Your Intended Message

Communication Techniques from a Retired Spy: JJ Brun

January 27, 2022

Imagine being sent into a war zone with the mission of collecting information and influencing behavior of combatants.

Unlike James Bond, you don't have a license to kill, Nor do you have a fancy car and fancy devices.

You survive and succeed by communicating effectively.

Episode 79

JJ Brun was a "Contact Handler" in a war zone in Bosnia Herzegovina. His official title was Director General Intelligence Strategic Debriefing Officer. He was there to collect information from the people. He survived and succeeded in his role of building a large intelligence network of local people.

Ideas and concepts that we explore:

  • How to mentally prepare when you know you can't shoot your way out
  • The importance of appreciating names and getting them right
  • Why deception is not the best approach
  • Developing your listening and observing skills
  • Key phrases to build trust and encourage open conversation
  • Assessing personal types and adapting your approach

Get your free copy of "The 10 Most Effective Ice-Breaking Feel-Good Questions" by sending an email to

Learn more about JJ Brun and his services at the website

YES, you heard that right, JJ Brun offered to provide a no-charge workshop of up to 60 minutes on "Making Sense of the People Puzzle in Times of Change"

To learn more about that program and to arrange that for your team, contact JJ Brun at

Tell him you heard about this offer on the podcast, Your Intended Message.

His first book, Sell Naked on the Phone, sold over 60,000 copies.



Excerpts from this discussion with JJ Brun


Now a contact handler. Very unique skill set is a person where he or she is sent into a hostile environment where he or she has to cultivate sources within that environment and determine their intentions, or even modify their behaviours if and when required.

Without the use of any Jedi mind tricks. So my claim to fame within the intelligence community is that I was the first one volunteered to be a contact handler.

I was sent over to the UK to be trained to learn the skill sets and then I deployed into Bosnia Herzegovina being the first Canadian trained within this field since the Second World War.



Perfect. I was provided with my identity. Gov stories, funds, everything that I need all the little administrational aspect and I was provided with my weapon.

And that was a shock to me, because I was provided with a pistol two empty magazines that can hold 10 bullets each and 10 bullets, one pistol, two magazines, 10 bullets.

And I'm like, where's the rest of the bullets? As in? I've got two magazines. Should I not have 20 bullets?

To which we had an argument. Either I sign that off and I have to then come when I leave, bring back the pistol, the two magazine and the 10 bullets.

I was in trouble when I said to the gentlemen, what if I use one and I only bring nine bullets? Do I have to bring you the empty casing to prove that I've used one. He responded with if you don't bring me 10 bullets, you're going to get court martial.



JJ, I heard two, two points here that intrigued me. One is that you provided them with a voice. You were simply a conduit to allow them to have a voice. And my question is, why was that important to them? And even more than that, you said you had a network of bad guys. And why would the bad guys want you to convey their message?



Okay, well, the first one is that everybody wants to talk. And there's a saying, I don't know who's the author from this? Or who came up with this, but people don't care how much you know, until they know how much you care.

Right. That's a famous statement, and applies also across across cultures. Over there. There's different ethnicities? Well, back then he was the Serbs and Croats and the Muslims.

And everyone wants to be heard everyone wants to share their story. And you just have to provide them a safe environment where you want to receive their story.

And they want you to document they want you to to know that you're looking to make a difference. Now we were trained, we can't promise anything. You don't fake it, you don't promise the moon, you have to be authentic.

And quite often I would say, I can't promise you anything. Let me go back review what you've just shared with me. And Let's reconnect, when would be a good time for you Tuesday or Wednesday of next week, morning or afternoon, we'll book a meeting from a meeting.

And people, if you come with the sincere interest of sharing the story, right that their life mattered. And I was more of a reporter, in a sense of you're going there, you're looking to build a canal to find a connection with now, in every interaction we have with people either going to compete or complete that interaction.

Right, either going to compete or complete. Now, English is my second language. And when I'm reading the word complete and complete, one has the letter L. And so my brain was goes to well, What's the L factor in order to complete an interaction?

Until you can find a common link, a common luck or common love, no connection. As soon as you can find a common link common, like a common love, you have an opportunity to make that connection.


Your Intended Message is the podcast about how you can boost your career and business success by honing your communication skills. We’ll examine the aspects of how we communicate one-to-one, one to few and one to many – plus that important conversation, one to self.

In these interviews we will explore presentation skills, public speaking, conversation, persuasion, negotiation, sales conversations, marketing, team meetings, social media, branding, self talk and more.


Your host is George Torok

George is a specialist in communication skills. Especially presentation. He’s fascinated by the links between communication and influencing behaviours. He delivers training and coaching programs to help leaders and promising professionals deliver the intended message for greater success.


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