The Furry Anchor Point: Behavioral Analysis Through a Canine Lens

April 25, 2017 in Assessing Groups, Assessing Individuals

Let me start by saying that the puppy magnet is real. I get it. You see a dog, you want to pet it. It’s natural. You see a puppy, you want to run up to it, pick it up, talk to it, snuggle it, name it, take it home with you and raise it as your own…

Time to get a grip. The truth is that, just like any environment or situation you might find yourself in on a day-to-day basis, interacting with someone else’s dog is a scenario in which any number of circumstances could be at play that you have to identify and decipher before taking any action.

Think of each dog you may encounter as its own anchor point, a furry, moving, wiggling, wagging anchor point. In theory, there are a limited number of select people who are “allowed” to approach that dog and enter into its personal space on any given day. The criteria for entering that space differs with the personality, temperament, and history of each dog. In my dog’s case, all you have to be is a human with hands that could be scratching him and he’ll let you approach him (if he doesn’t approach you first) with zero hesitancy. However, this is not always the case. Think of service dogs and police dogs on duty who are not to be approached, touched, or pet by anyone other than their owner or handler. Every dog you encounter should be treated as if they have that spatial boundary around them until you’ve gotten a read on the situation and made contact with the owner.

Let’s take the act of dog walking as an example, as it’s the behavior of a dog’s owner that is often the best indicator of whether you will be allowed into the space of the anchor point that is their dog. It’s no different than the scenario of approaching a group of people and using behavioral analysis to determine group relationships and dynamics. Dog walking is a situation that dog owners find themselves in likely multiple times a day, and it’s a scenario where you can use multiple principles of situational awareness to read universal signs of human behavior to be conscious, respectful, and ensure you have a good experience while avoiding potentially dangerous encounters for you and your pet.

Interactions with other dog walkers and their canine companions is perhaps one of the biggest wildcards that can come up during a walk. When a dog and their owner is approaching, think about the four clusters of human behavior Continue reading »

Choosing Your Conversational Style

March 3, 2017 in Applying The Observations, Assessing Individuals


Since getting to present at the 2015 WINx Conference, I’ve really come to appreciate the amount of time and effort that Roy Bethge and Brian Willis put into creating this excellent event each year in Lisle, Illinois. With the goal of helping police officers continually elevate their performance and achieve excellence in their field, the 18-minute long videos on the WINx site are certainly worth the time and attention of law enforcement professionals looking to be inspired. While the 2017 conference is just over a month away, I was recently re-watching the talk above by Chelly Seibert that she gave at the 2016 conference.

In this talk, Seibert highlights the need for police officers to adopt different conversational styles while responding to calls depending on the type of situation they find themselves in. Referring to the different conversational styles as characters to be played, she showed how officers might find themselves portraying one of three characters in any given situation. They might take on the behaviors of “The Enforcer,” “The Compassionate Consoler” or “The Composed Stabilizer” in order to get to a successful outcome in the encounter. By taking the time to consider and develop the ability to display the type of body language, tone of voice, facial expression and other non-verbal and verbal styles of communication to fit your character’s behavior and the situation, you can begin to take control over the way that other people see you.

Before I talk about how these three main characters listed above tie in with our approach to situational awareness, threat recognition and behavior-based conversations, here is how Continue reading »

Why The Submissive Cluster Does Not Come From The Freeze Response

December 15, 2015 in Assessing Individuals

As students go through our Tactical Analysis program, there is a question that often comes up during the portion of the course when we teach how to read and assess the behavior of individual people. The question is usually framed in this manner:

“If the dominant cluster is manifestation of the fight response to a perceived threat or stressor, and if the uncomfortable cluster is the body’s manifestation of the flight response, and if the comfortable cluster represents the absence of the fight or flight response because no threat is perceived, then wouldn’t it make sense that the submissive cluster is the body’s manifestation of the freeze response?”

