Tag Archive for Business Meeting

Police As Lie Detectors

In a 2004 study out of the University of Portsmouth by Samantha Mann, Aldert Vrij and Ray Bull it was found that police officers were sixty-five percent accurate in detecting lies when they watched the proceedings of an interrogation. This success rate is significantly higher than that which could arise by chance alone and also shows that familiarity with the subjects can have a role in increasing accuracy. Most research thus far has used college students, but this shows that police who frequently deal with suspects might have an advantage reading them over reading others. By a similarly notion, this advantage would theoretically be non-existent for police officers in a business meeting or with regard to a salesperson on a car lot, unless they had particular experience with such matters. This study does tell us that familiarity with the subject and the context can help us in detecting lies.

Police manuals give the impression that officers who interview suspects often, are good lie detectors, despite of course the vast research that says otherwise. When the researchers qualified their observations however, they found some surprising findings. Officers who named visual cues such as those mentioned in Inbau’s research, mentioned previously, which forms part of the manual on lie detection for police, such as gaze aversion, unnatural changes in posture, self touching, mouth and eye covering were less likely to be accurate in reading others. In fact, these cues proved counterproductive. Specifically, female participants who claimed to use Inbau’s cues most often where poorer at detecting truths, than the males who did not. In particular, gaze aversion was unhelpful and in fact distracting when analyzing for truth. So despite the moderate success of officers at detecting lies, there still remains severe shortcomings because it was not necessarily due to observations of body language or other anything else that could be described, catalogued, and hence put to use. If an inherent skill amounts to a sixty-five percent success, but one can’t describe that skill in a way that makes it useful to other people, then it simply appears like a hunch. Hunches are not reliable, nor do they meet the scientific principle of reproducibility or have predictive (useful) qualities.

Leaning And Ready Language In The Office And Elsewhere

We show attentiveness and also readiness, meaning a preparedness to take action by leaning toward the speaker, or things we want to get closer to, and away from speakers, or things we want to avoid. “Things” in the sentence previous can mean anything from proposals, ideas, opinions, decisions or anything else for that matter. This “ready posture” is akin to the sprinters ready position at the starting blocks and is called an “intention movement” because it tells us what someone wishes to do. The hands are placed on the legs or knees and the body leans forward ready to spring up and close a deal, or any other action that is being presented. It can also be done by placing the hands on the chair, arm rest or hands on the knees. While standing, the ready position is taken up by placing the hands on the hips. The eyes can also play a role in ready language as they make frequent and repetitive ganders to where a person is thinking, or where they would like to be.

In a business meeting or on a sales call, the ready position indicates that it’s time to stop talking and time to start closing, and that any agreement related to the conversation previous is likely to be accepted. Leaning forward not only means readiness, it sometimes means general interest. For example, a conversation taking place between friends containing some juicy gossiping or with an enthralling storyline, will have each party up “at the edge of their seats” and engaged in the conversation seemingly hanging onto every word. Other times, leaning language means that someone is late and needs to leave, or is bored and ready to go. The opposite position, meaning backwards leaning shows the reverse. It shows a detachment from the topic or from the speaker but can also indicate a high degree of comfort or relaxation where someone wishes not to leave. To uncover the true meaning behind leaning it will be a matter of tracking down additional cues to produce a cluster, and then matching this cluster with the context. The torso, however, is a great place to look to uncover where someone wants to go; it usually points directly to it.

A final ready posture that tells us someone wants to leave happens by propping the body up and coiling the legs underneath in a seated position. Uncrossing the legs and getting them underneath the weight of the body, shows body language readers that someone is ready to pick themselves up. This type of body language is a “leading gesture” because it is a predictor of what is about to happen. The body can also be tensed up or fidget so as to ready itself even more, and be moving away from what would normally be perceived to be the centre of attention. When people want to leave, their body begins to lean toward the exit, but even if their torso’s don’t, their feet will betray them by being extended forward. Additional ready gestures include straightening clothing, arranging or organizing papers, grabbing bags and so forth. These last cues, like the others, indicate an effort to get things going.

Double Arm Hug

She might be cold, or she might want to feel protected.

She might be cold, or she might want to feel protected.

Hugging one’s self is a defensive and closed body position. Those who take up this posture invariably exclaim that they are cold, which is sometimes the case, but usually the cold sensation is a function of feeling awkward and uptight. When temperature is actually a factor, the arms will cross and the hands will be tucked under the armpits in effort to heat them up. Other times, the arms will hug the body tightly in a full embrace but they will shiver and hold their legs stiff crossing them tightly as if they need to use the washroom. If these cues are not present, and we still see a double arm hug it’s due to feeling uncomfortable and not feeling cold. By watching for all the cues in the cluster it is easy to tell which attitude is really present.

Those that habitually cross their arms are usually not aware that they are sending a bad message to others. However, arm crossing is a universally defensive posture so it is important to be aware of its use. In a business meeting or in a job interview holding the double arm hug posture will be read by others as being disagreeable even if the person really is cold. This effect might pass over if other’s feel the same chill, but when only one person in the room is seen looking uncomfortable, they will sense that something is up, even if just subconsciously. Those that are timid and shy by nature can also get the short end of the stick as others will quickly dismiss them as rude or antisocial.

