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Podcast Episode 066: Listening to body language with Susan Constantine

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Imagine if you had spent your life studying the silent messages you see when somebody is speaking. Susan Constantine is a world authority on interpreting body language and detecting deception.

Susan has worked with the US department of defence, federal court judges, law enforcement agencies and many corporations. Author of ‘The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Body Language’ and upcoming book, ‘No Bull’ – how to tell if someone is lying in seven seconds.

Susan shares the common fallacies of reading body language, and why listening is contextual. Learn about the micro-expressions people exhibit, and why they’re important in courtrooms. Hear about how Susan’s deep knowledge in this field is being built into technology.

Learn how to listen beyond the words, and gain an understanding of a speakers’ body language.

Transcript

Podcast Episode 066: Listening to body language with Susan Constantine

Susan Constantine:
People might look at someone across from them and say, is there something wrong, I mean, are you mad at me? Now, why would they know that? I mean, how would they know that? Well, it’s because their facial expression is different from their norm. It’s more tightened, their eyebrows are more narrowed, their facial expression looks more tense. Naturally, human beings can pick up on certain expressions. But what they’re not really good at doing is decoding them accurately because environment and situations can affect those emotions. You don’t know what happened five minutes before that person walked into the office. You don’t know if that person was on a phone call with one of their kids or their wife or somebody else that created that expression, that emotion that they had. But what we do know is that emotions are written all over our face and they can be read by the human eye if you know how to decode a properly.

Susan Constantine:
So I really caution people to make observations about others and decode it on their own without the proper training because research has told us that about 50% at best, are people at reading people, there luck is about as flipping a coin. And that includes federal law enforcement, clinical psychologists and I train federal court judges. And I can tell you right now, most of them can’t detect deception. They get very skewed. They get very skewed because they’re watching so many people lying to them, they assume that everybody’s lying to them. So if they pick up on one clue, automatically they’re lying. But you can really misread people because there are certain people in certain situations, if a person was never brought into the office before and going to be reprimanded by their boss. And since that’s never happened, that could create anxiety and they could show all kinds of physiological changes in their facial expressions, in their body language that could be a misread just because of the entire environment was unfamiliar.

Oscar Trimboli:
Deep Listening: Impact Beyond Words. Hi, I’m Oscar Trimboli and this is the Deep Listening Podcast series designed to move you from an unconscious listener to a deep and productive listener. Did you know you spend 55% of your day listening? Yet only 2% of us have had any listening training whatsoever. Frustration, misunderstanding, wasted time and opportunity along with creating poor relationships are just some of the costs of not listening. Each episode of the series is designed to provide you with practical, actionable and impactful tips to move you through the five levels of listening. So I invite you to visit OscarTrimboli.com/Facebook to learn about the five levels of listening and how others are making an impact beyond words.

Oscar Trimboli:
Imagine you spent your entire life studying the silent messages that you see when somebody’s speaking. Susan Constantine is a world leading expert in body language and deception. Those silent messages sent by body language. Susan’s used by the Department of Defence, federal court judges, and many leading corporations. The author of the The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Reading Body Language, she’s coded what she knows into a world first piece of software that can read real time, the body language of groups of people. Listen as Susan explains some of the common fallacies of body language. Notice the depth of her expertise at the intersection of body language and language patents. Let’s listen to Susan.

Oscar Trimboli:
What do you think you struggle with when it comes to listening?

Susan Constantine:
Keeping my mind focused on that person that I’m talking to and not the other things around me. And it’s interesting that you asked me that question because recently I appeared on the Dr. Phil Show. I’m often using this as an expert on his TV show blasting through some lies and just suspects in high profile cases. And in that he has a podcast that’s called Phil in the Blanks. And in that interview he says, he asked me to read his body language. But after that he says, now I’m going to read yours. I said, okay. And he said, the number one thing is you are a very good listener. And he said, when you’re talking to an audience, which is very hard, is you connect and build rapport with people instantly. So interestingly, for others that are around me, my husband would be the first one to tell you, you’re not listening to me. Well, my answer to that is this maybe you’re not talking about something’s interesting me, so anyway. But it was interesting to hear a renowned expert to say on air that I was an extremely good listener. So now I can use that as ammunition.

Oscar Trimboli:
You mentioned that you struggle with focus. What are the techniques you use to stay focused?

