"This course has helped train my eye and my mind to see more emotions in others, and as a result, have more successful interactions with others when they are emotional. I am more likely to notice things earlier, before escalation, when the potential to make better choices is stronger."Read More
Human emotions are present in the nucleus of most every lie. Learning to understand them (Emotional Intelligence) and recognize them (Emotional Competency) are the lever and fulcrum of revealing lies and more importantly, uncovering the truth. It's not enough to know that a deception has occurred; in order to move forward, we must know the truth.
Not every lie is told with malice. Not every reason to hold back is rooted in wickedness or a compelling need to remain in the dark with one's deeds.
Indeed, some lies are necessary to save lives. A commander would not admit to having a plan in place to infiltrate a terror organization or attack enemy combatants. That type of knowledge in the wrong hands could lead to a preemptive strike by the terrorists against the interests of that nation and possibly cost the lives of civilians. So in this scenario the truth is kept purposely hidden and some might argue there is a moral imperative to do so.
Some lies are told to save the life of the liar. A young man escaping Nazi Germany would not be faulted for denying his faith, if only to survive long enough to get to a better position from which to defend it, or simply to save his family.
Lies are told to keep someone hopeful who may be distraught over a gravely ill family member. Lies are told to retain friendships, avoid conflict or shield someone from unnecessary stresses. Many a grandparent has been kept in the dark about a grandchild's arrest or accident until the situation is resolved and normalcy restored. It's the 'no harm - no foul' rule. The list of situations in which it may be argued that it is permissible to lie is as complicated as the human needs for acceptance, trust, peace of mind or a little more time.
Given that there are so many circumstances dictated by environmental pressures about which information must be misrepresented and sometimes omitted, and so many ethical arguments about whether or not telling lies of any kind is appropriate, we will focus on those instances when we must engage in difficult conversations. They may be work-related or personal but they somehow affect the future of the place where you stand and the people with whom you share that place.
Human interaction is often challenging and confusing. You would think we'd be better at it by now. We've been at it for thousands of years. We've developed intricate languages, symbols and facial expressions to communicate our thoughts. But instead of feeling gratified, interacting with our own species leaves us unsatisfied, frustrated, even exasperated. We feel shortchanged, unconnected or distant. When the truth is repressed, barriers to effective engagement are even more difficult to overcome.
The truth is usually known to one party and suspected by another. It does, after all, exist. The challenge is for both parties to feel comfortable with arriving at a common perception of the truth regardless of its consequences. It's about the desire to be open and the willingness to accept it. It's about mutual trust and the utility of honest communication. The point is not to judge the merits of the true thing, but merely to acknowledge it. It's a better place to start.
What keeps someone from expressing the truth is a feeling or presumption that the revelation will somehow degrade the relationship, perhaps irreparably so. They often want to be honest but feel they cannot or should not. For one reason, real or perceived, the one holding on to the truth is tangled in the vines of deceit. The real truth is inexorably tied to one emotion or another: anger, fear, joy, sadness and many more. It is precisely those emotions which we must look toward as the guideposts to truthfulness.
The listener must learn to observe the underlying emotions pressing themselves against the glass like a beggar at an upscale restaurant, silently pleading to be let in, or let out. The listener must look past what is obvious and ordinary, so they can see the waif in the window and recognize it for what it is, to let it in, accept it, feed it, respect it and move forward.
Fine-Tuning Your Perception Skills
Self-defense experts urge their clients to be in "Condition Yellow" when engaged in their daily routine, particularly when alone. It's a level of awareness that prevents them from being surprised by a sudden attack. First introduced by Jeff Cooper, a former US Marine, pistol expert and writer; these conditions (white, yellow, orange, red) describe our degree of attentiveness to our surroundings and the people within them.
In condition white, you are unaware, inattentive or downright oblivious. You are shocked when something happens, "I did not see that coming." Cooper and other protective experts talk about remaining in Condition Yellow to prevent an attack in the first place, to seem less vulnerable to a potential predator. Leave Condition White for poolside in the Caribbean.
Conditions Orange and Red refer to the imminent attack and the actual fight, but the bulk of the instruction tends to be about being in a state of readiness - of being switched on so you're not walking around in a fog.
