November 29, 2017

JF1184: The Science And Psychology Of Connecting With People

As a clinical psychologist, Dr. Shuster deals with patients that have a variety of mental health issues. Even still, his focus when working with them, is helping them to the best of his ability. He tells us that by adopting that mindset, and putting others first, we will inevitably achieve whatever it is we are trying to achieve. We’ll also get some tips on how to connect with people, and why it feels good to help other people succeed. If you enjoyed today’s episode remember to subscribe in iTunes and leave us a review!


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Dr. Richard Shuster Background:

  • Clinical psychologist & Host of the Daily Helping Podcast, whose guests helps listeners become the best version of themselves
  • As a media expert, his clinical expertise and podcast have been featured in The Huffington Post, Reader’s Digest and many more
  • He conducts forensic and neuropsychological assessments for children and adults.
  • Worked with patients from the Cleveland Clinic and assessed NFL players as part of the league’s concussion protocol with his work in neuropsychology
  • Recent article quoted in
  • Say hi to him at
  • Best Ever Book: The One Thing by Jay Papasan


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Joe Fairless: Best Ever listeners, how are you doing? Welcome to the best real estate investing advice ever show. I’m Joe Fairless, and this is the world’s longest-running daily real estate investing podcast. We only talk about the best advice ever, we don’t get into any of that fluff. With us today, Dr. Richard Shuster. How are you doing, Dr. Richard?

Dr. Richard Shuster: I’m doing great, Joe. Thanks for having me.

Joe Fairless: Well, my pleasure. Nice to have you on the show. You’re going to give a different spin on our interview approach or content matter, compared to what we usually do, because Dr. Richard is a clinical psychologist and the host of Daily Helping Podcast. The Daily Helping Podcast mission is simple – it’s to help you become the best version of yourself possible, and in doing so make the world a better place.

As a media expert, his clinical expertise and podcast have been features in Huffington Post, Reader’s Digest and many more. He conducts forensic and neuropsychological assessments for children and adults, and he’s even worked with and assessed some NFL players as part of the league’s concussion protocol, in his work in neuropsychology.

With that being said, Dr. Richard, do you wanna give the Best Ever listeners a little bit more about your background and your current focus?

Dr. Richard Shuster: Absolutely. You touched on all the high points and the five-dollar words as a part of that, for sure. So my training is in clinical psychology with sub-specialties in forensic and neuropsychology; that’s where I do a lot of my practice. But what I’m really excited about is what I’ve been doing with the podcast, because the podcast is focused principally, like you said, on helping others become the best versions of who they are and make the world a better place… But within that, we’ve got a movement going on, which is to get a million people each and every day to commit acts of kindness and post it in their social media feeds using the hashtag #mydailyhelping. When we get to one million, we’re gonna go to five, and when we get to five, we’re gonna go to ten, and so on.

Joe Fairless: How many do you have now?

Dr. Richard Shuster: Right now we’re in the thousands, so we’ve got a ways to go, but we’ve only been doing this movement for a couple of months, so we’re starting to see some traction there.

Joe Fairless: Okay. So you’ve got the higher-level macro approach for what you’re focused on. I don’t wanna put words in your mouth, but I believe, based on what your podcast is focused on – becoming the best version of yourself and in doing so making the world a better place, and so how that comes to life is through this movement of doing acts of kindness on a regular basis… Is that basically the gist?

Dr. Richard Shuster: More or less. It’s really kind of two sides of the same coin. In essence, if people are doing what they love, if people have freedom, if people have freedom, if people are happy, then they’re not gonna be going around angry and selfish, they’re gonna be focused on doing things with their extra time, with their extra resources, to improve their communities, their families and things around them. It’s kind of like a chocolate and peanut butter sort of thing – they’re good by themselves, but they definitely go great together.