Susan Constantine:
The techniques that I use to stay focused is self-talk. So for me it is being present in that moment, setting aside everything else that is around me. And constantly reminding myself to stay in it, to stay in that conversation and not to go outside. So for me personally, it’s a constant reminder that when I find my eyes drifting, find my mind drifting, that I am cognitive of and conscious of where I’m going. So as being present in the moment, knowing where you are and then constantly keeping yourself reminded that you need to stay present in that conversation, because my mind, I don’t know about yours or some of your listeners, but there’s so much stimulus all around us and it’s difficult because we’re looking at our cell phones, there’s people passing by in a restaurant, there’s things that capture our attention. It’s so easy to kind of veer off. But in my business selective attention and attention is so important because we’re going to miss the clues if we don’t pay attention. And so it’s just like driving down the street and you take your eyes off the road for two seconds just to check your phone, bam, you can get into an accident with an a just in a microsecond. And so for me it is staying focused, removing those barriers and constantly reminding myself to pay attention.

Oscar Trimboli:
Yeah, it’s interesting. Staying focused in the research group, there’s a slight difference. 82% of men say that they struggle with focus, yet 86% of females say they struggle with focus. So I think that both struggle with focus. I just think that probably females are more conscious of it than their male counterparts. And you did a beautiful job there of highlighting that 125, 400 rule, which is, although we speak at 125 words a minute, we can listen to four hundred words a minute. So we’re programmed to be distracted while we’re listening. You mentioned that your role is to stay focused and attention. As a body language expert, I feel there’s a broad range of people who are putting themselves out there as experts. And you’re at your actually the top of the field because you have research, you have training that sits behind the work you do as a body language expert in multiple domains as well. Could you just step through some of the simple rules around things like congruency when it comes to body language or situations and how that plays out with body language?

Susan Constantine:
I’ve developed a technology tool that is patented. I train our law enforcements, our Department of Defence, and I proven my success with boots on the ground. Well you’re talking about congruency. That’s the second question you asked me. Congruency is a really important point, but also environment. People respond differently in different environments. So environment number one is really important. Number two is, as you mentioned about somebody folding their arms, that they’re creating a barrier. Well that might be true in a criminal case where somebody is being interrogated and they put their wall up and they fold their arms and they’re saying, you’re not going to penetrate me. I’m not going to give you any information. Rather than if you were in a great big conference room and they got the air conditioner on really cold. And so then you fold your arms because you want to keep yourself warm. So everything has to be tied to environment and situational. We even found that people, when they’re standing and they cross their arms, it helps to improve their concentration. So to be able to just pigeonhole one gesture with a specific meaning is an improper and it’s not an ethical way to be able to do to decode body language.

Oscar Trimboli:
One of the things you talk about is the congruency of the content and when you’re listening in and watching people there, you’re listening for congruency. But you’re also listening for clusters of three that happen within a five second time period.

Susan Constantine:
In fact, I’m writing a new book that’s called No Bull, How To Spot a Liar in Seven Seconds Or Less. So the technique is that we are looking for three different physiological changes within a five second period of time. And for example is, do you know where Melissa Guse is, a missing person. And the other person that may be a suspect says well, um, um, shifts, shifts back, scratches his face, rolls eyes or flutters. That’s a cluster. So we’re looking for a minimum of three different movements off from their norm. So we look for a baseline, like what is their baseline when they’re not asked a very probative question, one that might create stimulus or anxiety. Would you like a cup of coffee? Did you have a hard time finding a parking spot? You tell them where the restrooms are, kind of that. Did you watch the game this weekend? And during this time you’re observing what their normal body language is, how they hold their hands, how they’re seated in the chair, what their facial affect is, and their rhythm, their movement, their voice inflexion and so forth.

Susan Constantine:
And then you start to kind of move into more probative questions. Ones where really kind of want to dig down and find more information. And when there is a deception or anxiety around a subject, you’ll start to see the body shift and move and do awkward things. So it might be whether, and there’s no, one of the things I want to mention is that it’s different for every human being. So some might flutter their eyes and another one might grimace. One might show pain and suffering in their forehead. They may lean back. They may shift in their chair, they may cross their arms and may fidget, whatever it is. They do this within a five second period of time after a very probative or stimulus question is asked. And so then we can kind of bracket out that cluster and we know somewhere within that cluster there’s hidden information. So if I were an executive or I were an HR manager, if I were an investigator, that’s where I would hone in on and start asking deeper, more meaningful questions to find out what created that stimulus.

Oscar Trimboli:
I’m not suggesting everybody in your workplace is stretching the truth or as my friend Pete might say, telling the truth in the future. What you’ll hear next from Susan is her speaking not just about body patterns. She explores language patterns and how the language that the speaker uses becomes a code in itself. Listen carefully to how she speaks about language patents. What I’d like you to notice is if you haven’t built a good foundation at level one, that’s listening to yourself, it will be next to impossible to notice the language variations that she mentions next.

Oscar Trimboli:
You also talk about language itself and there are cases where people actually start to use language that detaches themselves from the situation rather than placing themselves in the situation. Could you talk about the language cues people give away when they’re not telling the truth?

