The Like Switch: An Ex-FBI Agent’s Guide to Influencing, Attracting, and Winning People Over

From the 2015 book by Jack Schafer:

Friendship = Proximity + Frequency + Duration + Intensity

* Street people are constantly seeking handouts, especially in big cities. They can be persistent. Their persistence is not random, though. They target people who are most likely to give them money, and aggressively pursue them. How do they know who is a soft touch and who is not? Easy: They look for friend and foe signals. If
their targets make eye contact, the odds go up. If their targets smile, the odds go up. If their targets show pity, the odds go up. If you are constantly being targeted by beggars and panhandlers, it is most likely
because you are unwittingly sending them nonverbal signals that invite personal contact. Without personal contact, the chances of receiving money are nonexistent. Beggars know this and pursue targets who are more likely to give them a return on their efforts. So, in this case, an urban scowl could come in quite handy.

* Moving with purpose has a purpose. To a potential predator, you are less likely to be seen as prey, just as a healthy, speedy, alert antelope is not likely to be the target of first choice for a lion who is chasing a herd
of the beasts across the African savanna.


They are the “eyebrow flash,” “head tilt,” and the real, as opposed to fake, “smile” (yes, the human brain can detect the difference!).

A head tilt is a strong friend signal. People who tilt their heads when they interact with others are seen as more trustworthy and more attractive. Women see men who approach them with their head slightly canted to one side or the other as more handsome. Likewise, men see women who tilt their heads as more attractive. Furthermore, people who tilt their heads toward the person they are talking with are seen as more friendly, kind, and honest as compared with individuals whose heads remain upright when they talk.

* People tend to lean toward individuals they like and distance themselves from people they don’t like.

* I often use nonverbal signals to monitor the effectiveness of my lectures. Students who are interested in the material will lean forward in their seats, tilt their heads to the right or the left, and periodically nod their heads in agreement. Students who are not interested, or who have lost interest, will lean back in their seats, roll their eyes, or in extreme circumstances, tilt their heads backward or forward as they doze off.

* Members of a large group who form a semicircle with their feet pointing toward the open side of the circle are signaling that they are willing to accept new members. Members of a large group who form a closed circle are signaling they are not going to be receptive to adding new individuals to their gathering.

If you see two people who are facing each other—each with their feet pointing toward the other person—they are telegraphing the message that their conversation is private. Stay away. They do not want outsiders to interrupt. On the other hand, if two people are facing each other with their feet askew, this leaves an “opening” and sends the message that they are willing to admit a new person to their group.

* You can make more friends in two months by becoming genuinely interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you. —DALE CARNEGIE

* When you meet another person for the first time, it is a defining moment of truth in how that relationship will develop. Will that person treat you like a friend or shun you like a foe? The Golden Rule of Friendship—If you want people to like you, make them feel good about themselves—can be a deciding factor in which side the person puts you on.

* If you want people to like you, make them feel good about themselves. You must focus your attention on the person you are befriending. It sounds easy, but it takes practice even for trained agents. If you make someone feel good about themselves, they will credit you with helping them attain that good feeling. People gravitate toward individuals who make them happy and tend to avoid people who bring them pain or discomfort.

If every time you meet a person you make them feel good about themselves, he or she will seek out every opportunity to see you again to experience those same good feelings.

* People’s egos get in the way of practicing the Golden Rule of Friendship. Most people think the world revolves around them and they should be the center of attention. But if you want to appear friendly and attractive to others, you must forgo your ego and pay attention to the other person and his or her particular needs and circumstances. Other people will like you when you make them (not you) the focus of attention. Think about it: It is unfortunate that we seldom use this powerful rule for making ourselves more attractive to others while, at the same time, making those individuals feel better about themselves. We are too busy focusing on ourselves and not on the people we meet. We put our wants and needs before the wants and needs of others. The irony of all this is that other people will be eager to fulfill your wants and needs if they like you.

