Jack Schafer (@jackschafer) is a retired FBI special agent, current assistant professor at Western Illinois University, and co-author of The Truth Detector: An Ex-FBI Agent’s Guide for Getting People to Reveal the Truth. [This is part one of a two-part episode. Find part two here!]
What We Discuss with Jack Schafer:
- Elicitation versus interrogation: why one is usually more effective in extracting truth than the other.
- How the elicitation techniques used by the FBI to uncover secrets from foreign spies can be applied to buying used cars, negotiating better salaries, and finding out if your teenager is throwing parties when you’re out of town.
- Three friend signals we display when we want to establish rapport and trust with someone we’ve just met (and might be used against us by con artists and other disreputable types).
- How presumptive statements can be used to play upon our insecurities and get us to easily reveal truths we’d otherwise keep guarded — and what we can do to avoid spilling the beans when they’re used against us.
- How to use a third-party perspective to discover what people are really thinking.
- And much more…
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It’s been said that you’ll attract more flies with honey than with vinegar. As to why anyone might want to attract flies in the first place is largely a mystery, but it illustrates a simple point: one way is more effective than the other. When the FBI wants a ne’er-do-well to fess up to the part they’ve played in a crime, it’s understood that torture or other means of forceful coercion just aren’t very effective (or ethical) tools for extracting this information. Far better is elicitation — a field-tested technique for encouraging people to provide information they would otherwise keep secret.
On this two-part episode, we talk to Jack Schafer, co-author (with Marvin Karlins) of The Truth Detector: An Ex-FBI Agent’s Guide for Getting People to Reveal the Truth, and the expert who created this technique and pioneered it for the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Program. You’ll get a front-row seat to understanding how elicitation works to gain trust and rapport with others — and get liars to reveal the truth. Listen, learn, and enjoy! [This is part one of a two-part episode. Find part two here!]
Please Scroll Down for Featured Resources and Transcript!
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On The Old Man & the Three (by Cadence13), New Orleans Pelicans guard JJ Redick and his co-host Tommy Alter discuss current events and interview some of the biggest names in the NBA, entertainment, and political worlds. Listen here or wherever you enjoy podcasts!
Miss the conversation we had with science champion and astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson? Make sure to catch up with episode 327: Neil deGrasse Tyson | Astrophysics for People in a Hurry!
THANKS, JACK SCHAFER!
If you enjoyed this session with Jack Schafer, let him know by clicking on the link below and sending him a quick shout out at Twitter:
And if you want us to answer your questions on one of our upcoming weekly Feedback Friday episodes, drop us a line at email@example.com.
Resources from This Episode:
- The Truth Detector: An Ex-FBI Agent’s Guide for Getting People to Reveal the Truth by Jack Schafer and Marvin Karlins | Amazon
- The Like Switch: An Ex-FBI Agent’s Guide to Influencing, Attracting, and Winning People Over by Jack Schafer and Marvin Karlins | Amazon
- Jack Schafer | Twitter
- What Are Miranda Rights? | LegalZoom
- Channeling Mike Wallace: How to Manage Gotcha Journalism | PRSA
- The Presumptive Is a Powerful Truth Serum | Psychology Today
- Larry Lawton | From Jewel Thief to Honorary Cop Part One | Jordan Harbinger
- Larry Lawton | From Jewel Thief to Honorary Cop Part Two | Jordan Harbinger
- Fooling Your Ego (with a Third-Person Perspective) | Psychology Today
- The Friendship Formula | Psychology Today
- What Is Cognitive Dissonance? | Verywell Mind
Transcript for Jack Schafer | Getting People to Reveal the Truth Part One (Episode 467)
Jordan Harbinger: Coming up on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[00:00:02] Jack Schafer: Because what questions do is there's a two-step process in a question. If you asked me a direct question, I'm thinking, "What does he want? How is this information going to be used? Is it going to be used against me? Why is he saying this? What's his motivation?" And of course, shields go up and it's impolite to ask that. And then, of course, I'm going to come out with my sunshine answer and give you something that I think you want to hear.
[00:00:30] Jordan Harbinger: Welcome to the show. I'm Jordan Harbinger. On The Jordan Harbinger Show, we decode the stories, secrets, and skills of the world's most fascinating people. We have in-depth conversations with people at the top of their game, spies and psychologists, astronauts and entrepreneurs, even the occasional rocket scientist, former Jihadi, or extreme athlete. Each episode turns our guests' wisdom into practical advice that you can use to build a deeper understanding of how the world works and become a better critical thinker.
[00:00:55] If you're new to the show or you're looking for a handy way to tell your friends about it, we now have episodes starter packs. These are collections of your favorite episodes, organized by popular topics to help new listeners get a taste of everything we do here on the show. Just visit jordanharbinger.com/start to get started or to help somebody else get started. And you know how I love it when you help other people find the show. That's how we keep it going.
[00:01:19] Now, today, this is going to be awesome. I'm just going to throw that out there right now. This is Dr. Jack Schafer, former FBI. He is a super interesting — he's a fun dude. He's kind of like everyone's cool dad, I feel like in a lot of ways. We really got along. We were giving each other a lot of guff on this one. It went really, really well. He helped the FBI recruits spies. You've heard guys like this on the show before. And he's a fan of saying things like, "There's no such thing as fair play in espionage," because today we're talking about elicitation and persuasion. There are some great sales techniques in the book. I used a lot of elicitation when I was in sales, especially high-ticket sales. It's all about rapport.
[00:01:58] Now, this is also a great episode for doctors and medical personnel, even if you're not in sales. And frankly, if you're not in any of those career paths, you're going to be using these persuasions, these elicitation techniques in a lot of different areas of your life, especially if you have teenagers or kids. So I highly recommend checking this out. There's a reason it's a two-parter. You all know whenever I release two parts that it's always worthwhile. You guys tell me that all the time. So I'm looking forward to your feedback on this one.
[00:02:22] And if you're wondering how I managed to find folks like Dr. Jack Schafer, it's all about my network. I'm teaching you how to create your network for free. It doesn't matter if you're using it for business or for personal reasons. This can save your bacon. It's over at jordanharbinger.com/course. The course is free. You don't have to enter any personal info. None of that, just enjoy. And by the way, most of the guests on the show already subscribed to the course and the newsletter. So come join us, you'll be in smart company. Now, here we go with Dr. Jack Schafer.
