Isn’t just looking at body language a bit pointless?
I had a discussion over this with a friend a while ago. We were discussing body language, micro-expressions, she asked “Don’t you think it is all a bit pointless, if you are spending so much time looking at the body language, how are you meant to do anything else?”
How right she is. Not about it being pointless, but more about the effort of will that is required to focus on so many things happening at the same time.
When we are making an assessment of someone for credibility there are five channels of communication that we need to focus on. Focussing on five very different areas for the minutia of information and then comparing that with the signals you are getting from the other four channels, it could give you a headache. Making sure that the questions that you are asking are pertinent and then listening to the response while also thinking the next question up. Is the response appropriately worded, at the right speed and pitch, is the language distancing? At the same time what is the posture like, what are the emblems being shown and do the expressions match the details of what is being said?
But if we restrict ourself to just body language, as many practitioners do, we are missing a lot of information. It would be like looking at a tapestry down a toilet roll tube. You would only see a tiny part of the image and wouldn’t get the whole picture.
Assessing someone is like driving a car. You have to control acceleration, gears, clutch, braking, monitoring the instruments, steer and keep an eye on everything that is going on outside the car. When we first learn to drive, all of these things take a huge amount of concentration, but as we become a lot more accomplished, some things become second nature. It can be the same with the assessment process.
Some people have an advantage where they have a natural talent, just like some formula one drivers have a natural ability in driving in comparison to your average road driver.
There are ways that you can make this easier on yourself. Work in pairs or teams with one person asking the questions and listening to the answers, and the other person focussing on the non-verbal elements.
But remember, before all you must try to establish a base line – the normal operating level of the person. Without the baseline it makes it difficult to spot the deviations from normal that give us something to focus on. Baseline does not just happen, and should have some time devoted to it. Establishing normal operating levels but also what a genuine emotional response looks like. Take your time and become familiar with normal.
This is something that is nearly always missing in job interviews. A couple of minutes chatting about inconsequential things can make a huge amount of difference in finding out what is really going on with someone.