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Human Hacking + Social Engineering with Chris Hadnagy, Ep #195

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How do you improve your social experiences? How do you improve your communication? How do you win friends, influence people, and leave them better off for having met you? In this episode of Negotiations Ninja, Chris Hadnagy—a professional social engineer—shares the framework he created to do just that. If you’re striving to use your influence for the good of others, this is a can’t-miss episode.


Outline of This Episode

  • [1:53] From adversarial simulator to human hacker
  • [4:42] The apprehensiveness toward communication
  • [7:56] What additional tools do we need?
  • [11:15] You can’t teach what you haven’t tested
  • [19:40] Overcoming the fear of being manipulated
  • [22:42] How to ask, “Is this safe for me?
  • [27:17] The Amygdala’s role in the emotional landscape
  • [31:23] How to connect with Chris + learn more

From adversarial simulator to human hacker

Chris started his career as an adversarial simulator. He got paid to hack companies and break into places. From that experience, he wrote a framework for social engineering. He looked at psychology, nonverbal communication, and influence and figured out how they applied to what he was doing for his job. Shortly after that, Kevin Mitnick’s publisher reached out to Chris to write a book. That book launched the company he runs today.

Twelve years later, he’s written five books. Over that time, he saw people from all industries attending his classes. He always asked why they were there. Everyone was told by friends and family that going to his classes would change their life. The nature of his latest book stemmed from that concept. Everyone benefits from this knowledge.

The world’s apprehensiveness toward communication

Chris points out that even pre-COVID, we communicated more with a digital presence. The internet has empowered us. There are things that people would say over the internet that they’d never say to your face. Chris had the opportunity to do a TEDx Talk, and someone commented on his video that he was a fat slob. No one would say that in person. People aren’t rude like that in normal life. Someone came to Chris’s defense and pointed out the comment was quite rude. But this man felt empowered to argue his point.

People that are racist, misogynistic, or homophobic feel empowered to say whatever they want on the internet. Why? The internet affords them anonymity, and they don’t worry about the consequences of their actions. That thought process has made communication and interaction self-centered.

COVID kicked in, and now everyone is doing everything on the internet. Chris points out that we’ve lost the ability for compassionate, empathetic in-person communication. We’ve lost the ability to think about what others want.

The book, How to Win Friends and Influence People is pivotal for many people and why Chris alluded to it in his book. It was written in 1936. He sought to answer the question, how can we bring lessons from that book to 2021? What do we need today that wasn’t available in 1936?

For me, the pivotal part of the title of Chris’s book is “…and leave them better off for having met you.” We are living in a “me, me, me” world that isn’t beneficial for creating additional value. This mindset is an extraction. It’s all about what you can get—not give.

Apply empathy to your communication

Chris emphasizes that we need to learn how to apply these skills on social media or in a video conversation. In video communication, you can’t see people’s hips or hands. But someone’s hips can tell you if they’re interested in you. Their hands can tell you if they’re feeling nervous. People have to learn how to communicate without all of the feedback they’d normally have if they were sitting in the same physical space.

Chris was in school the day the Challenger took off and blew up. He remembers they paused schools and made everyone take a moment of silence for the people who were lost. They took it off TV because they didn’t want kids to see it. Now, when you turn on the news, you see dead bodies. You see live footage of carnage. You’re seeing it happen. The way that our brains take input is different.

When was the first time you heard about a school shooting on the news? Chris felt sick to his stomach. Now, when you hear it, you go, “Wow, that’s terrible,” and move on with your day. Not because we don’t care, but because we hear these stories so much we’ve become calloused.

We need to be reminded that there is a person on the other end of your interaction. You don’t know what they’ve been through. You need to be aware of what’s happening in the world and how it may have impacted the person you’re interacting with. You can’t be self-centered.

Chris shares a story about how he put his framework into practice—getting free upgrades on his flight. Listen to hear his fascinating story!

Don’t use your superpower to manipulate

For Chris, in the beginning, it was a constant battle to remind himself to not be manipulative. When you first learn these skills, it feels like a superpower. You feel like a superhero. You have to see someone and know how they’re feeling and not call them out on their emotions. You need to leave them feeling better. How would you want to be treated?

If you notice that someone is sad—instead of calling them out—you can do something to make them feel better. He can lower the pitch of his voice and slow down his conversation. By using those nonverbal cues, you build rapport and communicate on a different level. Keep that motto in mind, and you won’t use your skills in a manipulative way.

It’s easy to use the superpower to extract something out of the relationship. But you have to focus on helping the other person and driving additional value. What if you feel like you’re being manipulated? How do you learn to protect yourself? What is the amygdala’s role in your emotional responses? Chris’s unique view of the human psyche is fascinating—don’t miss this episode.

Resources & People Mentioned

Connect with Chris Hadnagy

Connect With Mark

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