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Los Angeles and Denver

Need to build relationships faster to establish trust and close deals in less time?

Starting in a new school and want new friendships?

Do you have kids that don’t make friends easily?

Taking a new sales job that requires you do cold calling?

In a new job that demands you fit in fast?


Friends are a reward for playing nice and being kind. But, just playing nice or being kind isn’t any guarantee we will make friends. It is certainly no way to ensure you make relationships fast. Or, that you can hold onto any friendships you make!

Making friends with clients is critical for a person that’s expecting to have a lengthy and well-paying profession in sales. If your livelihood moves you around the globe or into different markets, having a base of friends to help you along is vital. Knowing how to make new friends quickly is a powerful skill. People rarely buy anything from someone they don’t form a relationship with, the simplest type being a friendship. Good quality friendships are priceless for everyone; even a celebrity needs close friends when the limelight’s fail.

To make friends, you can follow your gut, the teachings of the school of hard knocks to find answers, or we can observe others, and replicate what we see. These methods work but are inefficient and unreliable (and too complicated for children). The fastest path to answers about most things is searching for prior focused research and studying those lessons (the science of learning – The Study of Epistemology). Unfortunately, little is published on the topic of making friends and what is published suggests the “fake it till you make it” logic. Materials, the little that exists, can be found in the early reader’s section of your library. The type of adult self-help pervading popular culture preach many variations on the golden rule. What is presented here is specific and structured, the golden rule on crack!

Luckily, I had faced the problem of building relationships quickly in my job and with one of my four children some years ago. Anyone who’s got one or more of these developing young souls, growing up around them, know their personalities come in many types. One of mine exists an introvert with few or no real friends going into middle school produced unnecessary heartache for me. I asked him “Who is the last friend you made?” All I got was wide eyes and open mouth. Further asking “How do you make friends?” And he was similarly baffled. His responses crushed me.

So, we sat down and started to brainstorm topics. Here’s what we produced after a bit of organized trial and error:

The PUSH & PULL Behaviors Model:

The four PULL behaviors are intended to pull people into a conversation. These are the behaviors to use early in the relationship. The four are called Fishing, Enthusing, Wallowing, and Revealing.

Fishing is the first and most valuable of all behaviors. Put simply; one just needs to ask lots of questions to find areas of connection to our own. Each related area creates a tie line to the other person (if it helps you to remember, I think of summers fishing the deep sea out of Stone Harbor, NJ, we’d put 8-10 lines in and troll sometimes getting hits on every fishing line at once). Examples: ask where someone attended school, where he or she grew up, what goals they have in life, hobbies and interests they have, sports they play or follow, what they study, and what car they drive. Your imagination only limits the list. It’s important to gain permission to ask some questions or risk looking more like a police officer. Most times you can ease into many of these questions as part of any casual conversation. For instance, a simple introduction can branch right into something as simple as “where are you originally from?” Once the questioning has started, keep an eye on any body language that shows you’re getting pushy and stop when you see it.

Enthusing can be used as part of Fishing. For instance, you get an emotional answer that’s positively charged, and you can ask them to tell you more. Enthusing is when you get the other person to continue talking about things they are eager to discuss. The only rule here is to keep them talking when they bring up any topic they love – do not change the subject. One way to get them down this path is to ask what recently they’ve bought that they like. This line of questioning can also expose something about their interests, see Fishing above.

Wallowing is similar to Enthusing but occurs when an apparently negatively charged topic comes up. The rules are the same as with Enthusing, just keep them talking. The only error many people make is to offer suggestions on how to fix what’s bothering them. Suggestions are push behaviors and should not be used when building a new relationship early in the process. The more you allow someone to complain, the closer they will feel towards you. The impact on a relationship following this behavior is surprising. I’ve done this without saying more than “tell me more,” and had the person treat me like their best friend at the end of the conversation. Amazing! I’ve even had people thank me for letting them getting something off their chest, saying how much better they felt – even though it sounded more like they needed to get professional help throughout the complaint session.

Revealing is the bumpiest of the behaviors because most people aren’t happy sharing their secrets with strangers. But, doing this is an ideal way to find out if your effort to create a new relationship is useful. The test is to reveal something about yourself, that’s related to your conversation, and see if they offer some secret of theirs in exchange. The juicier the secret, the better. Here’s where the sixth toe or the glass eye can help! PS – stay away from heated subjects like politics and religion, few are interested in discussing those topics early on if at all.

Next are some Behaviors to Dodge early in the relationship development phase (only after a relationship is established they can be used sparingly). Or, another way to think of the next group of behaviors is to say “use PULL behaviors to earn the right to use PUSH behaviors.”