Can this level of attentiveness serve us in situations that don't involve physical danger? Can it help us navigate complicated contract talks or merger strategies? Can these skills switch on the high-beams when we're in unknown territory?
By learning how to be more attentive to emotional states of family members, co-workers and counterparts in business relationships, we can head off potential missteps. We can begin to understand why something doesn't feel right and act appropriately. We often dismiss our own emotional reactions to conversations precisely because we are trained to be detached in business. We mistakenly believe emotions cloud our judgment, when in fact, they clarify it. Rather than spotting behavioral nuances we ignore them. By missing important cues we are caught off-guard and later we just don't understand how we didn't see it coming.
Here's the trick. First you must learn what to pay attention to. You must raise your level of emotional awareness. Emotions are at the heart of every deed and every interaction, whether carried out openly or deceitfully. Emotional Competency is an understanding of how emotions drive human behavior so we can see them more clearly as we communicate, negotiate and mediate all manner of human interface.
Knowing how to recognize the underlying emotions gives you something on which to focus, so you're not just hearing words, but 'getting' the truth of any situation. Increasing our awareness of emotions moves us out of Condition White and into the Yellow, where we are alert, aware, in control and focused.
Emotional Intelligence is often written about as being innate, the 'je ne sais quoi' that successful people possess in natural abundance. But Emotional Competency is a skill-set, proven thru decades of scientific and clinical research. A golf instructor can spot a subtle shift in your hips. A music teacher can hear a mistake in what seems to the rest of us a flawless performance. Good or bad, they know what to look for. You can be emotionally competent. You can spot deceit. You can learn to recognize how someone truly feels - but first you must learn what to look for.
"All architecture is a shelter, all great architecture is the design of space that contains, cuddles, exalts or stimulates the persons in that space." - Phillip Johnson
So what kind of space have you created for your employees? Is it one where individuals are physically isolated from one another, making human contact a chore? Are they essentially detached from the process in the place of business, segregated in the name of focus?
The idea that the space is either evocative, inspiring, creative and interactive; or is compartmentalized, inhibitive, cold and foreboding, can speak less to the physical space and more to the leadership that influences the dynamic within that space. The leadership can function as the architects of the kind of space where employees either flourish or whither.
Steven Johnson, in his book, "Where Good Ideas Come From", explains how the coffee houses of 17th-century England fostered the Age of Enlightenment. It was the space - the chaotic, communal atmosphere that lent itself to the emotionally open and honest exchange of ideas. Johnson examines the impact the coffee houses had upon the advancement of western culture and civilization. The coffee houses were the places where ideas could, well, percolate. The best ideas develop over time. They are a bundle of smaller ideas that need time to gestate and a place to be born.
Ideation, the formation of ideas, is a process, like an architectural drawing on a cocktail napkin that becomes a functional piece of art. It begins with free expression. In a space where people feel free to be honest and uninhibited, creativity and innovation will blossom.
The idea of place is not simply about steel and concrete, but about creating an open dialogue. Open space engenders open minds - for ideas, congeniality, innovation and forward-thinking. Just as the principal's office can spark dread in a schoolboy, a work space seen as open to new ideas and truthful human interaction can relieve the stress that stifles imagination.
Eugene Kohn of KPF Architecture spoke about what goes on inside of buildings. "Our goal as architects is to create buildings that inspire people to do whatever it is in that space they need to do. That inspiration comes from within the building as much as from the way it looks from the outside." And so it goes for the attitude projected by management. Are you creating corrals or space to grow?
Architecture in both the practical and artistic sense is a process, indeed the only art form in which the developmental stages (blueprints, drawings, models) are revered along with the finished product. Human interaction is a process of exposition, the testing of ideas and knowledge; its application and review, none of which can happen if employees aren't part of the process and managers aren't attuned to the needs of the work force.
Employees need to feel comfortable in the place and view it as common ground, which will propagate a sense of ownership. In this place, the connections all play a role, as each rivet in the steel supports the structure.
