Ordinarily we think of gossip and rumor-spreading as a negative network of lies and false assumptions that destroys reputations and ruins careers, but did you know that you can use gossip to your advantage when trying to create rapport and build trust with someone? Yes, its true. Use that very same negative network to make yourself appear more likable to another person.
The Underlying Psychological Mechanisms Involved
The American Psychologist Abraham Maslow came up with a 5-layered system of human needs that motivates people in life. One of those layers of need is the need for self-esteem and the sense of belonging. As human beings, we not only need to feel good about ourselves, but we also require confirmation and feedback from others on how they perceive us. Negative feedback poses a risk to our own self-esteem and therefore it creates conflict because we strive to protect our self-esteem. Positive feedback, in the form of compliments or respect, boosts our level of self-esteem and we tend to gravitate towards that positive feedback.
So All I Have To Do Is Start Complimenting People I Like?
Well…Only if you want to come off looking fake or like the drunk guy at the bar. Understand that while people like to hear good things about themselves, they are also highly suspicious about any compliments that you might give them. When we get complimented by someone who has not yet entered our circle of trust, we perceive it as a polite gesture or a red flag that they want something from us. We hold back accepting that the compliment is genuine until all avenues have been exhausted. Repeated compliments further raise the red flag in the person’s mind and act against our objectives to create rapport because it pushes them farther away. Some people are very good actors and can make themselves come off looking completely genuine when they give compliments and disarm their counterpart, but this is something that most people do not possess.
So What Can I Do?
The same network of gossipers that are used to destroy reputations can also be used to increase your rapport with someone. You see, when someone hears a compliment from you, they don’t often believe it as being genuine because they discount it as mere politeness, or that you are trying to manipulate them somehow. When they hear from a third party that you respect or admire them, they perceive it as being true because it is being told by a neutral party and it creates instant fondness for you because now they perceive you as someone who can meet or increase their level of self-esteem. I liken this to self-promotion versus testimonials. Anyone can go out and bolster about themselves and a few people might believe it, but most don’t. Testimonials from satisfied clients are a powerful marketing tool because people perceive that the business or individual is trustworthy and delivers a good service or product. The same holds true with marketing yourself to another person. Tell a third-party that you respect or admire the person that you like and it will create a positive image for yourself.
Tristan Loo is a conflict management expert, certified mediator, negotiator, and founder of Alternative Conflict Resolution Services in San Diego, California. He's the author of Street Negotiation-How To Resolve Any Conflict Anytime. Tristan is a former police officer and champion martial arts fighter and incorportates those principles into his teaching of conflict management. Visit his website at http://www.acrsonline.com or e-mail him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org