Joe Fairless: I could definitely go for a peanut butter cup right now, if you said that… [laughter] Alright, well from an investor standpoint, I’ve read recently an article that you were quoted in, and that is the neuroscience behind choosing a real estate agent, and that was a natural jump for me to then think about talking to you about the  neuroscience behind choosing a buyer… So in the scenario of if we are selling a property and we have multiple buyers, how does the seller choose the buyer when there are multiple buyers? There’s many variables involved, obviously – price and terms and all that – but from a scientific standpoint, based on your expertise, what are some things we can do to position ourselves in a way that gives us as much of a competitive advantage within your sphere?

Dr. Richard Shuster: One of the things that I think is important is our connectedness with others. I imagine that a lot of these transactions sometimes take place even without the face-to-face interactions, or over the phone, with facts…

Joe Fairless: Yeah.

Dr. Richard Shuster: So you’re at somewhat of a disadvantage that way, because when you’re just dealing with phones and facts and e-mails and numbers, you can lose some of the humanity in that. What would happen is if we have the opportunity to get to know some of these potential buyers and actually talk with them and find out what their interests are, when we shift our focus towards the focus of somebody else, that automatically causes some changes in the brain. And what’s really interesting is that we’ve actually seen research that shows when we do things like this, our brains “sync up” with other people.

A great example of this would be if you went into a football stadium and you’re wearing whatever your team’s jersey is, and your team does a pick 6 and runs it back and squares a touchdown… You have people that don’t really know each other hugging and high-fiving – that’s crazy behavior, right? You wouldn’t see that on the street. But  in the sense that when there’s connectedness, when there’s a common goal, then you start to find that those walls start to break down and we intrinsically start trusting people that we think have our best interest at heart.

Joe Fairless: That’s very logical and I completely understand that. Was there something else you were gonna say? I didn’t mean to interrupt you.

Dr. Richard Shuster: No, that’s okay.

Joe Fairless: Okay. So when we’re bidding on a property and the seller has multiple offers, let’s now say that we are able — because the main thing in order to get the connectedness is you have to meet them, it sounds like. So if we don’t meet them, then this isn’t relevant… Or did I grossly over-simplify it?

Dr. Richard Shuster: No, you’re on point. It’s much harder — it’s just like if you were applying for a job and there were two like resumes; one was just on paper, but you couldn’t come to the interview because of distance or what have you, and then the other person with the identical resume showed up in person… Which one is likelier to get that position? It’s the same thing – it’s that human contact which is critical, if possible.

Joe Fairless: Unless they look like a slob.

Dr. Richard Shuster: Right. [laughs] Absolutely.

Joe Fairless: Okay, so now let’s tweak the scenario, so that now — when I originally asked the question, I was thinking multifamily, large apartment communities where you don’t really meet the seller in person very frequently, but a lot of the times you are on a call with them, but it’s a conference call where perhaps there are other people on the call… Is there anything you can do in that scenario?

Dr. Richard Shuster: That’s certainly better. It comes down to when you think about any type of transaction, somebody is buying, somebody is selling, and there is an emotional value attached to a number, essentially. So if somebody is going to buy a property, they are committed to X number of dollars and what that X number of dollars means to them. This obviously could be a little different if it’s commercial versus residential real estate. In my article, I was talking more certainly about residential, because in that instance you’re selling a home, you’re selling a shorter commute, a place to raise kids, and this sort of thing… But everybody has goals; nobody is in the commercial real estate game just for fun. They’re trying to generate profits, so even in that conference call setting, if you’re able to really try and get at one of the most important things that the other party is after – that’s the starting point.

If nothing else, it shows that you care about what’s important to them, and that’s helpful from — and there’s a tremendous amount of research that shows if one’s in sales, if one’s in negotiations, as soon as that other party feels as though their needs, their concerns, their interests are being addressed, they’re much more likely to do business with you.

Joe Fairless: Okay. Now let’s switch it up a little bit and let’s say we’re able to meet with someone in person, and we’re attempting to purchase the home that they’re selling, and there’s no real estate agent involved, we’re just working directly with the owner… And you might just say exactly what I’ve just said, but anything in particular when you meet with them in person, versus over the phone, that we can do?