In his elegant book, Why Architecture Matters, Paul Goldberger said, "Architecture is about the making of place, and the making of memory. Architecture gives us joy if we are lucky, and it gives us satisfaction and comfort, but it also connects us to our neighbors, since the architecture of a town or a city is the physical expression of common ground. It is what we share, if only because the architecture of a community is one of the few forms of experience that everyone partakes in: the sharing of place."
The art of architecture is obvious, as is the public face of an organization. But in buildings as well as organizations, the underlying structure supports the mission. Complex interfacing systems keep structures functioning as do complicated human interactions, of which leaders must remain keenly aware. To say the full business process is effective without emotional intelligence is like an architect neglecting an essential structural element. The architect gives equal gravitas to aesthetics and function. It all matters.
Image courtesy of khunaspix / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Managers often operate under the presumption that emotions have no place at work and they are generally right with regard to financial or economic decisions and operational maneuvers. However, their employees are sentient beings. Emotions and the role they play in the human factor cannot be dismissed.
Whether or not we want to acknowledge them, emotions exist because people exist. They are part and parcel of every person we know. Managers feel they have to be disconnected, so that the detachment can make it easier to make decisions based upon facts, devoid of emotion. That perspective has merits of course but there is a pitfall: the complete repression of all emotions while in work mode. It leads to neglecting emotion in all work-related interactions and can prevent them from 'getting' the human component of the work environment. In short; it interferes with empathy.
Think about the difference empathy makes in our interpersonal relationships - in how we decide to talk to people, how much we decide to listen, how deeply we care. There is an emotional component underpinning every action people take and by tapping in to our emotional intelligence, that enhanced sense of empathy will make us better managers of people. By denying our own emotions we are inhibiting our ability to notice them in others. If we don't understand them, we can't understand motivation, desire, inspiration, commitment and honesty. Is the team really buying into the plan or just paying lip service?
Do you ever feel as though you aren't getting through to people? Have you noticed that employees only come to certain managers with their concerns? Do employees complain at reviews that they don't feel as of they matter? It may be time to clean out the attic...
It's Musty Up Here
Maybe it's time to get up in the attic and dust off your old trophies, read your old journals, sift thru some photos and enjoy the memories, those moments in time that have shaped your life - the laughter, and even the tears. What moments brought you the greatest joy? What single event can still make you feel exhilarated?
How would a trip to the attic make you feel? Might you feel rejuvenated, humble, romantic, artistic and perhaps, human? Your employees feel this way every day and so do their families. The ability to understand how emotions effect change is vital to emotional competency. This competency is an improvable skill those with high EQ possess naturally, but it can be developed with practice.
Some leaders work so hard to remove themselves from emotion in the name of pragmatism they lose the ability to communicate effectively with the very people who can help them make better decisions. They simply forget how to talk to people. The Joe Friday, "just the facts ma'am" approach can leave employees feeling disconnected. That feeling of being under-appreciated or excluded is one of the top reasons for employee discontent.
A trip to the attic can help to find new uses for stored emotions such as confidence, compassion, joy, sadness and connectedness. Revisit Mazlow's Hierarchy of Human Needs ( http://www.maslow.com/) and see how important belonging is. By cultivating empathy, by recognizing and understanding the relevance of emotions in human behavior, leaders can embrace what they find in the attic. They can blow off the dust and put their emotions back in the toolbox, right alongside pragmatism.
Image courtesy of jscreationz / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
An interview with Mike Palestina on Rider University's "The Bronc."
In an effort to give back each month Mike volunteers his knowledge of career planning and his coaching services to professionals who find themselves in transition due to the current economic conditions. His focus is on building an executable job search strategy that includes practical tips on effective networking, interviewing and negotiation. Mike is regularly invited to speak on these topics across New Jersey at Department of Labor and Professional Services Group events.
"I believe that emotional awareness of ourselves and others and effectively managing those emotions are essential skills required for successful leadership. My position is supported by research conducted by Harvard University, Carnegie Institute of Technology and many others.
The Harvard study concluded that EQ is twice as important as IQ and functional expertise in career success. The Carnegie Institute of Technology study shows that 85 percent of your financial success is due to skills in “human engineering,” your personality and ability to communicate, negotiate, and lead.