* Empathic statements keep the focus of the conversation on the person you are talking with rather than on yourself… Empathic statements such as “You look like you are having a bad day” or “You look happy today” let people know that someone is listening to them and cares to some degree about their well-being. This kind of attention makes us feel good about ourselves and, more important, predisposes us to like the person who gave us the attention.

* Empathic statements also close the discourse cycle. When a person says something, they want feedback to know if their message was received and understood. Mirroring back what a person says using parallel language closes the communication circle. People feel good about themselves when they successfully communicate a message.

* The basic formula for constructing empathic statements is “So you . . .” There are many ways to form empathic statements but this basic formula gets you in the habit of keeping the focus of the conversation on the other person and away from you. Simple empathic statements might include “So you like the way things are going today,” or “So you are having a good day.” We naturally tend to say something to the effect of “I understand how you feel.” The other person then automatically thinks, No, you don’t know how I feel because you are not me. The basic “So you . . .” formula ensures that the focus of the conversation remains on the other person. For example, you get on an elevator and see a person who is smiling and looks happy. You can naturally say, “So, things are going your way today,” mirroring back their physical nonverbal cues.

* Empathic statements also serve as effective conversation fillers. The awkward silence that comes when the other person stops talking and you cannot think of anything to say is devastating. When you are struggling for something to say, fall back on the empathic statement. All you have to remember is the last thing the person said and construct an empathic statement based on that information. The speaker will carry the conversation, giving you time to think of something meaningful to say. It is far better to use a series of empathic statements when you have nothing to say than to say something inappropriate. Remember: The person you are talking to will not realize that you are using empathic statements because they will be processed as “normal” by the listener’s brain and will go unnoticed.

* A fine line separates flattery from compliments. The word flattery has a more negative connotation than the term compliment. Flattery is often associated with insincere compliments used to exploit and manipulate others for selfish reasons. The purpose of compliments is to praise others and acknowledge their accomplishments. As relationships grow and develop, compliments play an ever-increasing role in the bonding of two individuals. Compliments signal that the other person is still interested in you and what you do well.

* The key to allowing people to compliment themselves is to construct a dialogue that predisposes people to recognize their attributes or accomplishments and give themselves a silent pat on the back. When people compliment themselves, they feel good about themselves, and according to the Golden Rule of Friendship, they will like you because you provided the opportunity to make them feel good about themselves. Referring back to Ben’s fledgling relationship with Vicki, he can set the stage for Vicki to compliment herself.

BEN: Then you’ve been really busy lately. (sophisticated empathic statement)
VICKI: Yeah, I worked sixty hours a week for the last three weeks getting a project done.
BEN: It takes a lot of dedication and determination to commit to a project of that magnitude. (a statement that provides Vicki the opportunity to compliment herself)
VICKI: (Thinking) I sacrificed a lot to get that mega project done and I did a very good job, if I may say so myself.

Note that Ben did not directly tell Vicki he thought she was a dedicated and determined person. However, it was not hard for Vicki to recognize those attributes in herself and apply them to her circumstances at work. In the event Vicki does not see herself as a dedicated and determined person, no damage will be done to the fledgling relationship. What Ben said is true regardless of Vicki’s self-assessment, so his comment at worst will go unnoticed, and at best will provide the impetus for Vicki to feel good about herself (and Ben). Based on human nature, even if Vicki was in reality not a dedicated and determined person, she would likely apply those favorable attributes to herself. Few people would admit in public, much less to themselves, that they are not dedicated, determined people.

Words cannot change reality, but they can change how people perceive reality. Words create filters through which people view the world around them. A single word can make the difference between liking and disliking a person.

* The next time you conduct an interview, meet a new colleague, or buy a new product, think about how you came to form your opinion about that person or product. Chances are high that your opinions were formed by primacy.

* Do not overuse this technique [of asking someone for a small favor to get them to bond with you], because Ben Franklin also observed that “guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.” (As do people who ask too many favors!)

* when you make other people feel good about themselves (the Golden Rule of Friendship) you not only get people to like you, there’s also a collateral benefit; they want to make you feel good as well.