When someone complains of feeling cold where the room temperature doesn’t warrant it, is a direct response to a limbic brain command that shunts blood from the skin toward the major muscles in preparation for the fight or flight response. The large muscles like the legs and arm need blood in order to prepare for combat and escape. This is largely in effect when people seem to go pale when under extreme stress and why others lose their apatite when under pressure. Again the blood moves away from the intestines toward the major muscles producing a cold sensation on the surface of the skin as blood moves deeper.

Environment Plays On Height And Dominance

Standing up while others are seated instantly creates dominance.

Standing up while others are seated instantly creates dominance.

If your goal is to gain the dominance advantage, but nature dealt you the short stack, there are several ways to use your environment in your favour. One of which is to create a scenario where it is natural to present to a seated audience. Obviously this particular example is more suitable to a boardroom business meeting, but can also be amongst friends by roaming a room, rather than taking a fix seat while entertaining. When created an artificial scenario it would be wise to include ample comfortable seating to provide an incentive for people to plop themselves down. A man might use the standing advantage at a bar to pick up women by waiting for her sit instead of approaching her while she dances. Present to the seated naturally gives you a large height advantage.

This cop knows his game.  By keeping the suspect in his car he gains height-authority over him.

This cop knows his game. By keeping the suspect in his car he gains height-authority over him.

Stages by their nature are designed to give power to the speaker. Fewer interruptions from the audience is the direct result of being higher than them. It is very unnatural to address someone with any degree of authority from a lower position and we instinctively know this. If there are height differences and levels about a room, such as split levels or stairs, and your goal it to intimate or dominant someone, then use them. For example, standing on an upper step with your target below you will give you the upper hand every time. Addressing someone taller than you from an elevated position such that their height is negated will make them feel very uncomfortable and uneasy. They aren’t used to playing short stacked and they will probably do their best to rebalance the field in their favour when the opportunity arises. Try this experiment on door-to-door solicitors the next time they interrupt you. First, be sure to use the door as a barrier never quite opening it fully, and never ever invite them in. If you have a glass portion of your door, close the door slightly so as to be speaking through the glass. Ideally this will force them to address you from the next step which will be lower giving you at least a six inch height advantage. This is usually enough to stifle their pitch or at least annoy them. Next close and re-open the door at random intervals. This might seem cruel, but remember you never invited them, so they brought it upon themselves!

While lifts in shoes are out of style for men, there exits shoe brands and inserts that can add up to two inches of height. If you are 5’8”, then two inches can make a big difference in the height game, and put you into or above the average. Women know the power of heels all to well, and should use it to their advantage whenever possible in business and even in dating. The exception though is when the purpose is to build cooperation rather than asserting competence. Women should use heels in dating to set their benchmark height. It is universally recognized that women prefer men to be two to three inches taller than they are. By simply using a heel of that height and eliminating men who don’t stack up, they can immediately thwart unwanted advances. Most men won’t solicit from women taller than they are.

As we saw, forcing others to sit while we stand can helps neutralize height differences, but so too does mutually sitting. If both parties are forced to sit, the advantage is given to those that have the biggest rear ends rather than those with the longest legs. The extra cushion serves to prop them up! The largest differences in heights is largely due to the biggest bones in our bodies which is our legs, not our spines, although they do play a part. Sitting down, takes our legs out of commission. Next we should try to hold good posture and if our company has poor posture, we can negate all or most of the height difference. Sitting on opposite sides of the table negates height differences even further because separation makes it difficult to make the height comparison. The same tactic can be used while standing just by taking a step back.

An advanced, although cruel tactic includes sabotaging others by providing them with lower chairs. It’s not uncommon in the interview process to give prospects unpadded chairs with short legs. When multiple people are present, just claim the tallest chair! A chair with an abnormally tall back commonly used by royalty will make someone appear shorter due to perspective, but will also serve to make them appear more dominant and authoritative.

If presented with a power player who insists on interrupting and talking over you or others especially while seated, play their game. Instead of taking it sitting down, stand up, walk about the room, move away from the situation or move to the opposite side of the desk or table or use misdirection by looking out a window pretending to ponder his position. Each of these actions will unnerve them forcing them to up their game or concede. The simplest and most honest tactic is to hold better, more upright posture, which in and of itself can add inches over people with poor posture. Most people have a bad habit of slouching, so using better posture on its own makes you appear more confident by comparison.

If your objective is to maintain common ground instead of exploiting it, then the best bet it to try to level or lessen height differences instead of exploiting them. Tall women know this all to well, and can be found with poor posture usually because they stand out from the crowd and get teased as teenagers. Unfortunately, instead of walking tall, they hunch up trying to appear subordinate so they fit into the crowd unnoticed. Obviously, tall women who slouch are self-conscious of their height.

This not-withstanding reducing height differences fosters cooperation and reduces tension. Tall people should take notes and reverse all that was said above with respect to exploiting height differences. Most of what was mentioned was methods to use height to manipulate or create power imbalances. If the goal is to achieve cooperation, then we should be careful to try to level height differences instead of maximizing them. We should rarely show submission though, as it can be as disastrous as showing dominance when trying to build cooperation. We never want to appear weak even as we seek common ground.