Over the last 10+ years I have used emotional awareness and verbal and non-verbal communications to enhance my one-on-one executive coaching and team coaching services."
Listen to Mike discuss the most vital leadership skill...emotional awareness and competencies.
Nov. 10, 2013 http://www.1077thebronc.com/?page_id=356
Were you to ask a random sampling of people in your work-a-day world to rate lying as either good or bad, most would say it is a bad thing. It's a simplistically posed question requiring an easy answer.
Asked to elaborate those same people may repeat aphorisms such as:
- One lie leads to another.
- A liar must have a great memory.
- For every lie you tell, you must tell ten more to cover it up.
- "Oh what a tangled web we weave..."
Ask someone if they are a liar and they will bristle. The mere implication of mistrust can damage relationships. "How dare you?"
But what is a lie beyond this simple definition? A lie is the expression of a statement known by the teller to be in some way inconsistent with or in opposition to what one knows to be true. There is no moral judgment in that statement - it only presents a definition. The moral or ethical aspects only come into play when one considers the objective of the deceiver and the intention to harm. The con man, the cheat, the unctuous politician and other scoundrels have all contributed to the association of being a liar with being a reprobate.
There are times however when saying something we know to be untrue seems to be the best option in the moment. Lies are told to conform to social situations - "Yes, the food was delicious." They are told to make someone feel good - "No, that outfit doesn't make you look fat at all."
We often mask our true feelings because we are unwilling to confront what the truth will unveil. So we tell ourselves that we did the right thing by not being forthright, despite the fact, strictly speaking, we told a lie. The French writer Vauvenargues said, “The art of pleasing is the art of deception."
This notion of pleasing brings us to what the title alludes, what social psychologist Irving Janis called "concurrence seeking" in 'groupthink' situations. It is the tendency to seek concurrence (conformance) with a group to finalize what may be a bad decision. No one wants to be seen as the enemy of the group.
A project manager in charge of a team must guard against groupthink. The manager must learn to recognize that an opinion being offered is not necessarily honest, but given to succumb to environmental pressures to keep the project moving forward or to please the boss. But it's groupthink that keeps everyone paddling in the direction of the waterfall.
An interesting take on this comes from the sports world, where Coach Riches of Functional Basketball Coaching wrote, "Groupthink is one of the poorest situations that can happen to a group in their development into a team. Groupthink limits the opportunity for trust, honesty and solidarity to develop and ultimately, for a team to reach their true potential." The coach goes on to discuss how a strong leader can sway the group in one direction, thus compelling the group to conform rather than buck the leader because they wish to be seen as a team player.
This kind of collective dishonesty inhibits sincere debate. It creates an atmosphere where people don't feel engaged in the discussion but corrupted by it. Collectively, the group fails the project because the individuals fail the group. That said, in a competitive work dynamic where connections and cooperation matter, no one wants to be cast as an outsider. A leader with a fragile ego may accuse one who speaks openly of not being a team player, but what the leader really means is, "it's a bad move to disagree with me."
The leader's job is to repress the ego and seek differing opinions. As Janis points out, there is a danger in replacing esprit de corps with groupthink. There is no longer a place for independent thinking. Honest debate can lead to the truth. The flexible leader recognizes groupthink as ultimately undermining to the long-range mission of the company. Coach Riches believes a leader should "crave openness" because it leads to solidarity. When everyone is truthful there is greater understanding, so that even if someone dissents, it is done honestly. The leader can move the project forward knowing the team is truly accepting and supportive of the final decision.
A good leader must learn to recognize when someone isn't being honest, not to uncover malice but to avoid the destructive nature of groupthink. A leader creates an environment that encourages people to say what they honestly feel. For as Benjamin Disraeli said, "Never apologize for showing feeling. When you do, you apologize for the truth."
In his memoir, "A Drinking Life", Pete Hamill said drinking takes away two of a writer's most valuable tools, clarity and memory.
Clarity is energizing. Clarity is illuminating. Without it your path forward is uncertain, murky and frustrating. Your goals are fuzzy and your optimism almost non-existent. The master motivator Tony Robbins says, "In order to have an extraordinary life you must have an extraordinary psychology." That state requires clarity of purpose. "Clarity is power," Tony declares.
