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Elicitation Techniques Taught By the FBI

Assumed Knowledge 
Using knowledge or associations in common with a person
Strengths: ​Build’s rapport
Weaknesses:​ Does not work if you do not have a true connection
Opportunities: ​Use this technique to make someone comfortable. Especially if they have never
worked with you before
Threats: ​Don’t fake it! Intelligent people can see when you are faking it and they will clam up.
Defeating the entire purpose

Provide a high and low estimate in order to entice a more specific number
Strengths: ​Helps to get facts and specifics
Weaknesses:​ Forces a guess and can be biased if the high and low used are not accurate
Opportunities: ​Use this technique when someone is providing answers, but those answers do not
have specifics or statistics.
Threats: ​If make the high too low or the low too high, then you are biasing their answer
Can you top this?  
Tell an extreme story meant to entice someone to want to top it
Strengths: ​Conversation starter
Weaknesses:​ Only works on the right person in the right situation
Opportunities: ​Use this to help uncover extreme situations or edge cases
Threats: ​Like any good fish story sometimes people exaggerate, make sure you confirm any facts or

Confidential Bait  
Pretend to divulge confidential information in hopes of receiving confidential
information in return. “Just between you and me…” “Off the record…”
Strengths: ​Works great while job shadowing or one on one conversations
Weaknesses:​ You need to be careful using confidential information in publicly shared requirements
Opportunities: ​Something
Threats: ​If the person doesn’t take the bait it can backfire on you

Criticize a system or process in which the person uses in hopes the person will
disclose information during a defense
Strengths: ​This technique can be used to help determine business impact or current state
Weaknesses:​ This will not be able to help you brainstorm new features
Opportunities: ​Use this technique on leaders and confident/cocky people
Threats: ​As always criticism can be taken badly

Deliberate False Statements / Denial of the Obvious:  

Say something wrong in the hopes that the person will correct your statement with true
Strengths: ​This technique can help confirm facts
Weaknesses:​ If it isn’t denied then others who hear the statement may take it as fact rather than
Opportunities: ​Use this technique to help get someone to get comfortable answering questions
Threats: ​This technique can easily lead to groupthink, so use it only in the right situations

Feigned Ignorance  
Pretend to be ignorant of a topic in order to exploit the person’s tendency to educate
Strengths: ​This technique can help induce brainstorming
Weaknesses:​ It doesn’t work if the other person doesn’t have the knowledge
Opportunities: ​Use this technique to induce brainstorming or to confirm assumptions
Threats: ​Intelligent people can see when you are faking it and they will clam up. Defeating the entire

Use praise to coax a person into providing information. “I bet you were the key person
in designing this new product.”
Strengths: ​Builds rapport
Weaknesses:​ It doesn’t work if the person isn’t open to praise
Opportunities: ​Helps to build someone’s confidence
Threats: ​Can backfire if it is insincere

Good Listener 
Exploit the instinct to complain or brag, by listening patiently and validating the
person’s feelings (whether positive or negative). If a person feels they have someone
to confide in, he/she may share more information
Strengths: ​Great for getting information from someone willing to share
Weaknesses:​ Cannot be combined with probing or asking for facts or proof
Opportunities: ​Use this technique to informally gather information
Threats: ​Conversation is practically unguided and is informal

The Leading Question  

Ask a question to which the answer is “yes” or “no,” but which contains at least one
Strengths: ​Great for proving or disproving facts or ideas
Weaknesses:​ Asking a leading question wrong can skew the answer provided
Opportunities: ​Use this technique to confirm or question a requirement
Threats: ​Can result in false or slanted information

Macro to Micro  
Start a conversation on the macro level, and then gradually guide the person toward
the topic of actual interest
Strengths: ​This helps people get to details that they are reluctant to start with
Weaknesses:​ This can be time-consuming
Opportunities: ​Use this technique when people are confused or nervous to start talking
Threats: ​This technique helps to get someone comfortable talking about the big picture and little by
little making them comfortable talking about the smaller details.

Mutual Interest  
Suggest you are similar to a person based on shared interests, hobbies, or
experiences, as a way to obtain information
Strengths: ​Builds rapport
Weaknesses:​ This technique only works if you have a common interest
Opportunities: ​Use this technique to create a bond
Threats: ​Like Assumed knowledge, don’t fake it! Intelligent people can see when you are faking it
and instead of building a rapport you created a breach of trust.

Oblique Reference  
Discuss one topic that may provide insight into a different topic
Strengths: ​Easy way to guide or change the topic of conversation
Weaknesses:​ Doesn’t work unless someone takes the hint without noticing
Opportunities: ​Use this technique to steer a conversation without being obvious
Threats: ​If it is noticed, it can backfire

Opposition / Feigned Incredulity  

Indicate disbelief or opposition in order to prompt a person to offer information in
defense of their position
Strengths: ​Also called the devil's advocate, it can help you raise understanding or find new ideas or
Weaknesses:​ People can get very touchy when someone questions their beliefs or opinions
Opportunities: ​Use this technique to ensure all sides of an idea or problem have been thought
Threats: ​If not done right, it can ​exacerbate misunderstandings

Provocative Statement  
Entice the person to direct a question toward you, in order to set up the rest of the
Strengths: ​Gets the conversation going
Weaknesses:​ These can lead to strong opinions and conflict if kept unchecked
Opportunities: ​Use this technique to inspire critical or disruptive thinking
Threats: ​If the provocative statement is too far, it can backfire

Questionnaires and Surveys  

A series of questions used for gathering information or statistics
Strengths: ​These​ ​are a much faster and cheaper way to collect information and data than conducting
an interview
Weaknesses:​ Without being able to observe the person answering you do not know the tone, body
language, or intent behind a given answer
Opportunities: ​Use this technique to get answers or data from a large group
Threats: ​People tend to be very curt or short when completing surveys

Quote Reported Facts  
Reference real or false information
Strengths: ​This is a great technique to get a group to believe a given fact or statistic. It can also be
used to prove or disprove a fact or statistic
Weaknesses:​ If not done correctly this can have a bad ripple effect of false information becoming
believed facts
Opportunities: ​Use this technique to confirm or disprove data or information you have been given
Threats: ​If the quote is not true, your quoting it has made people believe it to be true

Ruse Interviews 
Asking to speak to someone about one thing, only to ask about a completely different
Strengths: ​Will help get someone talking about on topic so they can start talking about another
unrelated topic
Weaknesses:​ People get frustrated when tricked
Opportunities: ​Use this technique to catch someone off guard or get a busy person to talk to you
Threats: ​Tricking anyone can lead to a breach of trust

Target the Outsider  

Talking to someone completely unrelated 
Strengths: ​Helps you get information from a different angle
Weaknesses:​ Rarely is this even possible
Opportunities: ​Helps to get information when everyone else does not have time
Threats: ​Can make someone feel like you are going behind their back

Volunteering Information / Quid Pro Quo  

Give information in hopes that the person will reciprocate
Strengths: ​People are more willing to share information with you if you have shared information with
Weaknesses:​ You need valuable information to share
Opportunities: ​Use this to help start back and forth conversations
Threats: ​Quid Pro Quo has a bribery side to it if done incorrectly

Word Repetition 
Repeat core words or concepts to encourage a person to expand on what he/she
already said
Strengths: ​Repeating something can give it a higher value or meaning and makes others want to
also give it a better or more detailed definition
Weakness:​ Can get annoying and stunt conversation
Opportunities: ​Use this technique to get others in the room to pay attention to certain words or
phrases being said
Threats: ​This technique can be too subtle if done incorrectly it can make someone wonder why you
are fixating on it and put people on guard