How do detectives learn how to talk to a suspect?
Do they watch Law & Order for hours? Nope. They go to School. They get intensive training on techniques to establish rapport (to see how the suspect responds truthfully) to exerting dominance to get a confession. [Think ‘good cop’- ‘bad cop’.]
Recently I went along on one of these training sessions. And it was fascinating.
The training involves groups of 5 detectives moving from room to room. In each room one of the detective-students interrogates a suspect (an actor) while an experienced detective and the rest of the class watch.
If you think it isn’t tough consider this. One of the first things they tell the suspect is that they have a right to remain silent and that anything they say can and WILL be used against them in court. After the suspect verbally acknowledges that they understand this right…that’s when the detective must get them to talk.
As an observer I teamed up with a group of 4 young men and 1 young woman who come from police departments all around northern California. After each interrogation I was asked to share my observations. As a professional actor, teacher and corporate communications coach, I had a quite a few insights into what the suspect’s body was saying (and in some cases screaming).
When you lie, your body begins to shift and fidget. It’s as if the clothes you’re wearing become itchy or uncomfortable. Some can control this but even that effort can show on your face and in your body.
You can choose to remain silent, but every move of the body reveals something. I was very pleased that the experienced detectives and student detectives found value in my observations.
I find it remarkable that as we grow up, our schooling puts a lot of emphasis on how to use language correctly to be an effective communicator, but we are expected to become fluent in the language of the body on our own. For example for emphasis try holding the head completely still when you speak. Do it too long and you look like a stiff robot, but do just for a phrase or two and the people you’re talking to will take notice.
I respect the detectives I met and admire their desire to learn how to talk and listen to people in stress. And I have two take-a-ways that I’d like to share:
- Avoid getting arrested [it’s not pleasant]
- If they tell you that you have the right to remain silent….do it. [and hope they haven’t learned how to read your body language].
A special thanks to my friend Glen Micheletti for making the arrangement for me to be a part of the training.