* If you go looking for a friend, you’re going to find they’re very scarce. If you go out to be a friend, you’ll find them everywhere. —ZIG ZIGLAR

* After you make initial contact with a person, listening to what they say can provide you with additional clues to their likes and dislikes. Make a conscious effort to direct the conversation toward the things you have in common. Talking about shared experiences, interests, hobbies, jobs, or any number of other common topics enhances rapport and the development of friendships.

* Reciprocity is also linked with openness in communication. Individuals who disclose more personal information with other people are more likely to receive a similar level of personal information in return. This phenomenon is further enhanced if the people who are communicating have shared interests. Self-disclosure promotes attraction. People feel a sense of closeness to others who reveal their vulnerabilities, innermost thoughts, and facts about themselves. The sense of closeness increases if the disclosures are emotional rather than factual. This is partly due to the intensity of such disclosures, which positively affects the likability of the person making them.

Disclosures that are too general reduce the sense of openness, thus reducing the feeling of closeness and likability. Disclosures that are too intimate often highlight character and personality flaws of the person, thus decreasing likability. People who make intimate disclosures too early in a relationship are often perceived as insecure, which further decreases likability. Thus, if you are meeting someone who you would like to have as a long-term friend or significant other, you should be careful about making your most intimate disclosures in the early stages of the relationship. Self-disclosure is a two-step process. First, a person has to make a self-disclosure that is neither too general nor too intimate. Second, the self-disclosure must be received with empathy, caring, and respect. A negative response made to a genuine self-disclosure can instantly terminate a relationship. Self-disclosures are often reciprocal. When one person makes self-disclosures, the listener is more likely to reciprocate by making similar ones. The exchange of personal information creates a sense of intimacy in relationships. A relationship in which one person makes personal self-disclosures while the other person continues to make superficial disclosures is not progressing and is likely to end.

* Relationships tend to wane over time. To increase the longevity of these liaisons, release self-disclosures over an extended period of time. Once somebody finds a person whom they can trust, they are often tempted to open the emotional floodgates—telling too much too quickly—overwhelming their partner in the process. Disclosures should be made over a long period of time to ensure that the relationship slowly increases in intensity and closeness. A steady trickle of information, like Hansel and Gretel’s bread crumbs dropped one piece at a time, increases the longevity of the relationship because each partner continually feels the closeness that comes with a steady stream of self-disclosures. Mutual self-disclosures create trust.

* According to Gordon Wainwright, author of Teach Yourself Body Language, anyone can increase their attractiveness to others if they maintain good eye contact, act upbeat, dress well, add a dash of color to their wardrobe, and listen well. Wainwright also stresses the importance of posture and bearing and suggests that for one week you stand straight, tuck in your stomach, hold your head high, and smile at those you meet. From the results of many experiments, Wainwright predicts you will begin to be treated with more warmth and respect and start attracting more people to you.

* Individuals who use humor in social encounters are perceived as more likable. In addition, both trust and attraction increase when a lighthearted approach is used during person-to-person interactions. Judicious use of humor can reduce anxiety and establish a relaxed mood that helps a relationship to develop more rapidly.

* The added benefit to using humor is that laughing causes a release of endorphins, which makes you feel good about yourself, and, according to the Golden Rule of Friendship, if you make people feel good about themselves, they will like you. A woman who likes a particular man will laugh at his jokes, no matter how lame, more often and with more gusto than she will laugh at jokes told by a man.

* So, when a less attractive individual wants to be seen as more attractive, he or she should associate with a group of attractive people. Conversely, an attractive person may be viewed as less attractive if he or she is in the company of unattractive people. It seems that adult life doesn’t change all that much from high school. If you want to be “popular,” you still need to hang out with the popular people. In a business situation this means always try to “friend up,” not down. Who you associate with matters. If you want to be seen as successful, you need to hang out with successful people.