Emotional clarity is a double-bladed plough that cuts through the muck of communication and clears a path for mutual understanding. But like any tool it must be used properly. You must understand its utility and use it intelligently to achieve optimum results. In short; you gotta read the directions.
In a thesis written for Ohio State University in 2007, Samantha Mowrer states that emotional clarity is associated with positive and affective well-being, "...faster rebound from an induced negative mood, adaptive coping styles and affirming attributions for the occurrence of positive events." On the flip side, Mowrer reminds us that poor emotional clarity is negatively related to, "ambivalence over emotional expression, depression, neuroticism, social anxiety and distress" among other downward expressions that leave us vulnerable to skepticism and cynicism.
Ambivalence is demoralizing. Apathy is death to a relationship. Nothing hurts more than when the other person simply doesn't care any longer. Much of what drives work and personal relationships to the brink of disaster is uncertainty - about true feelings, needs, goals and fears. Negative attributes can be upended toward a positive bias with emotional clarity. It's the ability to project a clear message, grounded in mindfulness, attentiveness, compassion and truth. It's knowing 'what' so you can know 'how'.
Like any useful tool, it takes time, effort and purposeful practice to attain a level of expertise. It begins by asking two simple questions: What are emotions? How are they expressed?
In order to self-regulate emotions we have to be aware of what they are. In order to empathize with others we need to recognize how emotions are integral to the manner and meaning of their efforts to communicate. In order to cope, adapt, support, affirm, understand and focus, we must pay attention, not just to words but to totality of expression.
Here's a quick example. One of your engineers has been working on a project that has the potential to double the top line growth of your company. On paper his ideas are sound, innovative and well-constructed. You direct him to present his ideas to a critical client in the presence of the CEO but you are unaware he has an abject fear of public speaking.
The engineer fails miserably. His brain seizes. His ideas are stilted, he cannot answer questions about his design, he seems unsure at best if his ideas have any merit. The whole event is a crushing.
What happens next? Your judgment is seen as faulty. Your ability to spot good ideas and groom talent are brought into question. You wonder aloud if the engineer even developed the idea on his own. You question his integrity. You begin to doubt your own abilities.
Two things went wrong here: the engineer failed to properly communicate his fears and you failed to spot his emotional reaction to your directive to present his concept. Had there been greater understanding and empathy, you would have made the presentation yourself, with your engineer on hand to answer questions. His lack of fear would have kept his mind relaxed and focused on the facts. The presentation would have had a different outcome. So what's the lesson?
Once you understand what emotions are and how they have an impact on your own behavior, you become better at seeing and understanding both the prevalence and relevance of emotions in the behavior of others, how emotions affect relationships, stability, communication and trust. Clarity of emotions is paramount to successful communication. Clarity is exciting. It empowers your way forward.
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
In August of 2013 People Intell had the privilege to speak at the Enterprise Learning! Conference and Expo held in Anaheim, CA. Our session was entitled "Lie To Me: The Science of Emotional Skills and Deception." We are happy to share with you our article that is featured in the December issue of Elearning! Magazine.
The Benefits of Truth within Leadership
The stakes are high. The truth is critical. What can you do to uncover it?
This denouement can play out across the spectrum of personal and professional human interactions. Just reading the words can trigger anxiety as you replay a time in your life when something mattered, when verity determined the difference between the winners and the also-rans.
Leaving aside the existential question of what truth is; we think we know it when it is before us in our everyday lives and we think we know when it's imperfect.
Truth is predicated on emotion. How does she really feel? What is his agenda? Is he listening to me? What is going on here that doesn't feel right? Why do they seem upset and where do we go from here? Why don't my employees communicate with me? How do I determine the truth?
The first step in finding the truth is to understand that emotions, those we reveal and those we try to suppress, are the drivers behind the behavioral and physiological manifestations that in some cases set off our internal alarms alerting us that something is amiss. We can learn to identify and interpret these cues more consistently and reliably to help us evaluate truthfulness.
The more you consider the possible applications for this skill, the more broadly you can relate its uses. To name just a few; imagine yourself managing a difficult team, hiring for a critical position, conducting an internal investigation, choosing a financial advisor, dealing with a complicated family matter, meeting new clients, or assessing the reaction of a focus group to new products.