[00:02:49] First of all, thanks for coming on the show. I appreciate it. I know you drove far and wide to sit in whatever office you're in right now and talk on your air pilot headset to do this podcast.
[00:03:00] Jack Schafer: Okay. Poke me in the eye with a sharp stick.
[00:03:04] Jordan Harbinger: I just want to set things off on the right foot.
[00:03:06] Jack Schafer: This stick has points on both ends. Remember that.
[00:03:09] Jordan Harbinger: I will, I will. Let's first define elicitation, right? Because I think a lot of people, they don't really know what this means. They don't really understand what you do at the FBI or what you did at the FBI. They don't really get it. They think that elicitation and interrogation are the same thing.
[00:03:25] Jack Schafer: No. Elicitation is a conversation whereby you get people to be predisposed to reveal information they wouldn't normally reveal under direct questioning. So in other words, people have a tendency to reveal secret or confidential information when they are given the environment or the opportunity to reveal that information based on some psychological behavioral concepts.
[00:03:50] Jordan Harbinger: So this is not necessarily berating people until they give you what you want. This is sort of rapport development, and then getting people to tell — you want to learn the truth before the lies, you put it in the book, right? Does that mean get people to tell us what we want to know before their guard goes up?
[00:04:09] Jack Schafer: Yes. That's exactly what we're going to do. Elicitation is painless. People won't even know they're being a target of elicitation. They won't realize they're giving up classified or secret information and they will like you. And then they will ask you to come back and talk to them again, supposedly, you know, to reveal more secret information. So it's kind of an innocuous, subtle process whereby people are placed in an environment where they are predisposed to reveal secrets they wouldn't ordinarily reveal.
[00:04:41] Jordan Harbinger: And this works better if people don't know what's happening, right? As you said, they either clam up, lawyer up, or dummy up. And we see cops use this all the time, right? Hence the Miranda warning, "You have the right to remain silent." The one that no one listens to and they go, "All right, fine. But I just want to tell you, I don't even know that guy. And that drug, that stuff is not mine. I just found it."
[00:05:02] Jack Schafer: Yes. Kind of like that. It came from — just to give you a little background. I work counterintelligence and intelligence operations with the FBI. I was a counterintelligence officer. In other words, I caught spies who came from foreign countries to come into the United States to try to steal our information. I also worked as an intelligence operation, where we go overseas and we try to get information from people. So what typically happens is, the elicitation process is typically used during intelligence operations and counterintelligence operations. So we can get bits and pieces of information from people without alerting them or forcing them to raise their shields in defense.
[00:05:41] And those same techniques that I use very successfully as an intelligence and counterintelligence officer, I just applied them to the normal life that people live, that they want information because I think we want the best out of life. We want the best relationships. We want the best business deals. We want the best personal relationships that we can get. So a lot of that information that we need to get that best deal is often hidden. It's often secret. If you want to get the best deal on a car, for example, there's a lot of hidden things that go into car buying and negotiating for a car that aren't public information. So if you can elicit that information from a top salesman, then number one, he won't realize he's revealing that information. And two, now you are in possession of secret information to give yourself the best opportunity to get the best deal out of life.
[00:06:33] Jordan Harbinger: It sounds like raising a teenager, but I haven't gotten there yet.
[00:06:38] Jack Schafer: I've been there and done that. Yes, it is. It's like raising a teenager, which brings me to my second point. If you want your kids to tell you things that they wouldn't normally tell you under direct questioning, elicitation is the perfect tool for you to use because you're not jeopardizing that bonding between the parent and child bonding. And you're not threatening them. You're not putting them on the defensive. You're just setting up a psychological environment that predisposes them to want to tell you information they wouldn't otherwise tell you.
[00:07:09] Jordan Harbinger: Is this more science-based or is this an art just as much as it is a science?
[00:07:13] Jack Schafer: Well, it's science-based and it's also an art. There is a certain amount of practice that's required, but not a lot because with elicitation people don't realize that you're using elicitation techniques on them. So you can practice and practice and practice. And if you don't meet your elicitation goals, then you can keep practicing and people won't realize that you're there being targeted for elicitation.
[00:07:37] Jordan Harbinger: And in the book, The Truth Detector: An Ex-FBI Agent's Guide for Getting People to Reveal the Truth, so this is the followup from your previous book, The Like Switch, which we'll definitely have to have you come by and talk about at some point, elicitors are good at conversation. So the conversation — and correct me where I'm wrong here, it's not about the target, right? It's not an interrogation as we've mentioned before. It's generally a positive and pleasant experience. And it's the kind of thing — with the exception of yourself because for some reason you just remind me of my dad, so I'm automatically in smart ass mode — but with most guests, I'm usually using some of these techniques to get people to open up, especially if it's like a celebrity who doesn't want to talk about something. It's got to be fun. It's got to be entertaining in a way, that's more of the show, but it also can't be like 60 Minutes journalism where I say, "Well, you know, you are spotted at this hotel doing this." I never want people to get that fight-or-flight adrenaline reaction, even if I'm confronting them with something. I want to make it a good experience. Like you're talking with a friend.
[00:08:38] Jack Schafer: Yeah. That's exactly what you do. All elicitation is, it's a conversation whereby you're going to shift the conversation to a topic that you want to explore and use several techniques then to predispose those people to tell you what they're really thinking.
[00:08:55] Jordan Harbinger: So it's better if the person likes you, I suppose, right?
[00:08:58] Jack Schafer: And that's the basis of elicitation. We first have to get people to like us. And fortunately, we can build rapport with people within seconds. And there's basically three typical friend signals that we can send that will tell other people that we're not a threat to them. And the first one is the eyebrow flash. It lasts for about 1/64th of a second. It's a long-distance signal. So when we approach one another, we're going to exchange eyebrow flashes. So as you approach somebody, that person will eyebrow flash you, and then you will eyebrow flash them back. And that's a signal that you're not a threat.
