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Do you find it hard to get your way? Two of the world’s best psychologists give their life-changing tips

Building a bond with other people is an essential life skill. Not only is it the foundation of successful relationships, but can be critical in most professional contexts.

Having a rapport is generally meant when two people connect or click. Normally it hums in the background and, often without knowing it, we are building and maintaining relationships with people on a daily basis. They are how we build and maintain relationships – from chatting about the weather with strangers to managing complex interactions with the people closest to us.

So can you learn how to build rapport? Above all, it means making an effort to listen to and understand others, rather than focusing on your own agenda or position. This can be difficult for many of us, especially when we are used to getting our way by being the loudest and most persistent person in the room.

This can be difficult for many of us, especially when we are used to getting our way by being the loudest and most persistent person in the room

This can be difficult for many of us, especially when we are used to getting our way by being the loudest and most persistent person in the room

Based on our research as a husband and wife team of psychologists, we have decades of experience working with the police on some of the most high profile criminal investigations, such as the 2005 London 7/7 bombings, Rachel’s murder Nickell on Wimbledon Common in 1992 and Child Sexual Exploitation.

We advise and train the British police and security services and the FBI and CIA in the US on how to deal with dangerous suspects when interests are high. These experiences have led us to develop a method for dealing effectively with almost everyone. This is not a short-term coffee trick. It works because there is something in all of us wired to respond – consciously or unconsciously – to this approach and, crucially, it works even if someone knows the techniques are being used on it.

Knowing how to build a relationship with another person puts you in a much better position to have productive conversations that deliver the results you want.


We believe that there are four pillars of reporting: honesty, empathy, autonomy and reflection (HEAR). These HEAR principles are a blueprint to improve interaction with others and increase the likelihood of getting the desired outcome.


“Be honest with people” sounds like simple, straightforward advice. However, it can be easy to go beyond that honesty and convey a message that is too blunt or fraught to be received productively by the other.

It is the skill to deliver the right level of fairness with the right level of sensitivity. It is about avoiding deception, being clear, objective and direct, and remaining calm. There is no room for emotions here. All too often, especially in the workplace, we hide behind emails to avoid conflict, while actually facing things would make things easier to solve.

For example, if a colleague constantly takes credit for your ideas, you may want to confront them, but worry about the drama it would cause. Instead, you see calmly and complain to work friends – neither solves the problem. Instead, working out what you want to achieve (an apology and agreement that it won’t happen again) by confronting them will help you practice getting your message across honestly and without emotion. That means you can say, “We worked on that strategy together, but you presented it as completely your idea and I’m really not happy about that.”

Even if their response is to claim that it is not true, or that they have also done some of the work, or that it doesn’t matter, you can ignore their defensive and dismissive ability and respond by saying something like, ‘I do not try to take away your input, but I would like you to acknowledge my input to the rest of the team.

“I really care.”

That way you get much more what you want.


an often used but often misunderstood word, true empathy is not about showing compassion or warmth, but about trying to really understand what a person is thinking and feeling.

You need to discover another person’s core beliefs and values ​​so that you not only imagine how you would feel if it were you, but you can also think about how their view of the world and their life experiences also color how they respond to a situation . This means you can recognize how someone is feeling before explaining your point of view.

This is a crucial tactic for giving people direct messages or demands. We often call this ‘the toddler and the T-shirt’ approach. Imagine a three-year-old saying, “I want to wear my dinosaur T-shirt to the nursery today, Mommy.” But the dino T-shirt has just been washed and it is wet.

If Mom just replies, “You can’t baby, it’s wet,” the child will likely say, “But I want it.”

Mom says, “Well, it’s wet, honey. You can’t wear a wet T-shirt to the nursery. “To which they say,” But I want it. ” And so it escalates until both mother and child want to lie on the floor and cry. But when Mommy says, “I know, honey, you love that T-shirt, it’s your favorite. I bet you’re looking forward to wearing it and I see you’re really mad about it. [Big nodding eyes.] But it’s wet, baby, so we’ll dry it today and you can wear it tomorrow, I promise. Today you have to choose one of these other 20 T-shirts with dinosaurs on it. “And maybe they suddenly arrive on time at the nursery.


This is an incredibly powerful feature of how we interact with others. Whether we feel whether someone is trying to control us has a major impact on our behavior. Freedom to choose appeals to an instinctive urge in all of us to control our own destiny.