The four PUSH behaviors carry a high risk of pushing people away. But, used at the right time, they add to your tools in building relationship power. The four Push behaviors are Suggesting, Reasoning, Asserting, and Coercing.

Suggesting is the one behavior most people use when someone Wallows, but should always be avoided unless dealing with a minor. For it to work you need to be speaking with someone who already knows you a bit or is in a position of power below you. They need to accept your expertise in the area you plan to discuss and feel good enough about you to listen to things they may not immediately agree with with you about. The other problem with this behavior is tied to an old proverb that states – “the teacher will arrive when the student is ready.” So, you may have some excellent advice to offer, and that’s great, but keep it to yourself. Have you ever broken the rules around this behavior? We all seem to break the rules of this too frequently.

Reasoning is a behavior that’s self-explanatory, similar to Suggestion but with some Socratic Method (Questioning method introduced by Socrates) mixed in. Use questioning to draw people towards the answer to the problem or challenge that faces them. This way they will think that they responded to the issue for themselves. Use this in coaching; it works best there. If interested in this method, I’ve found the best tool is to read Plato’s Republic (The Republic by Plato). The Republic is written in the Socratic Method, so it’s a great way to jump into the deep end of this powerful technique.

Asserting means just what it says and requires a high level of certainty and confidence. You will be adding value, but only if the person respects you enough all ready to accept what you’re saying. Also, you want to recall the proverb above.

Coercing should be used only as a last resort. But, this command and control type of behavior is perfectly acceptable when the time is the variable that is the constrained resource (i.e. you need to make sh*t happen quickly). Many people believe this is a negative behavior, but that’s not true. We are all raised with this behavior – reasoning or suggesting to a child is ineffective and just bad parenting in many cases. So, we’ve been programmed to accept a certain amount of coercing without it being negative by our parents very early in life. Doing this right offers us a chance to deepen relationships to a point usually left to our parents. Finally, our subconscious is required to do little thinking when faced with this behavior, and since the brain is an energy efficiency organ, we provide it with everything it needs when coercing someone (i.e. you don’t need to think much when you’re ordered around).

Moving Beyond the PUSH AND PULL behavior model:

Mirroring (beyond body language):

Most have heard of mirroring, and many have even used it. Done right and we secretly help others feel comfortable when they meet us for the 1st time. But, there’s more to it than you heard. For instance, did you know that anti-gravity behavior of feet (e.g. bouncing up in the air with crossed legs) is a sign of real excitement? The feet say more than all of the upper body! Feet firmly planted can mean a person isn’t excited and wants you to leave (avoid that body language yourself since their subconscious might pick up on this signal). You can also style your language to suit your target – like speaking quickly with a quick talker, slower with a slow talker. You can talk softly with a low talker, loud with a loud one. You should pay close attention to their word choice as many people use visual words (e.g. I like how that looks), and others use feeling words (e.g. that seems like the right solution); still, others use auditory words (e.g. that sounds good). Using similar word types with someone you’re working to build a connection with is a powerful way to improve your relationships. Keep top-of-mind that these will all fail if they sense what you’re doing. A similar area to study is the field of micro facial expressions (Test your ability to read someone’s face)– Sent from our faces to others in just fractions of a second, many of our “secret” feelings are on full display.

The Bank Account Model:

Many people are takers, and many are givers – both separately are the wrong way to build friendships. A better model is what I like to call the Bank Account Model. It’s simple too! Just think of all the things you do for someone else and make sure that value is always more than the cost you ask from them. Think about making deposits in their emotional bank account and trying to make fewer withdraws. Be sure you measure from their point of view and not your own. The value should always be from their point of view. I wonder how many failed marriages might have been saved if they’d followed this modest counsel.

I hope this information helps just one person win a friend, be a better friend, improve their skills as a salesperson, improve a partnership, create a closer bond to their parent, make a healthy relationship with their boss, communicate better with a teacher, coach someone more effectively or improve whatever their role is in someone else’s life.

That introvert son of mine is still on the quiet side. But, he and I have talked many times since about making friends. He tells me that when he wants to make friends, he just follows the same pull behavior ideas we came up with so many years ago. He claims that all the ideas we came up with still work for him. And for me, there’re no fears of anyone I work with having any trouble making friends with our clients!

Let me know if you have your own method to build up relationships. This is a very interesting topic to me and I would appreciate your inputs. What do you do to build connections with others?

Post Author: Jonathan D Freeman

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