[00:09:33] The second thing is the head tilt. If you want a head tilt one way or the other, what the head tilt does, it exposes your carotid artery and that's a very vulnerable part of your body. So what you're telling that person is, "I'm tilting my head, exposing my carotid artery. I trust that you're not going to attack me." And if people have dogs, especially when the owner comes home, the dogs will sit and they will tilt their head to one side or the other. And that's just a friend signal that says, "I'm not a threat." And a lot of times they'll flip over on their backs and expose their stomachs, which is very vulnerable. And what they're saying is, "I'm not a threat. I trust you."
[00:10:10] The last one is the smile. When we smile —
[00:10:14] Jordan Harbinger: That was very convincing. If you're watching us on YouTube, that was a beautiful — give this man an award.
[00:10:22] Jack Schafer: But hence, when we smile, we release endorphins and endorphins make us feel good about ourselves. So there's a rule, golden rule of friendship. If we want people to like us, we make them feel good about themselves. So when I smile — and by the way, that was a fake smile, just to let you know.
[00:10:39] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, wow. We would never have guessed.
[00:10:44] Jack Schafer: In order for you to fake a smile, say you don't have a real sincere smile —
[00:10:48] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:10:49] Jack Schafer: — with that person, what you want to do is fake it. And I can do that with suspects. But you want to get the crow's feet where you can see — so you want to lift your chin up and get your crow's feet working. And then the other person's brain will see that and say, "Ah, that person is giving me a genuine smile."
[00:11:03] Jordan Harbinger: When you do that do you just think of something that you actually like, or are you thinking about the mechanics of a smile more?
[00:11:10] Jack Schafer: I've been practicing this for 30 years. I can fake a smile pretty good.
[00:11:14] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. That makes sense.
[00:11:15] Jack Schafer: It's on command because it's become part of my repertoire.
[00:11:18] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:11:18] Jack Schafer: Part of my nature.
[00:11:19] Jordan Harbinger: That makes sense.
[00:11:20] Jack Schafer: So those are the three signals that you want to give right away. Especially the eyebrow flash, when I tell people about that, they say, "My gosh, I've been eyebrow flashing people my whole life. And I'm just catching myself now." Yeah, because it's kind of a subconscious thing. So once I tell you about that, make you aware of it, you're going to catch eyebrow flashing —
[00:11:39] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:11:39] Jack Schafer: — a lot. So then you can mimic that if you want to fake an eyebrow flash or smile.
[00:11:45] Jordan Harbinger: I think that this must be something that experienced criminals and spies have learned to do on command, especially — I mean, do you meet people who are like sociopathic or just really, really manipulative that have this stuff down patted almost to the subconscious level?
[00:12:00] Jack Schafer: Yeah, absolutely. Psychopaths can do it. Intelligence officers can do it. Criminals can do it because their livelihood relies on being able to get people to trust them. And that's another reason why I wrote the book. It's because I want to alert people to how con men gain people's trust. And once you're aware of how con men gain people's trust, then you can name it and claim it. You can say, "Aha, I know what that person's doing. Therefore, I'm going to stop them from doing it and be aware that they're taking advantage of me."
[00:12:32] Jordan Harbinger: So rapport is really the foundation of this. And throughout the show here, I want to learn not only elicitation, but how we recognize elicitation when it's being done to us, how maybe we resist it a little bit, or if that's even possible. This is one of those subjects where it seems very difficult to resist this sort of thing because you're relying — and we'll talk more about this in a bit. You're relying on psychological pressure that's already built in us. You're not saying, "Hey, Jordan, if you don't tell me this, I'm going to throw the book at you." And I go, "Ah, you've got nothing on me." You're like tickling my cognitive dissonance or whatever, to the point where I just can't stand it anymore and I want to get the truth out. Or you're making me want to tell you some secret or some information, right?
[00:13:13] Jack Schafer: Yes. And one of the techniques that we can get into right now is there's a human predisposition to correct others. So if I give you or I make a false statement to you, there's an overwhelming desire in you to correct me. And so if I want to get information from you, I will just give you what we call a presumptive statement. In other words, it's either a false statement or a true statement. But you're going to corroborate and say, "Yes, that's true." Or you're going to say, "No, that's not true. It's this." If I wanted to find out, say, your political affiliation. What I'll say is, "Oh, you're obviously a Republican," and there'll be an overwhelming desire if you're not a Republican to say "What? No, no, no, no. I'm a Democrat."
[00:14:00] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Like, "What makes you think I'm a Republican," right? Yeah.
[00:14:02] Jack Schafer: Yes. And I do that in my classes all the time because a student will make a good comment about something. And I'll say, during my elicitation classes, and I'll say, "Wow, that's pretty insightful for a junior or a sophomore." And I just remember this one girl, she just was biting her lip and trying not to say anything. And then finally she blurted out and she said, "I know what you're up to. And I'm not a sophomore, I'm a senior." And she said, "Now I feel better," because she was able to make that correction. So it's interesting that people have this overwhelming desire to correct other people.
[00:14:37] Jordan Harbinger: There's a rule — not a real rule, but it's sort of a general principle of the Internet where you might even know what this is called. Instead of saying, "Hey, how do I get this thing working? Somebody help me with this." What you do instead of posting a question, you post the wrong answer and then a thousand people will just sort of violently correct you online. Have you heard of this?
[00:14:58] Jack Schafer: Yeah, that's absolutely true. And where I first encountered this, this was when our scientists would go to China to give presentations. And what the Chinese scientists in China would do was they'd walk up to them and they would purposely show that scientists an erroneous equation, an erroneous fact, an erroneous computation or theory, and immediately those scientists will say, "What? No, no, no, you're wrong. This is how it's done because I'm an expert." And in order to demonstrate expertise, you have to prove that you're right and somebody's wrong. So they use that a lot. And what they do is it's like death by a thousand paper cuts because they get a little bit of information for every scientist and then pretty soon. That elicitation pays off and they can put that puzzle together.