Dr. Richard Shuster: One thing to be really mindful of is your body language, and there’s actually quite a bit of training in fact I had on one of the leading experts in this field on my show as a guest, Dr. John Garrison. Our body language – sometimes we’re not aware of it… For example, you walk in with your arms crossed, you’re automatically sending a message; so being open, referring to people by their first name – I know that sounds ridiculous to hear this, but we have to acknowledge the other person… So I don’t wanna go all the way and just say yeah, exactly what I just said, but be aware of your body language, watch their body language… You can see in talking to other people the changes in their facial expressions, their reactions… And there’s a degree of poker playing in this of course, probably likely around them than you, but the more that you’re aware of non-verbal communication, the further you can go in this game.

Joe Fairless: Two comments on that, and I know body language isn’t what you studied and it’s not your area of expertise, I don’t think – right?

Dr. Richard Shuster: No.

Joe Fairless: Okay, just wanted to make sure… But I’d like to hear your thoughts, if you have any, on these two comments – one on the arms crossed thing… I’ve noticed that I tend to cross my arms because I’m cold, when I’m sitting down; is that something I’d better just toughen up and put my arms to the side, or what?

Dr. Richard Shuster: Get a sweater, Joe… [laughs] No, essentially, again, there’s context to everything, right? But we know that research shows – and again, this is not my subspecialty, but certainly the research demonstrates that arms folded in particular is a closed off gesture… But it’s more than just the arms folded. Often times, if you think of the person who’s defensive with their arms folded, they’re going to have a particular on their face; maybe their brow is furrowed a little bit, they’ve got  a bit of a scowl or an intense, extremely serious look… So if you might be just a little bit cold, but you’re still smiling and engaging and listening to the other person, you’re gonna diffuse some of that.

Joe Fairless: Okay, noted. So basically I need to go to Old Navy to buy a sweater, and I need to go to 7-Eleven to get that peanut butter cup after this interview…

Dr. Richard Shuster: I think you’ve got a good list of things to do for this afternoon, for sure.

Joe Fairless: Yes, it sounds like it. And secondly, refer to people by their first name – one of the things that drives me bonkers is when someone is intentionally saying my first name over and over during our conversation. It’s so freaking annoying; it’s one of my top three pet peeves. So what are your thoughts on how to balance that?

Dr. Richard Shuster: Of course everybody is gonna have different things that are hot buttons for them. I think being genuine is essentially what I’m talking about. I think of an episode of The Simpsons from many years ago… You mentioned 7-Eleven, so this is a fun segue – when [unintelligible [00:13:03].25] he was trying to relate more to his customers, so he had a New York Mets hat, and it’s that NY… Do you remember this episode?

Joe Fairless: No.

Dr. Richard Shuster: Okay, so he’s wearing a hat and it says NY Mets, the New York abbreviation, and Homer walks in and he says “Mr. Simpson, how about those Ny Mets?” [laughter] I think you can be genuine, you can use somebody’s name and come across as a human being; that’s really what this is about. A lot of people are taught in sales in particular that you need to be this chameleon, you need to be able to get along amazingly with everybody, regardless of their political ideology or teams they root for, whatever… It’s nonsense. If you’re genuine, you’re not pretending to be someone else; if you’re genuinely interested in helping somebody else achieve their goals, that’s gonna shine through, and that’s what’s important.

Joe Fairless: Now I’m gonna go to a level deeper with your attempt to… What science, based on your expertise – and feel free to nerd out on us – backs up what you’ve just said, that if we come across as a human being, if we don’t pretend to be someone else, that will shine through? Which to me implies that we’ll connect better with people, and therefore most likely we’ll have stronger relationships which will lead to more business.

Dr. Richard Shuster: Okay, I’m only gonna partially nerd out… What I’m going to say is that the biological mechanisms that control our responses to reward, social attachment and aversion are ancient, they’ve been there forever. This part of the brain is called the mesolimbic pathway. So there’s different structures in there, but what happens is when we act from a position of genuineness, people start trusting us, right? Like, that makes sense, if we appear like we’re interested in them… Well, what happens when we do that is our hypothalamus – it’s a part of our brain – releases a hormone called oxytocin. What happens when oxytocin makes its way into the bloodstream is that it promotes increased feelings of trust, it reduces stress and anxiety, it actually boosts one’s mood, leads to relationship satisfaction… They’ve looked at oxytocin forever, in a lot of different ways, and everything that comes from it is good, it’s just awesome.