While this train of though suggesting that the submissive cluster might originate out of the freeze response is certainly logical, the answer to the question is no. The submissive cluster is NOT how the body displays that it is experiencing the freeze response to perceived stressors or threats.

The definition that we use to define what the submissive cluster represents is as follows Continue reading »

Applying the Pillars to Your Everyday Life

October 14, 2015 in Assessing Individuals

In the work that we do with our clients here at The CP Journal, we teach a process of observation that we categorize using the four pillars of observable behavior: individuals, groups, the environment, and the overall collective mood.  Much of the training work that we do is with clients in the security world, but we have also spent a good deal of time helping organizations in other sectors that aren’t focused specifically on security to grow their businesses, improve their customer service strategy, and increase their sales, using these same pillars. As we continue to work with non-security-related organizations, understanding these pillars in non-security terms and explaining how to recognize them is crucial. One of the easiest ways to begin thinking about this in your own life is to consider personal examples of how that information can help lead to more informed decisions in everyday circumstances. In this post, I will outline the first pillar that we teach, the individual, explain what exactly you should look for while observing, and offer some examples regarding how this information can improve your overall level of confidence in any interpersonal interaction.

Of the four pillars of observable behavior, the first pillar is the individual. Within the individual pillar we use four clusters to categorize any human being at any moment in time.  Each person you see out in the world can be categorized as being comfortable, uncomfortable, dominant or submissive. These four clusters are the universal results of Continue reading »

Are We Looking For One Cluster or Two?

August 18, 2015 in Assessing Individuals

A question that we frequently get asked during our classes here at The CP Journal is whether a person can be displaying two clusters at the same time. In other words, can a person be both “dominant and comfortable” at the same time or “uncomfortable and submissive” simultaneously?

The short answer to this question is no, a person can’t be displaying two clusters at the same time. The dominant, submissive, uncomfortable and comfortable clusters used to assess a person’s current state are mutually exclusive because they each represent a different survival response that the brain can choose from in threatening situations.. Since your brain makes the decision to either fight or run when a perceived stressor or threat presents itself, you can’t be displaying the dominant cluster, the manifestation of the fight response, and the uncomfortable cluster, the manifestation of the flight response, at the same moment in time. It is by the same logic that a person can’t be displaying the dominant cluster and the comfortable cluster concurrently. As the comfortable cluster is the type of body language displayed when no flight or fight response has been triggered, a person can’t be displaying body language that is associated with the stress response and body language associated with the absence of a stress response at any given point either.

It is important to remember that the body’s responses to potential threats are not permanent decisions. As a situation Continue reading »

UC Santa Barbara Shooter – Video Analysis

March 11, 2015 in Assessing Individuals

This video analysis is part of our recently released training center content.

In case you haven’t seen it, here is a 7-minute section of the video that was released showing the shooter before he opened fire on unarmed people at UC Santa Barbara on May 23, 2014.  You can find the Wikipedia overview of the attack here.  (In case the video doesn’t play, please contact me since I assume YouTube will take it down and we can find another way).

For an analysis, I want to show how his behavior changes depending on what topic he is talking about.  These changes are what we talk about in our classes as the “repeat topics” that we are looking to identify as we move through a contact.  These shifts and changes in behavior reveal topics that we would want to follow up with because they are causing a response in the person talking.  How you would incorporate these observations into your job depends on what you are tasked with and what you are looking to get out of a conversation, but regardless of your role, we can improve our ability to recognize these shifts by going through this video systematically.

Before you watch the video, anticipate what behavior you expect to see, knowing that this is a justification for why he is about to conduct an attack.  Once you’ve got that, watch through the 7-minute video once in order to get a general feel for the topics and his behavior.