* People like to associate with individuals who display high levels of self-esteem. Thus, such individuals have an easier time attracting others and making friends. Individuals with high levels of self-esteem are also self-confident and comfortable with being the center of attention. They are also comfortable with self-disclosure, which is a building block in creating close personal relationships. To people with high self-esteem, rejection is part of life, not a reflection on their self-worth. Conversely, people with low self-esteem are reluctant to disclose personal information.

* When it comes to establishing short- or long-term romantic relationships, high-status women (young and physically attractive) tend to couple with high-status men (high earning potential and disposable income). This pattern of mate selection parallels typical mating strategies. Men select young and physically attractive women to ensure procreation and women select high earners with disposable incomes to achieve the security necessary to raise children. Men with lower self-esteem tend to select women who are less physically attractive and women with lower self-esteem tend to select mates who are lower income earners and with less disposable income. Sometimes lower-status individuals will try to “fake” higher status in an attempt to establish relationships with people “out of their league.” For example, a man might pretend to be a high-income earner by lavishing a woman with expensive gifts, driving a car he cannot afford, and spending money he does not have. This strategy, although effective in the short run, usually ends catastrophically as time passes and the suitor, unable to afford his ruse, is unmasked and his true worth revealed.

* An individual should not always make him or herself readily available to the person they are targeting for a longer-term relationship. A certain level of unavailability will make you more of a mystery and a challenge.

* The more you can encourage the other person to speak, the more you listen to what they say, display empathy, and respond positively when reacting to their comments, the greater the likelihood that person will feel good about themselves (Golden Rule of Friendship) and like you as a result. This means that when I (“ME”) desire YOU as a friend, I want to let you know I am interested in what you have to say, and, in addition, give you plenty of time to say it.

* Glory has a short expiration date; goodwill has a long shelf life. A good idea produces a large plate that can be divided into many pieces. Freely distributing the pieces increases likability, puts people in your debt, and gives you allies should you need their help in gaining successes down the road.

* Listening to what another person is saying can be difficult to achieve, particularly for extroverts. They are so busy thinking about what they want to say, interrupting the speaker, or letting their mind wander that they literally don’t hear what is being said.

* When it comes to establishing and building friendships through verbal behavior, take your cue from LOVE (Listen, Observe, Vocalize, and Empathize). This acronym captures the four rules you’ll want to follow if you want to maximize your chances for making friends through the use of communication.

* Empathic statements are the spice of conversations. If you make it a habit to use empathic statements, you will force yourself to listen more carefully to other people. As a consequence they will feel good about themselves and like you.

* When using electronic media to communicate, don’t use sarcasm, understatements, or words that have double meanings if you want to avoid the possibility of miscommunication. The best way to keep your verbal communication effective in a world filled with word mines is to: 1. Think about the words you are going to use before you say them. Scan ahead for possible word mines that you’ll want to eliminate from your speech. 2. Observe your listeners for any unusual reaction while you are speaking. It might indicate that a word mine has been tripped. 3. Do not become defensive or angry if a listener becomes agitated over your use of a word mine (even if you didn’t know it existed); and 4. Immediately take the time to find out if the listener’s discomfort is the result of a word mine detonation. If it is, apologize for using the word or phrase, explain that you were unaware that it had a negative connotation to the listener, and assure him or her that you will not use it again. And then, be sure you don’t.

* Knowing what a person thinks gives you an advantage. The trick is to change their mind before they have an opportunity to articulate their opposition. Once an opinion or decision is expressed out loud, changing a person’s mind becomes more difficult due to the psychological principle of consistency. Decision-making causes tension to some degree. When a person makes a decision, tension dissipates. They are less likely to change their mind because to do so would mean admitting their first decision was a bad one, thus causing tension. Maintaining an articulated position causes less tension than going through the decision-making process again no matter how persuasive the arguments for change may be. In other words, when people say something, they tend to remain consistent with what they said.

* In social settings, you can avoid embarrassing moments by observing the person you are talking to. If you introduce a sensitive topic and you see the other person pursing or compressing their lips, you are best advised to change the subject before more damage is done. You can safely return to the subject when sufficient rapport has been built between you and the other person.