[00:15:47] Jordan Harbinger: Right, so we're essentially using people's insecurities to get them to divulge. And like you said, death by a thousand paper cuts. This goes to another point you make in the book, which is if I'm getting a lot of information from you, at some point, even though I'm on a roll and I really want to keep going, I should probably pull back because there's going to be a point at which you say, "Wait a minute. Uh-oh, I better go. I better leave this dinner because I think this is — maybe I'm getting manipulated here," right? So we want to sort of find that line and pause and then change the subject and talk about, "Hey, do you ever watch movies?" "Yeah. My kid loves the Avengers. He's really into it right now. You have kids?" Something like that, right? Does that make sense, what I'm saying?
[00:16:25] Jack Schafer: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. What you want to do is you want to recognize it. And a lot of these techniques, people don't recognize because they're part of human nature. They're so much a part of us that we automatically do these things. We're on automatic response. So one of the things in the book that I stress is you've got to recognize that somebody's trying to elicit information from you. And once you recognize it and then you name it and claim it, you can say, "That elicitation technique is too presumptive. It's causing me to want to correct you. Therefore, I recognize it. Therefore, what's your favorite movie? What are your kids like? What's it like in this place?" And just change the subject.
[00:17:07] Jordan Harbinger: You're listening to The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Jack Schafer. We'll be right back.
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[00:19:26] That's not only a technique for me as an elicitor, or an information gatherer to stop before you recognize it and pull back, but it's also a defense mechanism whereby I go, "Huh, this person's — I think I'm divulging too much information. I can also change the subject." So it's both an offensive and a defensive technique at the same time?
[00:19:45] Jack Schafer: Yeah, absolutely. And it would save you from — you know, we take our students after four hours of instruction in the morning, we take them typically to a public mall. And we will assign them targets randomly throughout the mall. People are just randomly walking through the stores and through the mall and we'll tell our students, "See that person over there? Go get their date of birth. Go get their social security number. Go get their PINs for their computer and their bank accounts." And the students can do that within three to five minutes of meeting a stranger, which is incredible.
[00:20:16] Jordan Harbinger: That's scary, right? Of course, I had a jeweler robber on this show recently that was caught by the FBI. He said you guys do good investigative work. Go figure. And he used a lot of elicitation to case his targets. He would walk into a jewelry store and say something like, "Wow, I don't know, you got a lot of diamonds here for a place that doesn't even have cameras." And then the employees will say something like, "Oh, well, our cameras are hidden." He goes, "Yeah, but there's none of those little black orbs or whatever, where you hide the cameras," and they go, "Oh no, no, no, no, no. We have ours behind this mirror. This mirror has a camera on it. And that mirror has a camera on it." You know, meanwhile he's trying on jewelry or looking for something for his fiancee or whatever excuse he had. And he's going, "Oh, okay, so they just spot you right when you walk in," and they go, "Yeah. More or less, right when you walk in. We even see people outside. We've caught a couple of thieves. You know, they put their mask on outside and then they walk in," and he's like, "Okay, put the mask on in the car." That's what he's thinking, right?
[00:21:06] Jack Schafer: Well, we actually had an incident like that where I sent a student into a jewelry store, similar situation that you described. I said, "Go into that store and pretend you're going to rob that store and you're casing it."
[00:21:16] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, no.
[00:21:17] Jack Schafer: And he walks in and through elicitation, he says, "Wow, where are the cameras?" "Well, those are dummy cameras. They're really not working. It's just they scare people off." And he goes, "Oh, okay." And then he says, "Well, you mean I could walk out of this jewelry store with this $1,200 ring or thousand-dollar ring and you won't even have any pictures of me?" He says, "Better than that, we won't even report that to the police because the company's policies don't report anything under $1,200. [It's] shoplifting." Then the kid said, "Well, the mall security is around here." "No, they're never here." And he says, "Well, all the cash laying around, you must keep that safe." And he says, "No, the safe is actually broken. And there's $2,200 in the safe right now." So he walked out of the store. I'm sitting there. I can't believe it.
[00:22:00] Jordan Harbinger: Fire that guy, yeah, oh, my God.
[00:22:03] Jack Schafer: I wanted to go back and tell him, "Look, guy, you just gave up a lot of sensitive information that you weren't supposed to be giving strangers." But because we were there in exercise mode, you know, surreptitiously and we use that mall quite a bit, I decided against it and let it go.
[00:22:19] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Well, yikes, I guess you just tell the student, "Hey, don't tell anybody what store that came from when we give the example," because that's like saying, "Hey, they leave the keys in the door all night, 24/7. You can just walk in and take whatever you want."
[00:22:32] Jack Schafer: A lot of times people don't realize that they're in possession of sensitive information, especially at a lower level like he is. He's a clerk, he's selling rings and jewelry, and he doesn't realize that information he has can be useful in other aspects of the business and other aspects of life. So he readily gives it away because it has nothing to do with him.
[00:22:53] Jordan Harbinger: Right, so we sort of compartmentalize information based on our own needs, right? Like, "Well, since I'm not a jewelry store robber, I don't really care about this — this information that I'm giving away. It doesn't have a lot of value to me because I'm not thinking, 'How can I rob this store?'" And that's the danger. Is that what you're saying?
[00:23:11] Jack Schafer: Yeah. That's exactly what I'm saying. And that kind of segues into the next technique, which is the third-party perspective. We have a difficult time talking about ourselves. We're more alert when we talk about ourselves. So if I want to find out how you really feel, I will ask you about a third person. In other words, if I want to know, are you going to cheat on me? A student came up to me and said, "I want to know if my fiance's going to cheat on me. How would I do that?" I said, "If you ask him directly, 'Will you cheat on me?' Of course he's going to go to social norms and say, 'Of course I wouldn't cheat on you. That's just not right.' What's he going to say? 'Yeah, I would cheat on you, sweetie.' I mean, it's just not going to work that way."
[00:23:53] Jordan Harbinger: 'Statistically speaking, probably, given my past, almost for sure.'
[00:23:58] Jack Schafer: Yeah, that's not good for relationships.
[00:24:00] Jordan Harbinger: No.