This article is not about lying in a toxic sense but about the benefits of uncovering the truth of a situation. It's about personal or professional relationships and our ability to engage friends, employers, staff and counterparts honestly, perceptively and effectively. A person may have misgivings about absolute truthfulness for benign reasons. They may elect to mask their true feelings out of a sense of decorum, social norms, an unwillingness to hurt another's feeling, or as guided by context. The concept of dishonesty isn't always about trickery or malice.
The ability to discern the truth in a given situation has obvious advantages, but as a leadership trait, can be invaluable. A leader has the ability to recognize and manage not just his or her own emotions but also those of coworkers, competitors and employees. Executives with leadership presence have been shown to have high emotional intelligence or EQ, as outlined by Daniel Goleman in the Harvard Business Review.
How are emotions tied to deception and why are these concepts so inexorably linked? The full answer extends beyond the limits of this article but in short emotions tell us what matters, and the aforementioned is communicated in the form of expressions on our faces sometimes willingly and other times unwillingly with the world around us. Whether it is expressed openly, implied or repressed such as in the form of micro facial expressions, the cues are almost always there in front of us. Sensing it, recognizing it and functioning within the emotional underpinnings of it are crucial leadership skills. So how can we acquire or improve upon this ability?
We can learn the science of detecting the truth. Emanating from over 40 years of scientific research paired with real life application has illuminated that 5 channels of communication through which people express thoughts and feelings are key in detecting truth and assessing credibility. Underlying the 5 channels (face, body, voice, verbal style and words) is each individual’s baseline. In the context of deception, establishing a baseline is paramount. The baseline is how someone acts, reacts, speaks, gestures and generally interacts with others when they are in a relaxed state, unencumbered by a need to be deceitful about anything, irrespective of motivation. It's how they smile, stand, animate their faces, express ideas or move their hands when they speak. The trained observer, the leader, will be the one who recognizes what's swimming in the undercurrent. The person who understands how emotions instigate actions will bring the truth to the surface. It's why engaging coworkers is so critical to the success of your company.
How can you acquire what some have called "the leadership skill of the 21st century" and why is it so important to understand the science of deception?
"The ability to accurately detect deceit is real," says Paul Ekman, PhD, UCSF professor of psychiatry and principal investigator of a study published in Psychological Science in 1999. Ekman, who has been a leader in this field for decades, was able to demonstrate the role emotions play in deception. They are as inseparable as the water and the wet.
We can improve our odds by developing an understanding of the underlying emotions that precipitate deceptive behavior. The point is not to know the motivation for the deceit, but to know that it exists and to divine the truth which is often folded into emotion. The real goal is not to catch someone in a lie, but to elicit the truth about the situation in an engaging, intuitive, non-confrontational manner that serves the interests of all concerned.
Most importantly, emotional competencies will help managers bring employees back in to the fold, to make them feel a bigger part of the overall success of the mission. Harvard Business Review recently published findings from a Gallup survey that revealed up to 70% of workers are not engaged, meaning they simply don't care or are downright hostile towards employers. Although there are a host of reasons for this attitude, poor emotional intelligence by managers, directors and c-suite leaders prevents them from engaging employees positively, as part of the culture, rather than negatively, as in the dreaded performance review.
Wouldn't it be more efficient to avoid problems in the first place? Wouldn't employees who believe what they do matters be more likely to give a little extra, alert management to problems, interact with staff in a more honest way? Answer this simple question. Which mindset produces better results, a disengaged workforce or one that is self-determined, informed, worthy and relevant in the process?
Improving proficiency in two areas will propel you to a level beyond simply having people skills: emotional competence and detecting deception. With the right training, you can be the one person in the room who can navigate the ebb and flow of emotions, the one who can spot a flash of contempt, happiness, fear, anger, cynicism, sadness or other 'tells' that what someone is feeling is not what they are telling you. By learning to recognize the hidden emotions that leak out through non-verbal cues and micro-facial expressions, you can draw the honesty out of nearly any situation.