* Giving someone the feeling they have some control over a situation can work wonders, even with children.

* Status elevation can take the form of a simple compliment.

* If you want to get information from somebody without arousing their suspicion or putting them on the defensive, use the elicitation approach. You use elicitation devices in conversation to obtain information from a person without that individual becoming sensitive (aware) of your purpose. People often hesitate to answer direct questions, especially when the inquiries focus on sensitive topics. If you want people to like you, use elicitation instead of questions to obtain sensitive information. Elicitation techniques encourage people to reveal sensitive information without the need for making inquiries. Asking questions puts people on the defensive. Nobody likes nosy individuals, especially when you first meet them. Ironically, this is the time you need the most information about persons of interest.

* The Empathic Statement is versatile because it can be combined with elicitation techniques. Two empathic elicitation techniques that are based on the human need to correct will be discussed, the empathic presumptive and the empathic conditional. Salespeople routinely use empathic elicitation. Customers are less likely to buy something from someone they don’t like. Salespeople use empathic elicitation to accomplish two goals. First, empathic statements quickly build rapport, and second, empathic elicitation gleans information from customers that they would not normally reveal under direct questioning.

If the presumptive is false, the customer will typically correct the presumptive. Just look at this example:

SALESPERSON: May I help you?
CUSTOMER: Yes, I have to buy a new washer and dryer.
SALESPERSON: So, your old washer and dryer are on their last legs? (empathic presumptive)
CUSTOMER: No, I’m moving to a small apartment.
SALESPERSON: Oh, so you’ll need a compact washer and dryer. Let me show you a popular stacked unit that we sell.

The empathic conditional keeps the focus of the conversation on the customer and introduces a set of circumstances under which the customer would purchase a product or service.

SALESPERSON: Can I help you?
CUSTOMER: No, I’m just looking.
SALESPERSON: So, you haven’t decided which model you want to buy. (empathic statement)
CUSTOMER: I need a new car, but I’m not sure I can afford one.
SALESPERSON: So you’d buy a car, if it were priced right? (empathic conditional)
SALESPERSON: Do you like red or blue cars?
SALESPERSON: Let’s take a look at some blue cars in your price range.

* When people receive something either physically or emotionally, they feel the need to reciprocate by giving back something of equal or greater value (Law of Reciprocity). Quid pro quo is an elicitation technique that encourages people to match information provided by others. For example, you meet a person for the first time and want to know where they work. Instead of directly asking them, “Where do you work?” tell them where you work first. People will tend to reciprocate by telling you where they work. This elicitation technique can be used to discover information about people without being intrusive and appearing nosy.

* I used the need to reciprocate when I interviewed suspects. I would always offer the suspect something to drink such as coffee, tea, water, or soda at the beginning of the interview (the television term is interrogation). I did this to invoke the need to reciprocate. In return for the drink, I hope to receive something in return such as intelligence information or a confession. During your conversation, you should seek common ground (Law of Similarity) with the other person. You should also use empathic statements to keep the focus on that individual. In short, you want to make the other person feel good about themselves (Golden Rule of Friendship), and if you are successful, they will like you and seek future opportunities to share your company.

* To find out what your loved one really thinks about cheating, you need to approach the topic from a third-person perspective. Instead of asking the direct question, “What do you think about cheating?” you want to say, “My friend Susan caught her husband cheating. What do you think about that?” When a person is confronted with a third-party observation, they tend to look inside themselves to find the answer and tell you what they really think.

* The best way to find out how your children really feel about drugs is to ask them from a third-party perspective. For example, “My friend’s son got caught in school with marijuana. What’s your take on that?”