For example, say you’re worried about the amount your mom smokes, but she’s rejecting your attempts to cut her down. The more often you say it suggests she quits or buys her nicotine gum, the more resistant she is likely to be. Instead, you could listen to all the reasons why she can’t quit and respond with something along the lines of ‘So you say you like smoking, it relaxes you and you think it will be too hard to quit now – it has been too long, too much of a habit, ”she will feel understood, listen to her, and be treated with respect even if you disagree with her. Maybe she’ll tell you that she tried to quit before and it never works, and then you think back to her and say, “So you just don’t want to fail again?”

This can trigger the response: “Well, after I had your brother, I quit for over a year. I felt really good; I was able to run around with the kids and the extra money was fun too! Ugh, why did I ever start again? “Suddenly, our seasoned smoker is considering change again, all because you made her feel like she had a choice.


This repeats in part or in paraphrasing what someone has said to you. By using reflection, all you have to do is invite the other person to expand and add more by ‘broadcasting’ the keywords, feelings, or values ​​you just heard say. Reflection is useful in both long and short interactions to improve communication. It also helps you avoid some common pitfalls.

We have also identified five different approaches that can help.


These are summarized by the mnemonic SONAR – Simple, on the one hand, no argument, affirmations, reframing. To give you an idea of ​​how these can work, we would like you to consider some typical teen / parent conversations …


Child: I really don’t want to go to school today.

Parent: Tough, you go.

Child: You can’t force me!


Child: I know I have to do my homework, I’m just so tired!

Parent: Oh please! Wait until you have a real job and then talk to me about fatigue …

Child: Whatever … You don’t understand!


Child: You are always with me about everything!

Parent: Well, maybe if you didn’t have to be told everything eight times, I wouldn’t be! Cloth ears!

Child: I hate you! [And I feel bad about myself now.]


Child: I love math, but this stuff is impossible – no one could!

Parent: The teacher wouldn’t have assigned it if it was impossible – keep trying.

Child: I try! I can not do it!


Child: There’s no point cleaning my room – it just gets messy again.

Parent: So, you’re just going to live in dirty until you die buried under your own dirty laundry ?!

Child: Yes, that is my plan!

Now see how the SONAR approach could have led to a completely different conversation.


Simple reflections are a direct and often literal reformulation of what has just been said.

Child: I really don’t want to go to school today.

Parent: Don’t you really feel like going to school today?

Child: No, all this drama is going on with the other girls – it hurts my head!

Parent: Drama?


This means that the person lists two conflicting views, emotions, or evidence back to the person. What you put at the end of the sentence is probably what they talk about more, so be tactical.

Child: I know I have to do my homework, I’m just so tired!

Parent: So you feel tired on the one hand, but on the other you know you have to do your homework.

Child: Well, duh! This is an important year for me. They use your scores to decide which set you are in.

Parent: And even if you find it difficult, you want to do it right.


Instead of participating in argumentation or rationalization, examine the statement with reflection and do not argue back. So statements like “So what you say to me is …” or “Can you tell me more about that?” are useful and avoid tit-for-tat arguments.

Child: You are always with me about everything!

Parent: tell me why you feel this way. [Be prepared for more personal digs.]

Child: You never just talk to me – you just tease me about things right away: do this, do that! It’s annoying…

Parent: You feel like I’m just bothering you and we never talk alone.


Actively and determinedly look for positives to build as platforms for change and ignore negatives.

Child: I love math, but this stuff is impossible – no one could!

Parent: Tell me what you like about math.

Child: I like how there is a good answer to every problem, but these are just stupid!

Parent: It usually seems easy to you, but these are difficult.


Reflect what has been said by paraphrasing, summarizing or reflecting deeper feelings or values. “Based on what you said, I think … is very important to you.” This is often most effective when it is followed by an important question that takes the conversation to the next topic.

Child: There’s no point cleaning my room – it just gets messy again.

Parent: So it just seems like an endless cycle of mess and that makes you feel frustrated and annoyed, like “Why bother?”

Child: completely. I don’t like clutter, but it always is! It’s so depressing …

Parent: So you prefer it neat. How can we make it easier?

© Emily Alison and Laurence Alison, 2020

l Extracted from Report, by Emily Alison and Laurence Alison, published by Vermilion on Thursday for £ 14.99.