13. Building Rapport (or turning enemies into friends)

I just shut down a street surveyor. You know, those people who have the unfortunate task of standing on busy walk ways and questioning all who pass. I feel kinda bad about it, I mean I didn’t even know what he was going to say. Maybe I could have saved baby kittens, or became a more informed voter after a few minutes of talking with him, but today I didn’t want to give up that time.

As foot traffic swarmed past him, I made the fatal error of making eye contact and he raised his clipboard, opening his mouth for what was sure to be a well-rehearsed speech. I shook my head curtly, averted my gaze and marched on. Jerk move.

This got me to thinking about a conversation I have had with a former used car salesman about how to build rapport with customers. Salesmen are by nature a crafty bunch and they employ a number of tactics to sell products. The one that stood out to me was how they draw the customer in with little agreements, until the customer feels like they have to buy the car, because it would be rude not to.


This also reminds me of a book that I read for a high school gov/econ class. Hardball by Chris Matthews, is about “playing ball” with the big leagues: politics on the stage where it matters. In a chapter about Lyndon B. Johnson, Matthews reveals that Johnson was the King of getting people to do things for him, turning enemies into friends.

What Johnson would do, as soon as he established that you could possibly be a threat to him, was to invite you to his office or hotel room and treat you like a family member. Not by hugging and kissing you, but by changing his pants in from of you, giving you black coffee when you specifically requested cream and sugar and getting you to carry his luggage up the stairs.

This psychological treatment effectively neutralized his enemies.

Here is what you can learn from this story:

If you want to make friends, accept something from them. If Sally offers you cookies, even though you don’t care for raisin oatmeal, take one, and Sally will become a better friend, (at least in her mind) because your acceptance of her gift affirms that she is worth something. Everyone likes compliments and compliments make friends.

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1 Comment

  1. Another interesting fact about LBJ, in one-on-one conversation, he would stand uncomfortably close and lean in on you. His relatively tall stature made this tactic especially disarming from what we know about power and eyelines/elevation. Persuasive, but hard to implement unless you have some kind of leverage. wouldn’t fly when pleading to professors for mercy.


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