* People develop positive feelings toward those individuals who can “walk in their shoes” and understand what they are experiencing. Your empathic statements and/or statements of concern send a message to the listener that you comprehend their circumstances and realize what they have to say is meaningful. In doing so, you are fulfilling the other person’s need to be recognized and appreciated. This makes them feel better about themselves and in turn makes them feel better about you, which encourages friendship development… What you will see, more often than you might expect, is the individual you are watching saying or doing something that reveals they are dissatisfied with the current situation they are in. This is especially true when you are dealing with individuals whom you might only confront once, or at infrequent intervals, during your life, such as salespeople, clerks, service personnel, and the like.

* To keep the communication flowing smoothly, be sure to steer clear of common conversation pitfalls that impede verbal exchanges between individuals.

1. Avoid talking about topics that engender negative feelings in your listener. Negative feelings make people feel bad about themselves and, consequently, they will like you less.

2. Don’t constantly complain about your problems, your family’s problems, or the problems of the world. People have enough problems of their own without hearing about yours . . . or anyone else’s for that matter.

3. Avoid talking excessively about yourself. Talking about yourself too much bores other people. Keep the focus on the other person in your conversation.

4. Do not engage in meaningless chatter; it turns people (and the Like Switch) off.

5. Avoid expressing too little or too much emotion. Extreme displays of emotion may put you in a bad light.

* The more grooming behaviors that are present, the more intense the relationship.

1. Do you run your fingers through your significant other’s hair? 2. Do you wash your significant other’s hair or body while showering/bathing? 3. Do you shave your significant other’s legs/face? 4. Do you wipe away your significant other’s tears when he or she cries? 5. Do you brush or play with your significant other’s hair? 6. Do you wipe away or dry liquid spills off your significant other? 7. Do you clean and/or trim your significant other’s fingernails or toenails? 8. Do you brush dirt, leaves, lint, bugs, etc. off your significant other? 9. Do you scratch your significant other’s back or other body parts? 10. Do you wipe food and/or crumbs off your significant other’s face or body?

* In testing for rapport using torso movements, the basic rule to remember is that people who share rapport will orient their bodies toward each other. This is the typical sequence for achieving such an orientation: First, the other person’s head will turn toward you. Second, the other person’s shoulders will turn toward you. Finally, the other person will reposition his or her torso so that it directly faces you. When this occurs, you can be confident that rapport has been established.

* A good way to test for rapport is to look for barriers that individuals place and/or remove between themselves and other people. People who do not feel comfortable with other individuals will erect barriers or leave ones already there in place. On the other hand, individuals who feel at ease with the person with whom they are interacting will keep an open space between them, even if it involves removing barriers that are already between them.

* Arm crossing serves as a psychological barrier to protect individuals from topics that cause them psychological anxiety. People who are in good rapport do not feel threatened, nor do they feel anxious. If the person you are talking to suddenly crosses his or her arms, then rapport has not yet been established or it signals weakening rapport.

* The placement of soft drink cans, pillows, purses, and other movable objects between you and another person signals discomfort and a lack of rapport.

* Anxious people will signify their uneasiness by prolonged eye closure. Their eyelids serve as a barrier to prevent them from seeing the person or thing that makes them anxious or uncomfortable.

* When people experience anxiety, they tend to increase their eye-blink rate.

* The body takes about twenty minutes to return to normal after a full fight or flight response. In other words, angry people need time to calm down before they can think clearly again. Angry people will not completely comprehend any explanations, solutions, or problem-solving options until they can think logically again. Allowing for this refractory period is a critical part of any anger management strategy. The first strategy for breaking the anger cycle is “Never try to rationally engage angry people.” Anger must be vented before offering problem solving solutions.

* People want to feel like they are in control. Angry people seek order in a world that no longer makes sense to them. The inability to make sense of a disordered world causes frustration. This frustration is expressed as anger. Providing an explanation for a given behavior or problem will often reorder a disordered world and soothe the angered person’s feelings in the process.

* Anger needs fuel. The increased anger provokes you to give a more intense response, which provides additional fuel to an angry supervisor. If this anger cycle continues, at some point your fight or flight threshold is crossed, causing a reduction in your ability to think logically.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been noted in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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