[00:24:00] Jack Schafer: So people, when you ask them direct questions, they go to social norms and give you the answer that they think you're expecting. So what you want to do is ask about a third party. You'll say, "I have a friend named Mary Beth and her husband cheated on her. And that just struck me as odd." What you want to hear is, "Well, cheating is wrong and I would never cheat," but that's not coming from his heart. He may say, "If she wasn't being attentive or taking care of his needs, well, you know, it serves [her] right. The way she nags him all the time, it serves [her] right." So you think to yourself, "Wow, that could be a big problem. Because that's coming from his heart."
[00:24:36] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:24:37] Jack Schafer: And another student kind of played this out in the opposite way because she was sitting with her fiance and they were watching that. What is that? The Biggest Loser, where it's the TV show where whoever loses the most weight gets a prize or something. The boyfriend and her are looking at the TV, and he says, "If my wife ever got like that, I'd kick her to the curb." And she's thinking, "Well, I might have a weight problem at some point in the future. So I want to know: will he kick me to the curb?" And she noticed that was him referring to a third party, which means that's coming from his heart. So she asked him directly then, "Would you kick me to the curb if I gained weight like that?" And he said, "Oh, no, no, sweetie, I wouldn't do that because I love you." And she's thinking, "No, you don't."
[00:25:25] Jordan Harbinger: "I love you more when you're skinny, but I'd still love you!" Yeah.
[00:25:27] Jack Schafer: But anyway, so she came back to class and about a couple of months later, she said she broke up with him.
[00:25:32] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:25:33] Jack Schafer: It just alerted her to other things that she didn't see in him originally.
[00:25:38] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. I guess once you crack the veneer on that, you start to say, "Oh, he says a lot of horrible things about other people. Maybe I should pay attention to this." A cop I used to work with when I was in high school worked at a security company and he said, "If you want to find out if somebody's guilty of something and if they're sitting in front of you — instead of saying like, 'Did you do it? What's going on?' You can say like, 'What do you think should happen to the person who burnt down that house, that abandoned house?' And if they're guilty, they often hedge and they say something like, 'Oh, well, I don't know. I mean, it was abandoned and it might've been an accident or I mean, look, who knows? There could have been extenuating circumstances; maybe they really needed the insurance money or something like that.' But if they're not guilty, there's a lot more, 'I don't know. I don't care. Just cut them in half, lock them up, throw away the key. You could have killed somebody. What a crazy psycho, man. Just lock them up. We don't want people like that around.' You know, you see it's a very different set of answers."
[00:26:31] Jack Schafer: Yeah, that's an example of third-party perspective elicitation. And I've used that technique many times in my interrogations. The pollsters now have been wrong in this current election.
[00:26:44] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:26:45] Jack Schafer: So to make it more accurate, several polls asked, "Who are you going to vote for?" They'll pick a presidential candidate. And then they'll say — in this case it was Biden. And then they said, "Who do you think your neighbor will vote for?" And they said, "Trump." So that's a third-party perspective. And those polls were typically more accurate. Then when they ask people direct questions, especially in an environment, whether you reveal your political affiliation, you're going to end up one way or the other on the spectrum. So ask third-party questions, you get more accuracy because that's how people really think. It's not how the pollsters want them to answer. And that's called social bias.
[00:27:27] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. We talk a lot about bias on this show as well. Do you think that this works because there's less empathy for somebody who's not you? There's less understanding for a criminal if you're not the criminal yourself, I guess is what I'm trying to say.
[00:27:38] Jack Schafer: Yeah, we're egocentric. So we're more in tuned about how we think, how we feel, and we're less attuned to how other people feel. And so if we're less attuned to it, we care less about other people. So we're more predisposed to talk about other people versus ourselves. And, you know, one primary example of that is gossip. I mean, we readily talk about other people's faults, but how often do you walk in and say, "Boy, that was a lousy job I did. I was really lazy then and just cut the corners." Or, "I did something evil and I shouldn't have done that, that's for sure." People don't talk like that. They'll project it out onto a third person. So it's easier to talk about a third person than it is to talk about yourself.
[00:28:20] Jordan Harbinger: What's the way to actually put this into practice? Is it telling a story about somebody else or just merely asking a question that doesn't involve you directly or the other person directly?
[00:28:30] Jack Schafer: Well, typically elicitation doesn't use questions. Because what questions do is there's a two-step process in a question. If you ask me a direct question, I'm thinking, "What does he want? How's this information going to be used? Is it going to be used against me? Why is he saying this? What's his motivation?" And then of course, I'm going to come out with my sunshine answer and give you something that I think you want to hear. Because if I ask people — I often do this in training, I'll often ask somebody, "How much money do you make?" And of course, shields go up and it's impolite to ask for that. So what's another way to ask questions? And especially in the government environment, they're all on a GS scale. So I will say something like, "Gee, you look like you've got a lot of experience. You must be like a GS-7," which is very low on the scale. And of course, he'll say, "No, I'm not a GS-7. I'm a GS-12," or 13 or whatever their grade is. And I say, "Well, You must have a lot of experience. I'm a GS-11, step 3." "Oh, that's interesting. I kind of figured you had a lot of experience." And then you go to the GS scale and you know exactly how much they make.
[00:29:37] Jordan Harbinger: Right. It's online. Those scales are online because it's tax money, right? Essentially, so we get to peek at everybody's —
[00:29:44] Jack Schafer: Salary.
[00:29:44] Jordan Harbinger: That'll scare you right out of joining most government agencies. I remember thinking, man, I should do only this and do this and do this. And then I looked at my law school debt. And then I looked at the GS scale and I did a couple quick bits of math and I went, "No, thanks. I can't deal with this."
[00:30:01] Jack Schafer: In many respects, it's true.
[00:30:03] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:30:04] Jack Schafer: But you know, the thing that we have to talk about in elicitation is where do you put your elicitation in the conversation. It's called an elicitation sandwich. The first part of your elicitation principle is primacy. People remember the first thing they hear, see, and do. And then there's recency. People remember the last thing they heard, said, or did. So where do you want to put your elicitation is —
[00:30:26] Jordan Harbinger: Right in the middle, yeah.
[00:30:27] Jack Schafer: Right in the middle. And that, people have a tendency to forget. What's a good example of this? If you ask people, 'What did you do on your vacation?' They'll typically tell you the first part of their vacation and the last part of their vacation. And they have a tendency not to remember the middle part of their vacation. So a good elicitation is you start out with small talk and then you pivot toward your objective, insert an elicitation tool, and then small talk again.