My anticipated behavior was Continue reading »

Disgruntled vs. Dangerous: Distinguishing the Difference

October 7, 2014 in Assessing Individuals

After having spent over two years commuting from Rockland County to Midtown Manhattan for work five days a week, a commute that consisted of one car, two trains, a subway ride and a bit of foot travel, I was extremely relieved the first morning that I woke up and did not have to rush out of the house to make sure I caught the early inbound train. I wasn’t relieved just because it was a welcome break or because I got to sleep in for a few extra minutes. I was relieved because I realized that there were four hours each day (two hours on the way into work and two hours to get home) during which I no longer had to be on “high alert.” It’s not that I didn’t feel safe on the trains, in the stations or on the sidewalks of the city, but I certainly never felt fully relaxed either.

I count myself lucky to have never been a part of an “incident” while commuting. By “incident,” I don’t mean anything catastrophic or serious, but something as simple as being in the vicinity of an altercation or having an unpleasant encounter. I’ve heard stories from friends and prior coworkers about being knocked over by a person trying to beat them to an open seat on a train or being spat on in the subway. I have seen people kick the wheels out from under a fellow commuter’s rolling bag because the person dragging the bag was walking too slowly, people pushing over trash cans when they missed a connecting train and arguments that I was quite sure were one wrong word away from becoming full-blown altercations. This is certainly not to say that every commute was unpleasant. What it did mean for me was that I always felt that I needed to be at an elevated level of awareness so that I could consistently monitor those around me to feel that I had control over my own safety. In a situation where everyone was running to catch the next train and when platforms, train stations and sidewalks could be packed shoulder-to-shoulder with people, I found that the baseline for commuters was often discomfort caused by annoyance or frustration, and which was often amplified by the trigger of a train delay, cancellation or particularly crowded train car. Being able to distinguish when that discomfort escalated and crossed the line towards becoming aggressive and dominant, and knowing how I would react if I were to encounter it, was the key to my own comfort during my commute.

My view of the weekday commute into the city was that it Continue reading »

4 Reasons Why You Will Never Learn To Read Body Language

August 7, 2014 in Assessing Individuals, Learning About Learning

This morning, I posted on LinkedIn the “4 Reasons Why You Will Never Learn To Ready Body Language.”  The article highlights some of the common pitfalls new students encounter when learning to read behavior.  Whether your goal is to recognize threats or improve your negotiation skills, assessing the nonverbal communication plays a significant role in understanding those around you and the people you are interacting with.  Hopefully this will help you avoid some of the obstacles you face.  You can find the article here.

Act Like Someone Else – Learn To Read Behavior While Mimicking Those Around You

January 9, 2014 in Assessing Individuals

People looking to develop their ability to read behavior can build the habit by mimicking and mirroring the behavior of those around you. By taking on the postures, expressions, and gestures of others, you gain insight into what causes people to display certain types of nonverbal behavior and become better at noticing the subtle cues that reveal their true intentions.

In today’s ROC walk, we explain the benefits of acting like someone else.

Video Transcription

When people ask me what are some things that they can do to practice reading behavior and becoming better at observing, analyzing people’s body language, one of the ways that I always recommend people do this is to spend a few minutes every day just acting like someone else. When I say you want to act like someone else, all I’m talking about is looking at a person across the office, or a person that you’re walking behind on the sidewalk, and try to mirror and mimic all of their behaviors. Look at what their feet are doing.

Look at their legs, their hands, their arms, their torso, their face, their neck. Try to take on the same postures, the same expressions, use the same gestures. One of the reasons that I always recommend this is because I really think it’s the best way that you can get better at reading other people.  There are two reasons for this. Continue reading »

The Other Side Of Submissiveness – Assessing Respect and Adoration

April 2, 2013 in Assessing Individuals

The dominant and submissive clusters are often looked at from the perspective of identifying people about to commit violent acts, but obviously not everyone who displays this type of nonverbal behavior does so in a threatening manner.  There are countless reasons why a person might give off submissive cues that are completely innocent and need to be considered when you observe  this cluster of behavior.