Basically, when we’re acting this way, in a genuine, helping way, the other person’s reward center of their brain starts lighting up like a pinball machine. The other piece of this that’s really exciting – and this is a little bit newer research, because we really couldn’t start doing this until we had the technology, when we could do real-time brain scans of people and see what’s actually going on when we engage in certain behaviors… But here’s what they found, Joe – if I were to give you $10,000 or you were to give me $10,000, if we hooked our brains up to imaging devices, the neurobiological reactions are identical. So giving, receiving, helping – these fire those reward areas of our brain, and instantly evoke feelings of trust, pleasure… Like I said, all of the good things that one would wanna feel.

Joe Fairless: How do you connect the dots when you’re talking to people and you don’t wanna go or don’t feel it would be productive to go in that type of scientific explanation?

Dr. Richard Shuster: Well, I stopped talking about hormones and brain structures, for sure… [laughs] But what I talk about – on my platform I’m genuinely talking about helping others, so acts of kindness, as I said. So it’s doing for others… We think societally what are we really focused on? We’re often focused on “How much profits can I make?” as entrepreneurs, “How much can I get from this property?” for your audience. The reality is our focus needs to be on putting the needs of others first, that is our business, our action should be purpose-driven. And that is not to say that “Sell properties at a loss on purpose, just because it feels good” – it’s not what I’m saying. I am very much an entrepreneur at heart, I am very much a capitalist at heart, however, there has been a shift, and there’s a lot of people talking about it…

Bob Burg, who is amazing, talks about purpose-driven business, and it is that doing, that your business goals, your company’s mission, the way that you interact with your buyers and your sellers, the way that you interact with your employees, contractors, whomever it may be, all should come from a part of “How can I help this person achieve their goals?” because if we help others their goals, we’re gonna achieve ours by default. So that’s how I would answer that question without the science and the hormones and what not.

Joe Fairless: Yeah, absolutely. You mentioned Bob Burg, the author of Go-Giver… I’ve enjoyed interviewing him — I’ve interviewed him twice I believe on the show, but one episode, episode 516, titled “How To Create a Referral-Based Business”, he talks about exactly what you’re talking about as well, and I certainly embrace that philosophy, and I’m glad that you’ve joined us and talked about this with us as well.

So within the structure or within the context of what we’ve been talking about, what is your best advice ever for real estate investors?

Dr. Richard Shuster: My best advice ever is to listen to what the other person is telling you in terms of their goals, and work within that to help them accomplish it.

Joe Fairless: What’s a story you can tell us, an example where you’ve done that in your own business?

Dr. Richard Shuster: Well, in my business it’s a little different, because essentially I see patients who have a variety of neurological conditions, and I’m assessing them… But what I will say is often times I’m working with patients who may have autism, or cancer, or some other neurological condition; some of these are kids, and some of these kids are extraordinarily difficult to work with… And what I would always say to myself when I’m working with a really difficult patient was “If this were my son, how would I want the other doctor to treat them?”, no matter how belligerent or difficult the person is. I’m not sure if that exactly answered your question, because the way that I interact with my patients is not necessarily “Here’s a product. I’ll take your credit card now”, it works a little bit differently. But again, for me it’s “What can I do to make sure that I’ve helped that other person sitting across the table from me?”

Joe Fairless: Yeah, and it ties directly back to what you said – listen to what other people are telling you and then try to help them accomplish their goals; you’re doing the same thing in your practice, so that is definitely a direct example.

Are you ready for the Best Ever Lightning Round?

Dr. Richard Shuster: Let’s do it.

Joe Fairless: Alright. First, a quick word from our Best Ever partners.

Break: [00:20:56].20] to [00:22:00].10]

Joe Fairless: Best ever book you’ve read?

