During the Cold War, U.S. spies monitored the Soviet press for valuable information.
One day, they discovered that a Russian magazine had shared a recipe for coot (a small bird that is commonly consumed in Eastern Europe).
Seems harmless enough, but for the CIA, the recipe meant disaster.
You see, the CIA had an agreement with a Russian double agent code-named Top Hat.
The Russian spy was named Dmitri Polyakov. For almost 25 years, the Soviet military officer had been providing information to the U.S.
Dmitri had provided documents and information to the U.S. related to China and Soviet weapons. He was credited with keeping the Cold War from escalating.
The agreement was that Top Hat would publish the recipe when he needed to get in touch with the CIA.
But when he published the recipe in the Russian magazine it was the last time the U.S. would hear from him.
The CIA first worked with Dmitri when he reached out to them. He was stationed at the Soviet Mission to the U. N.
He was upset at the corruption and failure of the Soviet leaders. The only thing he received for his espionage work was $3,000 a year. But it wasn’t in cash.
Instead, Dmitri was paid with Black & Decker power tools, fishing gear, and guns.
Fishing was one of the ways the CIA officers gained the trust of Dmitri. He even went on fishing trips where his CIA counterparts would also be nearby fishing.
To build trust, the CIA allowed him to choose his tactics and missions. One of the ways they exchanged information was by leaving documents under rocks.
His fishing rod also had a secret chamber for documents.
Year after year, Dmitri rose through the military ranks of the Soviet Union.
In 1980, Dimitri was summoned back to Moscow. Then he disappeared. This was about the same time that Russia had been arresting and executing spies.
Former CIA director James Woolsey said, “What Gen. Polyakov did for the West didn’t just help us win the Cold War, it kept the Cold War from becoming hot.”
The reality is that for 25 years Dmitri trusted his CIA counterparts, and they trusted him.
But building trust does not occur overnight. It takes time.
Even though you aren’t trying to gain the trust of a spy, the ability to create trust with another person is a life skill that may come in handy someday.
So, here are a few factors to keep in mind if you are trying to gain someone’s trust.
When you are building rapport with someone never forget that people like to talk about themselves and their interests.
It’s okay to talk about yourself as well, as this will make the person likely to share more information if you do. It’s a way to make a connection.
If someone brings up a topic that you are well-educated in, don’t take control of the conversation. Add to it but let them do most of the talking.
Practice listening and letting them talk. They will feel a real connection with you, and all you’ve had to do is sit and listen to them talk about themselves.
Get a hobby:
To gain someone’s trust you need to have something in common. Maybe it’s sports or crossword puzzles.
As in the case of Dmitri, the CIA handlers knew he liked to fish, so they played upon this hobby.
Being well-rounded, you are more likely to have something in common with people you interact with.
Other people will likely find this interesting and may want to connect with you.
Give to get:
When you share a sad story with someone, they are more likely to share something similar with you.
What I mean is, if the person you are trying to gain trust from lost a loved one in a car accident, then you should share a personal story.
Maybe you lost a loved one to illness and can relate. The more comfortable the person feels, the more they will confide in you.
So, try to share something about your life that might trigger them to share something as well.
But, be careful when doing this as you should stick to the truth as much as possible. No matter how smart you are it’s impossible to keep too many lies going.
The more you can share that borders your real life, the easier it will be.
Building trust is one of the most important skills of a CIA officer. You can apply these same skills with your co-workers and others in your life.
The goal isn’t to deceive, but rather to make the person comfortable enough to share with you.
Being honest with the person about your interests and desires will go a long way in getting them to open up to you.
You never know when having the trust of someone will be a vital asset to you, and in the case of emergencies, may help save your life.