[00:30:54] Jordan Harbinger: If you're trying to detect elicitation, I guess, do you ever have to talk or in the past, did you ever have to talk to, let's say a scientist that comes back from a speaking gig in China and you're going, "Okay, did you get approached by anyone? What did they ask you?" Is that a process, like a debrief process? Because I would imagine that there's a lot of times where a nuclear scientist or something goes and gives a talk and you kind of want to know "Who did you talk to? What did they ask you?" I mean, I've seen that in movies, but I'm just not sure how often it happens in real life.
[00:31:22] Jack Schafer: When I started debriefing the scientists who came from overseas, especially in hostile regions, you know, countries hostile to the United States, especially China, they would say, "No, they were really friendly. In fact, despite our cultural differences, we had so much in common." I'm going, "Ding, ding, ding. That's a red flag," because they're developing what? Common ground, which is development of rapport.
[00:31:45] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:31:46] Jack Schafer: And once you get people to like you, then they're more apt to give you additional information. There's one strange thing about friendship. If I can get some stranger to like me within five or 10 minutes, the brain automatically ascribes all the rights and privileges of a friendship that took maybe years to develop. That is one of those rapport-building techniques that predispose us to assign people privileges that we haven't earned. And so what I started looking at is how often did they talk to you. "What did they talk about? Did they present anything?" He said, "Oh, yeah. He gave me one of his papers. And I read it and made a few corrections, but it wasn't classified." I'm going like, "Whoa, Whoa, Whoa. What was the paper? What was it about?" And it turns out there is some nexus to some military applications. But they don't realize you see that they're being elicited.
[00:32:38] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, of course. They're not trained to do this in real time. Do you have to train people before they go overseas? Is that ever a thing? Like, "Hey, we're sending three scientists over to a conference, but they have to take this quick FBI course or this quick Jack Schafer course before they go, because it's part of our policy." Does that even exist?
[00:32:55] Jack Schafer: Yeah, it's not a Jack Schafer course, but it certainly is. What we do is we get notification of anybody with a clearance who goes overseas. We get notified, and then we will debrief them and say, "Be careful. Watch out for these techniques. They're very good at what they're doing. So we want you to name it and claim it. So when you go there, you'll be like, "Ah, I know what the guys — he's trying to build rapport with me. So let me be aware. Okay. Friends build rapport. That's good. But is there an overreach? Is he starting to use elicitation techniques to get me to reveal any information about topics that they shouldn't be discussing?"
[00:33:33] Jordan Harbinger: This is The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Dr. Jack Schafer. We'll be right back.
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[00:37:10] Don't forget, we've got worksheets for today's episode as well. If you want some of the takeaways, the drills, the exercises, all in one easy place. And this is a great episode to have worksheets for. That link is in the show notes at jordanharbinger.com/podcast. If there's an episode you want to get the notes for it, it's going to be this one and part two, of course. And now back to Jack Schafer.
[00:37:31] Actually, how often does it happen that you find that scientists or people with clearances go to China, Iran, wherever, and then you find that they have been approached? Does that happen a hundred percent of the time? Does it happen half the time? Is it rare?
[00:37:44] Jack Schafer: No, it's not rare. And it doesn't happen a hundred percent of the time, but it does happen enough where I take detailed notes. And when I debrief them to find out exactly what techniques they did. There's a lot that we can learn through the relationship between their translator and themselves when they go over there.
[00:38:03] Jordan Harbinger: What do you mean?
[00:38:04] Jack Schafer: Well, there's something called the personal relationship index. All relationships are built on four factors: proximity, frequency, duration, and intensity.
[00:38:13] Jordan Harbinger: Okay.
[00:38:13] Jack Schafer: So if we just are proximal with people, we have a tendency to like those people, even if we don't know them or don't talk to them. We have a predisposition to like that person. So if we share the same office, then we're going to have a predisposition to like one another, even if we don't talk. And then if we are frequently by somebody, then the more you're with somebody, the more they have a tendency to like you. And then to increase the likability, you want to add duration to it. So we'll frequently be with you, but we will be with you in extended periods of time. Because the more time I spend with a person, the more I'm able to influence that person. And then there's intensity to the relationship that's built on non-verbal factors, such as head tilts, mutual eye gaze, smiling, head-nodding, gestures per minute when we talk, whispering to one another, leaning into one another, touching one another, mirroring one another. Those types of things give us clues as to the intensity of that relationship.
[00:39:14] All the people that have had relationships, are in relationships, are going to have relationships, follow that personal relationship index. So we can tell people how to ingratiate themselves with other people. And that's what the Chinese and other intelligence officers do when they target Americans to spy. And we also do it with a person of interest. If you have a person of interest and you want to develop a relationship with that person, what you want to do is be in their proximity. If you just share the same space, they're going to like you. And then what you want to do is get frequency and then add duration and then add ever increasing things of intensity.
[00:39:56] You know, the example I like to use is my daughter was a homecoming queen in her high school. And what she did was — those guys will come around the house all the time.
[00:40:06] Jordan Harbinger: Which guys?
[00:40:07] Jack Schafer: The high school guys trying to date my daughter.
[00:40:09] Jordan Harbinger: Okay, got it. Got it. Okay.
[00:40:11] Jack Schafer: And so what they would do is they sniff and scratch around and I don't mind them being there frequently. It doesn't bother me, the proximity. They may be there often. It doesn't bother me, but when they start spending a lot of time there, it still doesn't bother me. But when you have intensity to that relationship. In other words, they're supposed to be watching a movie and they're looking into one another's eyes with their heads tilted. Then you know that intensity in that relationship's increased. And that's when you tell that kid, "Pack your trash and get out of here. Don't come back, because I know what you're up to." My daughter didn't like it because a lot of time — my favorite tactic is those guys will come to the front door and knock on the door. I'd open the door and they'd say, "Hi, Mr. Schafer. Is Brooke home?" I would say, "Yes, she is." And then I'd close the door.
