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 »

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 »

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 »

Nonverbal Observations From The Vice Presidential Debate

October 12, 2012 in Assessing Individuals

I decided to wait a day before commenting on last night’s Vice Presidential debate because I wanted to see how the press was going to report the exchange between Joe Biden and Paul Ryan.  I wanted to compare the perception that viewers had of the candidates and then look at the body language that influenced those assessments.  Since a great deal of attention and reporting has been focused on Joe Biden’s performance, we can take a look at how he communicated non-verbally.

The response has been split down the middle, depending on the political affiliations the various news organizations have.  Depending on which website you may have read, the headlines either read that Joe Biden “showed his teeth” or that “he was arrogant and unbound.”  Let’s break down the nonverbal elements for each side of the coin. Continue reading »

Empire State Building Shooting – Raising The Stakes In Workplace Violence

August 24, 2012 in Assessing Groups, Assessing Individuals

The shooting this morning near the Empire State Building reminds me of a recent conversation that I had with a former San Diego police officer about watching a fight unfold right in front of you.  Many people have had the experience at some point in their lives, and if you ask people about it, they can tell you all about what happened before the fight broke out.  They talk about the aggressive person getting into the face of the person they are about to fight.  They talk about the aggressive person taking off his shirt or hat before the fight begins.  They bring up the fact that they watched the aggressive person approaching or running at the person he was about to strike. And they bring up every other pre-fight action you could image.

Rarely do they ever stop the fight from happening.  Why not?  The common answer is usually because they weren’t the one about to get punched.  There was no risk to them, so why intervene?  Intervening could be dangerous.  Right?

This morning’s shooting was a Workplace Violence related attack Continue reading »

Finding Dominant Behavior

March 30, 2012 in Applying The Observations, Assessing Individuals

As we look at our environment and all of the people surrounding us, we need to be capable of quickly and accurately classifying their behavior into at least one of our 6 primary clusters.

In this video, the punk kid is doing everything he can to posture and hopefully intimidate the guy in the black shirt into submission.  Posturing falls into the Dominance Cluster and can be identified by making yourself look larger, taking up more space around you, and demonstrating ownership (or territoriality) over nearby objects.

The kid in this video shows a number of Dominant characteristics: Continue reading »

Ending A Speech With The “Steeple Gesture” – And Killing It

March 9, 2012 in Applying The Observations, Assessing Individuals

In February of 2004 Malcolm Gladwell, gave an 18-minute speech on spaghetti sauce at a TED Conference that blew away the audience and then went viral on the web.  We know that non-verbal communication plays a huge role in delivering a break-through performance, but what did Malcolm Gladwell do that separated him from the other speakers?  It was only partly because he impressed them verbally with a well researched and thought out delivery, but can also be seen in how he ends his speech. Continue reading »

A Look That Could Kill – Understanding the Expression of Anger

January 24, 2012 in Assessing Individuals

Think about something or someone that has angered you recently.  It may be a coworker that annoys you, it may be a company’s customer service rep that you had to deal with on the phone, it may have been a person standing in front of you in line and, despite the ten minutes it took to get to the counter, they still didn’t know what they wanted to order.  Often times your anger towards the person after the fact or after the event has ended and you replay the scene over and over in your head, each time you re-imagine it, your anger towards the person deepens.  You are probably thinking about what you should have said to them or what you would say to them if you were in that situation again.

You don’t even need to be at the scene that initially caused your anger, but you can recreate that emotion in your head at any time and it is likely causing the expression of anger to be displayed across your face.

Anger is one of the 7 Universal Emotions that Dr. Paul Ekman identified through his research that began in the 1950’s.  If you think about anger in your daily life, you may have seen it before in arguments between people and regardless of the type of disagreement; you have often seen it during or preceding fights.  For Marines while we are deployed, a fight can mean getting shot at, finding an IED in the road, having a suicide bomber walk up to us, or being called to a riot that is forming.  For the military and police, fights and anger can have very serious implications and that make anger necessary to understand.
Continue reading »

Understanding Body Language: Dominance

November 16, 2011 in Assessing Individuals

The foundation of any behavioral profiling program begins with a deep understanding of what a person is conveying through their nonverbal communication.  Tying the domains Kinesics and Biometrics together allow us to quickly make decisions about a person’s intentions, capabilities and emotions.

The six clusters that we use to classify an individual’s behavior (Dominant, Submissiveness, Uncomfortable, Comfortable, Interested, Uninterested)  are the science behind our observations.  With all of these clusters, don’t forget about the Combat Rule of 3’s – that we are going to look for three indicators that all lead to the same cluster before we make a decision.  If you have the science part of the observation down, you are ready to apply the art of the observation and decide if that cluster you have identified fits the baseline or is an anomaly.

The Dominant Cluster

The Dominant Cluster is the manifestation of the limbic system’s “fight response.”  Even though we are rarely in situations that require an actual fight, the Dominant Cluster is how we use our body to intimidate someone else or when we want to be perceived as being in control of the situation.  The key driving force of the dominant cluster is an observation about how much space the person is taking up.  This will be seen when a person tries to show his authority by requiring a great deal larger of an area for his presence.  This is a form of territoriality.  Seeing three of the indicators below can lead to make a determination of “Dominant.”

Lower Body

–       Seated – Feet planted on floor, feet and legs splayed out (taking up space)

–       Seated – Legs crossed (if uninterested to block himself from the person)

–       Seated – Legs crossed with hands on ankle or lower calf – secure and confident in their position

–       Standing – legs shoulder width apart (taking up more space)


–       Seated – Leaning back with hands clasped behind head (taking up more space)

–       Standing – Hands on hips – authoritative (taking up more space)

–       Standing – leaning forwards – aggressive, making themselves look bigger

–       Standing – Stretching torso and making oneself look taller by standing upright and erect, this can be complemented with their chin up and the chest thrust out

Hands and Arms

–       Arms Spread out on an object (table, counter, etc.) – (taking up more space)

–       Hands clasped behind back – (judging or evaluating)

–       “Wrist Down” when shaking hands/greeting

–       While talking – lecturing (pointing with hands)

–       Steeple gesture with hands (perceived as intellectual and confident), if also touching the lips it may be evaluating

Other Indicators

–       The facial expressions of anger, contempt, disgust, and happiness

–       Maintain gaze for longer period of time, doesn’t avert their gaze

–       Dominant people may breach other’s “intimate” Proxemic zone, showing they feel they can go wherever they want

–       They may initiate touching with others to show they are in charge

–       They may try to break society’s accepted rules to show that they make the rules such as swearing in public

–       It isn’t the ownership of status symbols that show wealth or power, but the flaunting of them or attempts to draw your attention to them makes it dominant

–       They might walk down the direct middle of a path, forcing and expecting people to move out of their way by demonstrating that they are not going to move

–       Ignoring a “no” response from someone

–       Belittling and criticizing a person

–       Interrupting the conversation

–       Ignoring someone else’s presence or their part of the conversation

–       Face may be flushed if preparing to fight and nostrils may flare

–       If evaluating, may be looking over the top of their glasses, pursing their lips or holding their chin in their hands