The human face tells a fascinating story about the nature of physiology and psychology. As a mode of communication, the amount of information that the human face relays through facial expressions is endless. While the face can display over ten thousand unique facial expression combinations, there are only a handful of specific expressions that are proven to communicate the same universal emotional meaning. Happiness, anger, sadness, contempt, disgust, surprise, and fear make up the 7 basic and universal emotions that all people regardless of race, ethnicity, culture, gender, religion, and age express using the same specific muscle combinations on the face.
Our facial expressions are designed to communicate our most basic yet necessary emotions for survival. Consider the emotion of sadness for example. In a state of sadness our bodies become depressed, the energy is depleted and our ability to respond or defend are incapacitated. The facial expression of sadness becomes the primary communication mode that signals to others that we need help. Looking at a grief stricken parent who has lost a child will easily trigger for most observers an overwhelming sensation of empathy. On the other hand an angry expression often serves as a warning sign and in certain situations can be a life saving forewarning especially in physical attacks.
The face is a primary channel of communication rich in information about the other person and also highly accurate in the nonverbal messages that is sends to observers. Besides the basic emotions it also provides clues to cognition, regulates conversation, and with emblematic gestures, replaces the spoken word. Despite the high accuracy and reliability of nonverbal many people do not capitalize on this rich source of information and focus solely on the spoken language. With the sophistication of common verbal language the communication focus has shifted to primarily gathering information from a single channel – words, whereas a message in its fullest form is often generated from up to 5 channels; face, body, voice, verbal content and verbal style.
Let’s briefly examine the communicative relevance of each of the 5 channels:
1. Facial expressions – are a result of the coordinated movements of over 40 muscles in the face that in specific combinations signal actual emotional experiences. These expressions in their normal and macroexpression form are recognizable by all of us. Research by Hager and Ekman (1979) has shown that the smile, associated with signaling the happy emotion, is the most easily recognizable facial expression from distances as far as 147 feet only closely followed by surprise. Under certain circumstances however, these emotional expressions appear in micro time, in less than a fifth of a second, revealing a fleeting glimpse into a person’s true feelings. Microexpressions signal a person’s suppression or attempt to conceal their true emotions.
2. Body language – consists of the behaviors and movements of the body other than the face that can also offer a glimpse into a person’s thoughts and feelings. It includes head movements such as a nod or head shake to signal yes or no answers. Body language also includes hand movements, posture changes, and many other gestures some of which have scientific merit while others have developed from myths. Body language unlike facial expressions is heavily influenced by culture.
3. Voice – this is the dominant channel of communication. It includes the tone, volume, pitch and speed of speech and carries a lot of communicative weight. Consider the following sentence “I didn’t tell her you were stupid”, depending on where the emphasis falls, the sentence can take on several different meanings but the words remain identical.
4. Verbal content – encompasses the actual words we speak or write. Much research has explored the area of verbal content and developed methods of analyzing credible vs non-credible statements. While these methods have been primarily developed to assess the written word, these same techniques can be applied to develop a more critical ear to spoken language in real time conversation as well.
5. Verbal style – includes such elements as speech pauses, changes in interruption of the flow of speech or changes in the structure of a sentence or even the amount of detail included in an account. This channel is the most heavily dependent on a person’s baseline mode of speaking and the changes from baseline that occur in relevant situations.
Tuning into only one channel can put the receiver at risk of only getting part of the message further increasing the risk of misunderstanding the other person or even being deceived.
It is no secret that deception is pervasive in most societies and has played an instrumental role in the survival of evolving human beings. As such, humans have developed a keen ability to deceive with words and trickery and to also mask, suppress, and fake facial expressions and body movements in order to lie, cheat, manipulate, and influence others. However, over 40 years of research in emotion and expression, conducted by Dr. Paul Ekman and other researchers alike, has revealed clues from each of these 5 channels that can expose not only true emotions but be critical clues to uncovering deception.
Because many nonverbals are directly linked to our autonomic nervous system (ANS), they are equally likely to appear involuntarily when emotions run high. Not being in complete control of your facial muscles for example, means that true emotions can leak out via small flicker-like expressions or micro expressions on the face revealing genuine internal feelings. Even practiced liars have been caught giving themselves away through small and very brief but observable expressions of emotion.