Dr. Richard Shuster: Best ever book I read was “The One Thing” by Jay Papasan.

Joe Fairless: That surprises me… How come?

Dr. Richard Shuster: It was able to really focus what my goals were. I always found myself pulled in so many different directions, and when I read that thing it simplified everything. Focus on one thing. Don’t focus on ten. Eliminate the busy work; find what is the single most important thing for you to accomplish, and accomplish that. I just loved reading that book.

I’ll give you a close second – The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod… Another real favorite book of mine.

Joe Fairless: Outstanding. Well, it didn’t surprise me because of the quality of the book, it just surprised me because of your background, and it was more written by a real estate person… So that’s the only reason. Jay Papasan was on our show, episode 212, so almost like 1,000 days ago he was on our show. The episode is titled “Here’s a Brain Teaser That Will Forever Change How You Look At Money And How Much You Make Or Lose.” Hal Elrod was on the show too, but you can just google that, Best Ever listeners, because I don’t want to delay the show anymore.

What’s a mistake you’ve made in business, or on the podcast, or whatever…? Just a mistake you’ve made, and what you’ve learned from it.

Dr. Richard Shuster: I would say not listening to my gut soon enough. I’ve talked about this on other shows – before I was a psychologist, I was in IT consulting and I went into a partnership with a couple guys that I won’t say are bad guys, I think though they were the wrong people for me to personally work with, and I think I allowed the allure of money, which is not how I am now, but it certainly was how I presented myself in my early twenties… I allowed that focus to kind of lower the threshold for me in terms of who I was gonna associate with and how we were gonna work together, and then my gut, that little angel on my shoulder was telling me “This is not right”, and I kind of brushed him off way too long, and it was not good.

As a result of that, it was some tough, hard lessons that I learned… I would say listen to your gut and don’t be afraid to make a change when you know down deep that you need to.

Joe Fairless: What’s the best ever way you like to give back?

Dr. Richard Shuster: The best ever way I like to give back… I like to do random things, and I don’t do this for attention; just because it’s fun, I like to periodically when I’m at the grocery store I’ll ask the person behind me if I can buy their groceries, and they start looking around for cameras to see if it’s a TV show, or something… I love to do that, and then they’re surprised. Then I just kind of stand in line and tell them that I’m trying to get people to commit acts of kindness, and the next time you’re at a grocery store, why don’t you do that for somebody else?

It’s a very specific example, but it’s fun for me because I get to see the person’s reaction, and hopefully they’re paying it forward.

Joe Fairless: Best ever way the Best Ever listeners can get in touch with you and/or learn more about what you’re doing?

Dr. Richard Shuster: The best way is to check me out at, and you can check out all about me there. The podcast is in iTunes, it’s on Google Play, it’s on Stitcher… And I’ve also got an app for the show on iTunes and in the Google Play store. And again, to kind of push it forward, I’m gonna challenge all of your audience to go out there and do something awesome for somebody today, something random, something unexpected; it doesn’t have to be a big gesture, but do an act of kindness, and then when you’re putting that onto your Facebook or your Twitter, use the hashtag #mydailyhelping.

Joe Fairless: Alright, outstanding. I have that written down, too. I love the approach. Thank you so much for being on the show. You educated us and reinforced some of the stuff that I’ve been exposed to, but just from more of a scientific standpoint you connected some dots, for me at least.

You taught us how to light up the reward center of a brain for someone like a pinball machine, and that is to be genuine and be someone who they trust, and if you are genuine, then you will be someone they trust, assuming you don’t lie to them, and that’s not who you really are… Because when you are genuine, there’s no walls; it’s just “This is who I am and this is my approach.”

Thank you for sharing that nugget, and thank you for talking to us about some ways to read body language – I know it’s not your expertise, but we did touch on that, as well as the importance of connecting with others, and some ways to do that.
Thanks for being on the show. I hope you have a best ever day, and we’ll talk to you soon.

Dr. Richard Shuster: Looking forward to it. Thank you!

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