Social engineering is defined as the use of centralized planning in an attempt to manage social change and regulate the future development and behaviour of a society. What if the idea of social engineering was used on a micro-scale to steer or influence the behaviour of one person?
In a recent episode of Negotiations Ninja podcast, I spoke with Chris Hadnagy, CEO, founder, and chief human hacker of Social-Engineer and author of Social Engineering: The Art of Human Hacking. Chris defines social engineering a little differently than the standard understanding of the term. He says, “Social engineering is any act that influences a person to take an action that may or may not be in their best interest.”
Social engineering is using information – often personal information – to gain access, trust, and further information from people to ultimately get what you want from them.
A good way to gain trust is by making someone feel like you are in the same “tribe.” A tribe can be any sort of demographic with something in common. If you find out the person you want to talk to has a teenage daughter, talk about your teenage daughter, and if you don’t have one, your teenage niece, or friend’s daughter – anyone in your life who has a teenage daughter. By finding that thing in common, you are becoming a part of a tribe, helping that person build a quicker trust with you.
Building a rapport is equally useful. Rapport is the feeling that you like someone and can trust them. Creating that without knowing someone is difficult, but something you can engineer. “People like people who like them,” says Chris. Show genuine interest in the person you want to build a rapport with, validate them, ask them a question about their life and listen. If you make someone feel special and important, they are more likely to open up and trust you.
When building your rapport, listening is very important. One mistake we all make is to be thinking of the next thing you are going to say while the other person is talking, which helps the dynamics of the conversation but stops you from actually hearing what the other person is saying. When you are actually listening to someone, put your phone away, step away from your computer, focus on the other person. Having to say, “Can you repeat that because I wasn’t listening,” ruins all rapport.
Preloading is another way to build trust off of a first impression. In meeting someone for the first time, assuming they know nothing about you, you have to think about what every little detail of your interaction up until that initial meeting is saying about you. Is the person going to see your car as you drive up for the meeting? What does your car say to that person about you? Is that the message you want to send about yourself? Think about your attire in the same way. How does your greeting, handshake, or eye contact make that person feel?
Make sure you are considering your audience, though, when thinking about preloading. The CEO of a major corporation may have different feelings about a firm handshake than a stay-at-home mom would. To some people, you may need to show confidence, and, to others, you may need to show compassion.
Building trust is only a small part of social engineering. For more on the subject and from Chris Hadnagy, subscribe to Negotiations Ninja podcast.