The science behind facial expressions of emotion and nonverbal communication has been around since the 1960’s, but only recently has it made its way into the training curriculum of law enforcement, business professionals, psychologists, counselors, medical professionals, market researchers and even to a prime-time hit TV show called Lie to Me.
Specific training in reading nonverbal and verbal communication cues as part of a holistic communication mode is a skill in high demand across many disciplines where face to face communication is of high importance due to its low-tech, un-invasive approach to reading people. It’s a tool that anyone can carry with them and use in any encounter whether it is a formal interview or a face-to-face casual interaction on the street.
"I knew he was lying all along; I should have trusted my gut."
Who hasn't said something like this after looking back at a situation, whether professional or personal? Once the whole truth has been revealed we like to reconstruct the events and look for the 'aha' moment that confirmed our suspicions. Once we know the lie we like to think we knew it in the moment. But did we really? Hindsight isn't always 20/20.
According to the scientific data, most of us aren't much better at detecting lies than flipping a coin, roughly 54% (Bond and DePaulo 2006). So what makes us so sure after the fact?
Let's back up. Although there are many complicated reasons why we may miss the truth, such as circumstances, limited process time, and our expectations about the outcome, there are cognitive biases that influence our tendency to accept what we've been told as the truth. Here are just a few:
· Visual Bias - the tendency to place more emphasis on visual clues than linguistic or inflection, tone and other auditory influences.
· Truth Bias - the tendency to overestimate other's truthfulness.
· Demeanor Bias - the tendency to judge another's communication style as being honest.
Our innate biases make it particularly difficult to detect lies in those we are closest to, which may seem counter-intuitive until you consider just two factors:
· The stakes are often higher in personal relationships (cheating spouse, teen drug user) so, given the possible consequences, we want to believe the other person.
· If we love the person we tend to give them the benefit of the doubt.
To detect dishonesty you must understand that emotions are the drivers of certain behaviors. Sometimes people are open and honest about their emotions and sometimes they attempt to conceal them. Yet, regardless of motivation, desire or reason - emotions rule!
Have you ever watched professional bull-riding? Those massive animals are constrained by a small pen, ropes, leather and a team of cowboys. They are bristling, coiled to break free and assert their alpha influence. Emotions are like bulls in the chute; they just need to get out and show themselves and they do so despite a person's best efforts to control them. They are conveyed through demeanor, voice, movement and especially through micro-facial expressions.
Emotions are most observable through the face. We can all picture or imitate a sad, angry, fearful or happy face, but we may not always want to show these emotions in a given situation. But in real interpersonal exchanges they can't be held back. So they leak out; they reveal themselves. They tell us the truth behind the facade. The problem is these expressions of emotion typically flash on and off the face so quickly (under 1/2 a second) we cannot see them with our conscience brain unless we know what to look for.
The good news is our brains are startlingly perceptive. The science of rapid cognition (Gladwell 2007) reveals that our brain sees these micro-expressions on a sub-conscious level and reacts to them. These reactions manifest themselves to us through our own emotions. So for example, the envious co-worker who wanted your promotion may congratulate you, but the disdain, disgust or anger they feel toward you is leaked out through a micro-facial expression. Your gut reacts. You feel awkward, uncomfortable, perhaps even angry and you aren't sure why. It's just something you feel.
So you thought he was lying all along? You were probably right. You just didn't know why you knew. Until the whole truth was revealed you relied on visceral feelings and sensations.
The better news is we can learn to recognize deception and deceptive behavior. We can tip the scales in our favor, uncover dishonesty and yes, we have science in our corner.
To become proficient in detecting deception you must be trained through a continuum. Your training must help you attain a higher level of emotional competency. It should teach you to manage your own emotions. With this base of understanding you can learn how to prepare your conscious brain to recognize what your subconscious brain is already seeing. The clarity you gain will be like putting on a new pair of glasses.
The science of micro-facial expressions is about opening up your mind to the human condition; its strengths, frailties, biases and universal codes of meaning.
Image courtesy of ddpavumba at FreeDigitalPhotos.net