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Interview Techniques

Constant: What is it really? Why the Interrogator Should Care

by Stan B. Walters, CSP
“The Lie Guy®”

Lately I’ve noticed that interviewers may be misdiagnosing their subjects because of the way they are identifying their subject’s “constant” or baseline of behavior.  Every successful kinesic interviewer knows that they will never be able to accurately identify issues that create significant stress for their subjects nor will they be able to isolate deceptive responses without accurately diagnosing the changes caused by deception if they haven’t established the subject’s baseline.  There is good news and bad news about establishing your subject’s “constant” of behavior.

Not intending to be a pessimist, I’d like to start with the bad news. A person’s overall behavior at any time is in reality composed of at least three factors.  Foremost is their dominant personality.  Just being flamboyant, aggressive, passive, egotistical or the demonstration of other such qualities is not the constant. It’s their well entrenched personality.   The second element is their life’s historical perspective – the prism through which the view the world around them. In some cases those major events have caused emotional or even mental disorders.  These behaviors initiated through triggering events and causes fixed action responses from you subject.  More about those elements in future article.  These are not the behaviors which I need to include in my “constant” assessment and can lead to misinterpretation of credibility.

The third element is your subject’s communication style.  Are they generally verbal or quiet?  How would you define the voice quality in terms of rate, pitch and volume? Do they have a lot of facial expression or do they have minimal amount of facial responses. Are their hand, arm and leg behaviors subdued or would you describe them as being quite gesticulative?  This is the good news.  You don’t have to conduct an in-depth analysis. Just consciously make these observations and make a mental note. When you address critical issues do you spot the significant change from that baseline?  If you are going to get signs of deception, they will typically be consistently located within these changes.

You don’t need to diagnose your subject’s baseline in depth but a quick calibration of your observations to the subject’s current “zero” level.  Over analysis can cause misdiagnosis and stress and deception paralysis.

Too Many Choices – Creating Frustration in Interrogation

by Stan B. Walters, CSP
“The Lie Guy®”

If given the time, we could probably come up with a number of reasons a suspect won’t confess, a hostile witness won’t cooperate or why the victim won’t disclose.  If we then reviewed our “list” objectively we might find that we have placed a large portion of the blame on our subject and were partially if not fully blind to any problems we may have created.  It’s time to give ourselves and our subject a break.  The impasse may in fact have been created because of there being too many choices to be made by us and our subject.

All too often when entering an interview room, we like to go in “armed to the teeth” with information and facts.  Being fully loaded with evidence is certainly not a bad thing but how we choose to present that information can be a handicap for the interviewer as well as the subject.  With some many choices to make about what topics to address, how to address them, what order and more, we get caught up in the “planning” and can bungle the “presentation.” Because we have too many choices to make we may see a successful interview as a long and difficult campaign with no assurance of success and even a higher probability of early failure.  To overcome this problem, try dealing with and presenting only one issue at a time and strive to win small battles and not the whole “war” with one big “atomic” question that tries to incorporate multiple issues.  You’ll find you’ll be able to focus more on your subject, miss fewer of the important responses and increase your chances of overall success.

Far too many choices presented to the victim, witness or suspect also has a higher probability of negative outcome.  Contrary to common belief, it is known in the sales profession too many choices presented to the customer kills more sales than they make and the same behavior response applies to the interview room.  Asking for agreement or concession from your subject on several issues at once makes the ultimate decision by the subject much more difficult.  When we increase the difficulty of the decision making cycle for our subject, the longer it will take for the person to make their decision to comply, cooperate or confess. The longer the decision-making cycle is extended for our subject, the greater the chance that the results of the decision process will be negative and thus harder for us to reverse and overcome.

Review your case before you conduct your interview. Break down the case interview objectives into smaller more manageable tasks and move toward your goals of cooperation, compliance and admission by winning small victories by reducing the choices to be made at any one time.  You’ll improve your chances of a successful interview.