What Makes People

Published: Tuesday 4th June 2013

A recent article in Marketing Week about post-pitch follow up made me think about why agencies win pitches, even though they might not necessarily have “performed” the best on the day.

Paul Arnold has written a great summary of ‘Click – The Magic of Instant Connections’ by Ori Brafman and Rom Brafman which describes just this phenomenon.

In a nutshell, the book states that we are not drawn to people by rational assessment, but emotional factors. People who connect better tend to be more successful, have more friends and work in teams that are more productive. In a world where building the quality of relationships is critical, how can one improve one’s ability to build rapport?

5 accelerators are identified in the book:
Vulnerability, Proximity, Resonance, Similarity, and Safety.

1. The power of “vulnerability”
Revealing our inner fears, weaknesses, builds trust because we are putting ourselves at emotional, psychological or even physical risk (metaphorically exposing our neck to them). It’s when we start to talk about how we ‘feel’ about something that we really start to engage at a deeper level with other people.

2. The power of “proximity”
The physically closer people are, the emotionally closer they are likely to become – you can’t start a conversation across a crowded floor. The growth of digital connectivity through Facebook, emails, Twitter etc. does not create powerful connections (digital allows for lots of misunderstanding which personal contact irons out). Actual physical proximity was found to significantly affect collaborations. In particular, proximity leads to spontaneous conversation. In today’s busy work schedule, some people strip out these types of conversations (yet they play a critical role in building relationships – and can set the tone/outcome of the meeting).

3. The power of “resonance”
The more we emotionally or energetically connect with a person, the deeper the resonance. Some people are just natural connectors. These people find other people interesting and are energised by them. Somehow they create magical connections – one feels ’touched’. They create a magnetic affiliation that draws us back to them. Being in the zone with another person is a most powerful level of connection. The outside world evaporates away – time seems to slip away effortlessly. When there is this ‘sense’ of connection, there is an energy flow. Indeed, there is a sense of euphoria as dopamines are released. It seems people who connect better are highly attuned to their environment and modulate their behaviour to suit the prevailing personalities/environment – a bit chameleon-like (whilst still being true to who they are). They also try to meet someone at the same level – neither superior nor inferior to them – being non judgemental – they allow the other person to be who they are. They drop their own ‘stuff’ and so they can be there for the other person. They make other people feel special.

4. The power of “similarity”
The more we have in common, the more we will connect. Research found the higher the number of similarities between two people, the greater the likelihood of liking one another – irrespective of the level of the attribute (i.e. high order values such as religion were no more important in defining likeability than lower order interests such as liking jazz music). Thus finding any point of similarity with another person helps improve connection.

5. The power of “safety”
The safer we feel with another person/environment the more likely we are to open up. And conversely, the more unsafe the outside environment, the more it pushes us together. We have an innate desire to belong and be part of groups. A key part of being a member of a group is the trust that needs to be between the members of that team. It’s key to create a safe environment that allows people to be vulnerable (and so connect better). The greater the trust, the stronger the bonds. And when that trust is broken, then the team becomes weakened.

Paul Arnold goes into much more detail in his summary and makes a very good point that ‘clicking’ with others cannot be reduced to a number of simple ‘success factors’ (something every business book tries to do). For him, it is about a mindset – a personal set of beliefs and values one holds about other people. Otherwise, the attempted connection is not authentic and people sense that a mile away!

Indeed, the reasons behind why we get on with some people better than others and why one agency ultimately wins a client even though their pitch performance was weaker on the day are highly complex. However, it is worth bearing in mind that “people buy people” and agencies ignore this fact at their peril.

To read more of this book summary and others or join the MBA book club contact Paul Arnold at paul_arnold@me.com

You can buy the book on Amazon:



Helen Costin – 4th June 2013