[00:40:57] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. "First of all, it's Dr. Schafer. Secondly, have I shown you my shotgun collection? Why don't you come on upstairs?"
[00:41:03] Jack Schafer: They figured out a new technique. I remember the first time my daughter went out with this one guy, I just reached down and I grabbed his knees and he says, "What are you doing?" And I said, "I'm just figuring out where to swing the bat when you come home late with my daughter."
[00:41:16] But that personal relationship index is something that we can use to gauge relationships with people. And then if you go overseas, the scientists, they don't spend a lot of frequency with you cause you're only there over there perhaps for a week. So what they do is they spend all day with you and they develop a close relationship with you. They get to know you. If you have a couple kids, they have a couple of kids. If you have certain interests and hobbies, they have certain interests and hobbies. So they're going to mirror you and we call that common ground, so they're going to find common ground so that you will become friends. And then once you become friends with them, then they will start introducing elicitation techniques.
[00:41:57] Jordan Harbinger: Ah, because then you like them and the door is open and your guard is down.
[00:42:01] Jack Schafer: Yes.
[00:42:01] Jordan Harbinger: Interesting. That makes sense. And of course, the ego, right? We can't keep secrets. It's ego gratifying to have a secret. We want to tell other people. We want to be helpful. So they're pushing or pulling all these psychological levers all the time.
[00:42:14] Jack Schafer: Secrets are actually very difficult to keep because information is power. And in order to exercise power, I have to tell you I have a secret because if I have a secret and you don't know I have a secret, I don't have any power. In order to let you know I have power, what I'm going to do is say, "Hey, I know a secret you don't. And if I tell you I'd have to kill you. So don't ask me, but I have a secret." And I'm like, "Okay, why would you even divulge?" I know a lot of secrets, but I used to have to come home when I was working. And my wife and kids would ask me, "What'd you do all day?" "Nothing, sat around, read the newspaper." And you can't really tell them what you — you can't even say you're doing secret stuff because then you're going to expose yourself to possible recruitment because once we have — to demonstrate that we know a secret, to enhance our ego, then our ego becomes a vulnerability for us to be recruited by somebody else.
[00:43:11] Jordan Harbinger: That must be really difficult because even if you're not an arrogant person or a proud person, that pressure still exists, right? You don't have to be an egomaniac to have your ego become a problem in a job like that.
[00:43:22] Jack Schafer: No, not at all. And that's a vulnerability that a lot of people that I recruit, I look for that vulnerability and I'm sure they're looking for that same vulnerability in me. So you just have to be aware of that. When you keep a secret, it causes anxiety and then our body seeks equilibrium. So what we want to do is we want to relieve ourselves of anxiety to return to equilibrium. And in order to do that, I have to tell you I know a secret.
[00:43:48] Jordan Harbinger: Right. Okay. That makes sense.
[00:43:50] Jack Schafer: And typically, if we want to find out what secret somebody knows, we always go to their best friend. And how do we know that? Because that's the person they trust and they will probably let that person know what they did. So that's an outlet for them to relieve themselves of that anxiety. So using a personal relationship index, we can remotely profile who the person's best friend is, and then elicit information from them as to their relationship to somebody else.
[00:44:17] And that's another reason why spies have a very difficult time, especially American spies. They have a very difficult time not telling somebody that they're a spy because they have all this anxiety. And because you're leading a double life and you're being a traitor of your country, so who do you tell that you're a spy? You can't tell anybody you're a spy. You can't tell your wife. You can't tell your priest. You can't tell anybody you're a spy. So what people typically do to cope with that anxiety is smoke a lot of cigarettes, drink, use drugs, and get into behaviors that are self-destructive behaviors to relieve themselves of that anxiety. And that's what we look for.
[00:44:55] Jordan Harbinger: Ah, interesting. Another really interesting technique from the book is cognitive dissonance. I would love to define this and use this to get information. How do we use cognitive dissonance to get information? Because this is probably one of the most useful everyday examples of elicitation that I think anybody could deploy immediately.
[00:45:13] Jack Schafer: Yeah, with cognitive dissonance, we cannot possess two incongruent ideas. In other words, we have an idea of how we are and we have an idea of how people see us. And those two ideas have to be congruent in order to relieve anxiety. But if we have an idea of ourselves and somebody else has a different idea of how they see us, then that causes cognitive dissonance because we can't live with two incongruent ideas. So we have a tendency to do is — we either agree with that person and say, "Yes, maybe I should correct my behavior. And maybe I'm the person you say I am. So I have to make the change." Or, "I can try to convince you that I'm not the person you think I am," or the third thing is I can outright dismiss you.
[00:46:02] And a good example is this. I teach a writing class at Western Illinois University. And all the students who come into my class think they're good students, good writers. And I say, "No, you're not a good writer. Your writing is very substandard." And some of the kids will do what causes cognitive dissonance. They think they're good writers. I tell them that they're not good writers, cognitive dissonance. So what they'll do is they'll either fight the whole semester to try to convince me they're a good writer, or they will say, "Yes, my writing sucks. And how do I get it better?" Or they will outright dismiss me and just say, "You're crazy. You don't know what you're talking about."
[00:46:39] So either one of those options reduces that anxiety of cognitive dissonance. And I'll give you an example of what we used to do when we used to interview high-value targets from the Middle East. And the trick to cognitive dissonance is you get that person to establish their baseline. In other words, I would go up to a person, a high-value target, and I say, "What does it take to be a good Muslim?" And they will tell me one, two, three, four, five pillars. They'll tell me some other things; you're not supposed to hurt women and children, Muslim women and children. They have it all listed out, what is it to be a good Muslim. And then what you want to introduce is, "Well, when that bomb you planted blew up, you killed Muslim women and children." So now that causes cognitive dissonance because they've established a good Muslim can't kill women and children. So now they have to rationalize why the mothers and the children died. So during that rationalization process, they will then reveal a lot of information.
[00:47:37] Jordan Harbinger: Interesting.
