Building Trust and Sizing People Up

Sizing People Up: How to build trust and strong relationships

How to Think and Operate like an FBI Behavioral Analyst

Robin Dreeke, former FBI Special Agent and Behavioral Analyst, founded People Formula, LLC to help people build lasting relationships and predict who can be trusted. Using his experience as a Behavioral Analyst for the FBI to recruit new spies, Dreeke shares his formula for behavior prediction with NetElixir. Creating lasting and trusting relationships is important now more than ever, as we will overcome the challenges of this year together.

Robin Dreeke, Founder of People Formula, LLC

Robin Dreeke, Founder of People Formula, LLC

Behavior Prediction

Dreeke’s formula is not about predicting trust, but predicting behavior. At the core of healthy relationships is predicting the other person’s behavior. Often, we’re already doing this subconsciously as we get to know people better and recognize their patterns of behavior. 

Humans are bonded in our goals to achieve security, prosperity, and wellness – but these all take different forms for each of us. Understanding the unique motivations each individual has to achieve security, prosperity, and wellness will give you a deeper comprehension about their future behaviors.

As Dreeke performed about 90-100 personality assessments each year during his recruitment years, he began to write down his process of strategizing trust to turn it into his book on Sizing People Up. The strategies noted were used both in Dreeke’s personal and professional life, as building strong relationships is crucial in all facets of our lives. At the heart of his strategy is to make it about the other person you are trying to connect with. 

Sharing security, prosperity, and wellness with one another is a simple human craving. We affiliate ourselves with meaningful groups, organizations, and families that fulfill these needs for us and share our values. We can demonstrate commitment to other another – employees, family members, business partners, etc. – by seeking their thoughts and opinions, talking in terms of each individual’s priorities, validating those priorities and contexts, and empowering them with choice. Simply put, make it about them.

Making it About Them

Dreeke says that 40% of our day is sharing our thoughts and opinions with others. In doing so, we are testing the world around us for acceptance. Upon receiving that acceptance, our brains release dopamine and fire up our pleasure senses. By engaging in conversations about the other person, you are getting their brain to reward them for spending time with you. The key to this, however, is truthful and transparent engagement. Engaging with someone and learning about them only to manipulate them down the road will not yield successful, trusting, and long-lasting relationships. 

Discovering someone else’s priorities and goals allows you to become an available resource in helping people achieve their dreams – and that is the key to lasting, trusting, and successful relationships. Be helpful and a go giver (two tenets key to NetElixir’s identity).

“The world became an easier place,” Dreeke says in reflection of his decision to help others achieve their goals with no expectation of reciprocity. With an expectation of reciprocity, the relationship skews back to you and then it is no longer about the other person.

People are easy to predict if you know and deeply understand their definition of security, prosperity, and wellness.

“This is not about manipulation, this is not about trickery, this is about understanding people at a core level, deep as you possibly can,” Dreeke says.

If you understand a person, then you can manage your expectations about them. You won’t set the bar too high and then grow angry or resentful when the other person does not meet your standard; negative emotions badly impact relationships. An appropriate level of expectation allows the other party to meet or exceed it. And if they do happen to fall short, Dreeke explains, then you have taken the time to understand them and you know something must have happened that hindered their performance. Knowing what you know, you can be a resource to them.

Signs Someone is Trustworthy

Predicting behavior = rational cognitive thoughts + observations

Intuition = liking + gut feelings

Predicting behavior is not intuition. We often want to trust people we like, but likeability rests on similar morals, ethics, beliefs, backgrounds, and interests, which turns into confirmation bias on trustworthiness. Same goes for disliking someone, as we assume we cannot trust someone we do not like. However, trust is about predictable behavior; through observing someone, we can reasonably predict what they would do in the next situation. Dreeke takes us through six signs to use in predicting behavior.


They are as invested in you as you are in them. Through their actions, deeds, and words, the other person is demonstrating that they are invested in your success as much as their own. By investing in you, they adjust to you, call in favors for you (leveraging their strong relationships with others), and share deep secrets with you.


People display signs of committing to a lasting relationship when they ask you to participate in long-term goals with them. They also typically say we instead of you or I, signaling they see you as part of their team. Pay attention to traditions and inclusions, as those also signal commitment.


Reliability showcases competence and diligence. Reliable people speak with specifics, accept responsibility, are transparent with their shortcomings, and demonstrate an ability to use the skills they speak on. Reliable people don’t have to be well-rounded; if they are competent in one lane, use them there. Allow people to be self-aware of their own shortcomings and capitalize on how their strengths will be advantageous. 


Actions illustrate past patterns of key behaviors. Trustworthy people fulfill requests quickly, live up to their obligations, and do not change their version of events when questioned. Again, they show self-awareness and can speak on why they act how they do. These people are accurate and consistent.


How someone speaks to you reveals insights into their trustworthiness. People who seek your thoughts and opinions, speak in terms of your priorities, validate you, and empower you with choices can be trusted. Why? Because they are using the same criteria you use to be a resource to them.


Stable people are hard to scare, impeccably rational, and happy with themselves. In times of stress, view how well they hold themselves together and respond. Obviously, people do respond to stress immediately, but note how quickly they compose themselves and return to center to consider how stable they are and will be in the future.

Dreeke summarizes that someone does not need to hit all these criteria in order to be trusted; use your own judgement in cases where people display high proficiency in one or two areas.

Key Takeaways

  1. Trust and healthy relationships are the key to moving forward with any objective.
  2. Demonstrating affiliation and value to others is the key to those relationships.
  3. Sizing People Up is about predicting behavior for deeper understanding.
  4. Each sign is important, but not absolute.

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