Subliminal Hacking
The Art and Science of Social Engineering


April 19, 2010

Building Rapport and getting Buy In… Simples

Everything related to social engineering, and the various skills we have discussed all need a foundation to work from to give us the influencing power we need to have the victim / subject doing our deeds. So how do we set-up this foundation? We need to build rapport, and get the appropriate buy in. We need the person or people we are interacting with to believe 110% that we are who we say we are, and that the requests we make of them, no matter how strange are legitimate and well founded.

Wikipedia Definition – Rapport is one of the most important features or characteristics of unconscious human interaction. It is commonality of perspective: being “in sync” with, or being “on the same wavelength” as the person with whom you are talking.

Some people are better at this than others, I am sure there are various personal and cultural reasons for this, but I will go through the steps and thought processes I go through myself, when looking to build rapport, and get someone working with me to achieve my goal.

First of all consider the situation from the 3rd person, put yourself in their situation. When you start to consider your approach and communication from their perspective you can start to rehearse what your going to say and how your going to act, and give a performance you would consider believable. I appreciate alot of us will be more paranoid than the average person due to the industry we work in, but I think you get the right idea. Pitch it at the right level, and aim for success, rapport, buy in, and ultimately influence and leverage.

Then is the option of faking it. What I mean is act as if rapport already exists, and you have known the group or individual you are interacting with for years. It may sound odd, but doing this will put you at ease, and you will give off unconscious signals, and these will be picked up and mirrored by the people you are speaking with, and you can continue forward from there. Personally I would say incorporate this concept to some extent, but don’t really on it fully, and bundle it with other rapport building techniques.

First impression count. Walking up to someone, smiling and extending your hand and greeting sets up a situation of social compliance. The fact they smile back and shake your hand means you have succeeded in your initial rapport building exercise. You asked them to do something and they did, you have leverage. From here there are various possibilities to elevate your situation. Perhaps you will use information you have gathered from open source information gathering techniques, or build upon the guise you have formed for interaction. Perhaps you are playing the part of a sales man, technician, cleaner, etc.

Matching and Mirroring techniques. This is essentially mimicking, but not to a level that someone thinks your taking the piss. So what we are talking about is mirroring someone’s posture, gestures, breathing and such like. The reason for this process working is, the basis that people like people who are like themselves. From here you can change the tempo and watch for them unconsciously mirroring you, this leads to the rapport and buy in on an unconscious level.

Identifying similarities and listening. Another key element to building rapport is identifying similar interests (real or fake) and listening to the other person. Everyone likes the sound of their own voice, some more than others. This works really well at getting compliance, and all you need to do is drop in the occasional request or command, and get acceptance and confirmation and you know you are on your way.

Finally I will say that ensuring you look the part for the role you are playing, and you have the knowledge that should be associated with that role, and giving reassurance to your victim / subject. So if the role you are playing is of a telco engineer, have a basic comprehension of the lingo used, location of kit, who you should be interacting with, and wear the right clothes and badges. Take things a step further, and set expectations, and reassurance of what is going to happen, whether this is real or not doesn’t matter, this is just to get buy in.

So to summarise, I look to consider how my approach will be interpreted by the victim / subject, ensure I look the part, clothes, badges, business cards, tools, knowledge, etc. I communicate in a confident, influential manner, remain assertive, but open to discussion and listen. From here I will use appropriate opportunities to verify rapport and buy in, once confirmed go about getting what is needed. This last part is key. If you have not succeeded with getting buy in, most times its not worth pushing your luck, you would be best of rethinking your approach, and who to interact with. We will look later at reading the body signals to understand what someone is experiencing, and this is another useful skill for measuring your progression when building rapport.

Like many of the skills in SE, practice is a key element in success. I encourage you to go out and make friends with strangers you meet on the street, in bars etc. This is great practice for building rapport, you can use your other skills to spark conversation, magic, mentalism, and if its not working bosh them under and tell them YOU WILL LIKE ME 🙂

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    About the Author

    Dale Pearson
    has worked in IT since 1998, Infosec since 2004, and studied and performed hypnosis, mentalism etc since 2009. Dale is a full time Red Teamer with a love of social engineering and qualified hypnotherapist. He spends a great deal of time researching the various skills and techniques that make up the art and science of Social Engineering.

    One Comment

    1. Very detailed and informative. I would just like to add that when you’re in rapport with someone else you’ve created trust. And when someone trusts you, you can then work together to achieve your goals. Rapport with someone else is, in my view, the canvas you can then “paint” your interactions on.
      As an aside: rapport is actually hardwired in our brains. In fact it’s the mirror neurons that are responsible for us being able to create rapport with others.

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