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Interviewing: My Subject Won’t Talk

Stan B. Walters, CSP
“The Lie Guy®”

A frequent frustration many interviewers face is the inability to get the subject to talk to them. Obviously in any investigation if the person we’re talking with is the subject of that investigation he or she would be better advised not to talk to us anyway. But how do we not only get the subject to talk to us but also the uncooperative victim or witness?


We can certainly lay a lot of blame at the feet of the uncooperative person but that will get us no closer to the critical information that he or she has chosen to withhold.   Our objective is to find the truth and blaming the subject and giving up our pursuit of the truth is not an acceptable option.  Half of the responsibility for the failure of a subject to talk lies with the interviewer. We can’t expect a person to talk to us merely because we’re the interviewer.


First, if we intend to persuade a subject to talk we’ve got to do a better job of demonstrating to them that they are a critical element in the investigation.  To do this we have to present the evidence of the  ‘problem’ in a form that grabs their intellectual attention. That means for each personality type (emotion, sensory, logic and ego dominant) we have a different ‘problem presentation.’ We present the problem one small piece at a time slowly demonstrating the emotion dominant’s connection to the case while for the sensory type we’re going to have to work in a more tangible form by pointing out specific victim or witness statements and similar snippets of evidence.  For the logic dominant we’re going to have to present the threads of argument that demonstrate ‘why’ the subject is linked to the problem while the ego dominant will respond when they are made to believe that everyone needs to made to understand his or her brilliance and mental prowess.


Our task at attempting to stimulate our subject to talk is not yet quite complete.  We’ve got to further agitate our subject into a taking a personal interest in their position as being a directly involved party in a problem that requires their attention.  Obviously the emotion dominant subject is going to respond to emotion- based ‘color commentary.’  The sensory dominant is further pulled into the conversation when we make them realize that the evidence they are involved cannot be denied and we’re going to keep reminding them of that.  The logic dominant will be unable to resist the weight of the proof that they are linked to the case – the logical argument is just too strong and won’t be ignored.  The ego dominant is significantly motivated to talk when they feel that they have been betrayed or used by the ungrateful and unworthy people who they believe have benefited from his efforts or are trying to destroy him because their jealous of his success.


Next time your subject seems not to want to talk, think about more than just impressing with your title or what their punishment could be for their actions.  You are more likely to get some form of response from you subject when you frame the problem in their intellectual format and agitate them to action by personalizing this issue on their level.

Interviewing -What’s Body Language Got To Do With It?

Stan B. Walters, CSP
“The Lie Guy®”

Humans are capable of communicating over four channels – voice quality, voice content, micro signals and body language.  Each of the four broadcasts cognitive and emotional information in varying strengths and forms. Because communication skills, talents and habits for each person vary, the overall contributing percentages of each can be different.  Of the four channels, body language provides the most output making up anywhere from 50 to 85 percent depending on the person or even which expert you may ask. The question is what’s all the body language about and what does it mean to the interviewer?


First of all body language can obviously contribute to a verbal message that is being broadcast.  Often we judge a person’s level of communication skills based not only on their verbal talents but also on the artistic flair of the person’s body language.  This subclass of nonverbal behavior includes what are called illustrators. These are motions, gestures, movements and in some cases facial expressions that support or supplement the verbal message.


Second, body language cues are also often directly connected with extreme emotional and sometimes cognitive stress changes a person may be experiencing.  It’s important to note these behaviors are not a part of the stress reactions but are the after shocks of developing or increasing stress.  Think of these cues as being similar to a tsunami.  The tsunami occurs because of dramatic unseen seismic events that occur under the ocean. Body language stress cues occur because of unseen seismic stress events occurring internal in your interview subject.


Finally, the interviewer may observe body language symptoms that have a higher correlation with deception.  There are two very prominent categories of these cues most frequently seen during deception – aversion and negation.  These cues are not part of the lie but occur because an emotional or cognitive lie has been told. In this case the person is attempting to deceive the observer by hiding a strong emotion they are experiencing or faking an emotion they do not genuinely feel.  These symptoms can also be associated with stress subject may experience when attempting to withhold information they do not want to expose or pronouncing to have knowledge they do not possess.  In either case your subject has a great deal at stake in sustaining the deception that can create varying degrees of stress.


It’s important for the interviewer to remember that not all changes in body language indicate deception but can be nothing more than a sign of changing emotion.  In addition, body language is the one channel that is often subject to misinterpretation.  One body language cue can have multiple meanings and are therefore subject to misinterpretation.  We should also note that diagnosing every single body language a person may generate in an interview is very labor intensive and concentrating all our efforts of nonverbal cues can result in the observer missing a significant verbal message.

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