Think about a time when you were around someone that you had an incredible amount of respect for, the type of person who you wanted to be like and that you wanted to model your leadership style after.  Now think about the way you might have acted in that person’s presence.  It is likely that you took on many of the characteristics from the submissive cluster.  You might have clasped your hands together gently, either in front of or behind your body.  You probably weren’t lounging back in your chair with your feet splayed out, but were instead sitting up attentively with your feet positioned either directly under your knees or even pulled slightly back underneath your body.  As the conversation wound down, you probably weren’t beginning to turn towards the door, but were waiting politely to be excused by the person before giving any indication that you were ready to leave.  You weren’t behaving this way because you were consciously thinking about being submissive to the other person; you were doing it out of respect.

Take a look at the picture above showing the (at the time) Director of the CIA, David Patreaus talking to the Bulgarian Prime Minister (on the left).  How would you categorize the Prime Minister’s behavior?  (Please note, photo no longer available but can be found here.)

Continue reading »

Revealing True Happiness – Smiling Eyes

February 5, 2013 in Assessing Individuals

Every time you walk into a room, you naturally begin to assess all of the people around you.  You’re looking through the crowd to determine if there is anyone that you need to keep an eye on because they are showing hostility towards and also looking for any familiar faces. Beyond recognizing people we know, realizing who doesn’t like you is a huge reason why learning to read true facial expressions (expressions convey emotion) is so important.

It has been a while since we’ve written any articles about facial expressions but during a class last week I watched a boss tell one of his employees a joke (the joke wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t very good either) and watched the employee do his best to put on a “happy face” to appease his boss.  I don’t know if the boss knew his joke was a flop or not, but realized we should talk about expressions.   In social settings, Continue reading »

Threats Inside The Wire – Finding The Truth

December 7, 2012 in Applying The Observations, Assessing Individuals

Behavioral analysis doesn’t make you a mind reader.  Observing someone who is showing cues from the Uncomfortable Cluster only means that they are uncomfortable.  That observation alone doesn’t mean they are about to commit a Green-on-Blue attack, we can begin putting together a plan, go into Condition Orange, but we still need more information. If you were to look at a TSA checkpoint as an example, an old woman who is nervous about going through security because it is her first time flying in a decade could give off the same exact cues as a smuggler trying to get a suitcase full of heroin onto the plane.  The only way we can narrow this field to the people who truly warrant our attention, stop insider attacks, and find the reason for their behavior is to contact them – to start a conversation.

The “contact” offers two benefits – the first is that it reduces the problem of false positives, the old woman going through the checkpoint.  The second benefit is that it provides the information needed so that you can determine why they were acting the way they were.  They have already gotten your attention, now you can figure out the cause.  This human intelligence (HUMINT) is key to stopping Threats Inside the Wire. Continue reading »

Threats Inside the Wire – The Cues and The Clusters

December 5, 2012 in Applying The Observations, Assessing Individuals

We’ve established that the context for insider attacks is the Proxemic Pull – the approaching attacker.  We covered that. But when we look at Green-on-Blue attacks, the observations we are going to make are going to be grounded in the nonverbal cues – the clusters.  This is what is going to make the attacker stand out from the baseline and let us identify him hiding in the crowd.

The four body language clusters Continue reading »

Closing The Deal In The Boardroom, On The Battlefield, Or In The Bar

November 1, 2012 in Applying The Observations, Assessing Individuals

We’ve all been there before.  We thought we had done enough to get the “yes,” whether it was for a new contract, an agreement with a village elder in a foreign country over the placement of a new well, or the number for the girl you’ve been talking to at the bar.  In fact, we were probably so confident in our presentation that a “no” was no longer even a real possibility in our mind.  Because of this, we probably stopped looking for the cues that could have alerted us to the impending and humiliating rejection that was around the next corner.  It might not always be an outright no either.  At first it could even be a “yes” just to get us to stop talking which also provides them the time for the “buyers remorse” to set in and have the deal breakdown later on.  Where did we go wrong?  It started by failing to Continue reading »