends, to maintain or enhance existing relationships, to make brief encounters with people more enjoyable, or to get better tips and bonuses.
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