I am told I would make a good interrogator.
The other evening, midway through a long shift at the factory, I joined a conversation between coworkers including one, rather eccentric, Russian gentleman. “I didn’t realize this, but so and so can really talk,” one said, “He came to my house to borrow something, and he wouldn’t shut up.”
“It’s often like that. You wouldn’t suspect [my trainee] of being talkative,” I interposed, “But if you ask him about cricket, he’ll talk for an hour.”
“Cricket? Like the game?”
“Yeah,” I said, “I like finding out what people like to talk about and then getting them going on the subject. You can learn so much.”
“Thats just what the KGB do,” the Russian gentleman said.
I stared at him.
“They get you talking about what you’re interested in, and before you know it you’re telling them everything.”
“That’s not why I do it!” I said in great alarm, “I do it because I’m genuinely interested in them.”
“But that’s what they do,” he insisted, “They interviewed me once. They’d seen my school files. They knew I like the sciences so they tried to get me talking about that.” He then launched into a diatribe on Einstein’s theories of relativity, and I was ready to listen attentively, but a coworker interrupted with a question for me. That was the end of that.
Half an hour later, my coworker and I were sitting in our process room with the tablet coater running and nothing to do but monitor it. I had asked my coworker, a recent immigrant from India, about his native languages and how the looked written. He proceeded to provide examples.
I had a view of the windows. As I nodded and asked questions, the Russian fellow walked past. He stopped and grinned at me. Then he made wringing motions with his hands.
I giggled, and then had to explain the whole thing to my coworker.
It isn’t a psychological technique for me. I don’t know any better way of gaining trust and building rapport, especially with someone whom I don’t naturally relate to. As a trainer, I need the trust of my trainee–both to accept my teaching, and also to like me. We spend a lot of time together. We might as well be friends.
Dale Carnegie said, “So if you aspire to be a good conversationalist, be an attentive listener. To be interesting, be interested. Ask questions that other persons will enjoy answering. Encourage them to talk about themselves and their accomplishments.”