[00:47:38] Jack Schafer: I guess, a more down-home example is I was teaching a class. In fact, it was up in Canada. And I was teaching elicitation and the one woman in class, she says, "I want you to demonstrate how that works, because I don't think that works." So I said, "Okay." I said, "Are you a mother?" She said, "Yes, I am." And I said, "What does it take to be a good mother?" And one of these things she told me among other things is to be with your children all the time. And I said to her, "So you volunteered for this job, right?" "Yes." "You knew you'd be TDY most of the time, which is temporary duty assignment. You'd be away from home a lot of times on business." She goes, "Yes." And then she caught herself in one, "Wait a minute. I am a good mother." And she actually started crying because she did not live up to the expectations that she set for herself as being a good mother. So that caused cognitive dissonance in her. And so what she attempted to do was to tell me, and try to convince me that, although she has this job, she is a good mother.
[00:48:38] And she went on to reveal, "I think a woman should be able to go out and work. I think she should do this and fulfill this." And she gave me all this personal information she gave me because she wanted to rationalize why she was a good mother.
[00:48:50] Jordan Harbinger: Yikes. so we introduced this. We kind of — is it poking a bruise? It's almost like that, right? And then people will then defend themselves by explaining out loud their rationalization and therein lies the information that we're looking for, some of the time.
[00:49:04] Jack Schafer: Right. You can do it with status elevation. My son and I went to a bookstore once. And there was an author over there and she seemed nice, but there was nobody over by the table. So I said, "Let me go over there and talk to her." And I kind of thumbed through the book and I looked at it and I said, "Hmm, this is very Jane Austen-esque like book that you wrote." Now, she knows she's not Jane Austen and she can't live with that dissonance. So what does she have to tell me? She then went on to tell me, "Well, I'm just learning how to write. This is my first book and I have a husband who's in the military and I don't have much time to write because I have three kids and he's deployed." And she goes on and on and on and tells me the whole story of her life. And I go, "Wow. You have a very interesting life and you're able to write too." She revealed a lot of information to resolve that dissonance, trying to convince me or herself that she in fact is not like Jane Austen.
[00:49:57] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, because there's an uncomfortableness associated with her status being elevated above her own estimation of where her status should be as a writer.
[00:50:04] Jack Schafer: Yes.
[00:50:05] Jordan Harbinger: Is it a rule that then status should be deserved, not made to butter them up because that would trigger their defenses, right?
[00:50:11] Jack Schafer: Yes. Well, even when you try to butter somebody up by elevating their status, they know they're not where you say they are, and that will cause dissonance in and of itself. And what I like to do is if I know somebody is a Democrat and I'll talk to them for a while, and then I actually, "Geez, a lot of your ideas are Reagan-esque like. Ronald Reagan had a lot of those same ideas," and they will just go off on me and say, "I'm not a Republican. I believe this, this, and this. And I do this and I do this." And they'll spend five, six, seven minutes trying to convince me that they're nothing like Reagan. And all I did was cause cognitive dissonance and then they were predisposed to rationalize their being a Democrat. And in that rationalization, they reveal a lot of personal information that I'm looking for.
[00:50:59] Jordan Harbinger: I've got some thoughts on this episode, but before we get into that, here's a sample of my interview with astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. We talk about why an interest in science serves every field of expertise from law to art, what our education should ideally train us for. Here's a quick look inside.
[00:51:15] Neil deGrasse Tyson: Walt Whitman.
[00:51:17] When I heard the learn'd astronomer,
[00:51:19] When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,
[00:51:23] When I was shown the charts and diagrams to add, divide, and measure them.
[00:51:29] When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much applause in the lecture room,
[00:51:35] How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
[00:51:39] Till rising and gliding out. I wander'd off by myself.
[00:51:44] Into the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
[00:51:48] Look'd up in perfect silence at the stars.
[00:51:54] The same curiosity you have as a kid but I just have it as an adult. I've had it since childhood. You don't have to maintain it, you just have to make sure nothing interferes with it. So the counterpart to this would be.
[00:52:07] Oh, sir, literate one, why ruin what something looks like by describing it with words when I can see it fully with my eyes? Your words just get in the way. I'd rather my mind float freely as I gaze upon something of interest than have the writer step in between me and it, and interpose his or her own interpretation.
[00:52:29] You don't know the thoughts that you're not happy. What keeps me awake is wondering what questions I don't yet know to ask because they would only become available to me after we discover what dark matter and dark energy is. Because think about it, the fact that we even know how to ask that question, that's almost half of the way there. But I want to know the question that I can't know yet.
[00:52:51] What is the profound level of ignorance that would manifest after we answer the profound questions we've been smart enough to pose thus far?
[00:53:02] Jordan Harbinger: For more, including how science denial has gained a global foothold, what it'll take for the US to get to Mars before China, and why it's dangerous for people to claim the earth is flat, check out episode 327 of The Jordan Harbinger Show with Neil deGrasse Tyson.
[00:53:20] All right. We're going to have part two coming up in just a few days. Go and check that out. For sure this is — like I said, it's really a rich episode. Links to everything is always in the show notes. If you buy the book, the link is in the show notes. Please use those links. They help support the show. Worksheets for this episode — and you're going to want the worksheets for this episode — those are in the show notes as well at jordanharbinger.com. Transcripts are in the show notes. I'm at @JordanHarbinger on both Twitter and Instagram. You can also hit me on LinkedIn. Love connecting with you there.
[00:53:48] I'm teaching you how to connect with great people and manage relationships, using systems and tiny habits. And then you can use your elicitation skills on them. That's over in our Six-Minute Networking Course, that course is free. Not enter-your-credit-card free, just free, free. Jordanharbinger.com/course is where it's at. Dig that well before you get thirsty.
[00:54:07] This show is created in association with PodcastOne. My amazing team is Jen Harbinger, Jase Sanderson, Robert Fogarty, Millie Ocampo, Josh Ballard, and Gabriel Mizrahi. Remember, we rise by lifting others. The fee for the show is that you share it with friends when you find something useful or interesting. If you know somebody who's into persuasion or elicitation techniques, or is in law enforcement or just has teenagers, share this episode with them. Salespeople, doctors, medical personnel, all are going to get a lot out of this. Hopefully, you find something great in every episode of the show, please share the show with those you care about. In the meantime, do your best to apply what you hear on the show, so you can live what you listen, and we'll see you next time.
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