Susan Constantine:
They speak more in present tense versus past tense. For example, I just covered a case, a high profile case, called the Christopher Watts case. And when he spoke about his missing children, he spoke about them and past tense. In other words, he says, my daughter was supposed to start school on this coming Monday. But if she were alive he would have said she is to start school. So in other words, when people are speaking in truth, they’re speaking from their memory, they’re thinking of things that have happened in the past because that’s where it’s stored into our subconscious mind. When they start speaking in present, then we know that there is deception because they’re making it up. So their word analysis is very important for, in fact, right now I’m working on a missing persons case of a mother who saw me on the Dr. Phil show on the Christopher Watts case. And her daughter was missing for an entire month and there’s a person that is a person of interest but they haven’t made an arrest yet. But this person’s behaviour was just really suspicious.

Susan Constantine:
So I took the video, some YouTube videos of this person speaking, transcribed it into a text programme and then did what we call statement analysis. And statement analysis is a careful observation of words that are used because statement analysis is based on the fact that people choose every single word for the right purpose at the right time, for the right moment because they choose it and it comes from their subconscious. So every word that is written, every word that is spoken is what is in their subconscious. And they are the ones that put that on paper or verbalised it. And based on that, there’s a lot of rich information that comes out of what words speak.

Susan Constantine:
Another one might be, they use words like later on, meanwhile, sometime thereafter. Oftentimes when you see this, is they’re skipping over information. They’re kind of saying, okay, this is what I did today. And then later on I stopped over to my friend’s house. Well, there was something that happened from one point A to point B because that person used the word later on. The other thing is, is that people will remove the pronouns, the first singular, first person, singular pronouns. They won’t put themselves into the event. For example, if I were being truthful, I’d say, I’m talking to you today on your podcast. After this, I’m going to be working on another video. So I’m putting myself in the event throughout. But if I remove that and I say doing a podcast, recording a video, and then having dinner later. It doesn’t have the same meaning. It’s not putting that person into the event. So we look for the removal of first person singular pronouns. We’re looking at words that are in past versus present tense words that if they’re speaking from memory or they’re making it up.

Oscar Trimboli:
Susan’s created a master class in how to focus at level two listening to the content and level three listening for the context. Where are the patterns in time, past or present or the pronouns being used when you listen to other people? Now, can I say that I’m always listening at this level with this much intensity consistently to language patterns? No. But what I can say is I notice when I’m not much faster than I did a decade ago, I notice much more quickly when I’m distracted. I want to reinforce that deep listening is about progress and improvement. It’s about practise. Deep listening at these levels is all about foundational improvements and it’s really critical that you get better at level one so you can become more conscious as you explore the higher levels, particularly level two and three, as Susan explores. It’s hard to stay focused at level two and three if you’re drifting off or you’re being distracted.

Oscar Trimboli:
And distraction is one of the most common qualities of the lost listening villain. The lost listener tends to drift off during the conversation or they get distracted before they turn up to the conversation, or they might use electronic devices during the conversation. I wonder which listening to villain you are. If you visit listeningquiz.com, you can discover your own listening villain and you’ll get a tailored three step action plan to tell you what you can do once you’ve noticed your listening villain and how to improve every day. Listeningquiz.com is where you can quickly discover your primary and secondary listening villain.

Susan Constantine:
We know this with research over and over again that people are determined to tell the truth. They want to tell the truth. Most people will tell you the majority of the truth and there are only fragments of what they say is untruthful. And the reason why that is, is because it creates cognitive load. And when a person tries to pull off a lie, it creates an amazing amount of stress and it’s hard to keep the story moving and sound logical. So the brain is, and the way we speak words and our body language combined together is what I’m analysing. In addition to voice inflexion, changes, pitches, the rhythm might be very steady and then all of a sudden the voice drops or it increases and shrills. In my line of business, I’m not looking at just body language, I’m tying it all together. If someone were to lie and they wrote it on a piece of paper and we know they were lying and I asked them about the specific area, that should create cognitive load and during that time you should see a multiple of three different physiological changes from their baseline because their verbal content and their body language are tied together in the same system.

Oscar Trimboli:
One of the things we talk about is that listening is a birthright. It’s the first thing you learn when you’re inside your mother’s womb. And as humans looking at the microexpressions of others, we pick up those cues subconsciously ourselves.

Susan Constantine:
There is a lot of research around that too, that people might look at someone across from them and say, is there something wrong, are you mad at me? Now why would they know that? I mean, how would they know that? Well, it’s because their facial expression is different from their norm. It’s more tightened. Their eyebrows are more narrowed. Their facial expression looks more tense. So naturally human beings can pick up on certain expressions. But what they’re not really good at doing is decoding them accurately because as we talked earlier, that environment and situations can affect those emotions. So you don’t know what happened five minutes before that person walked into the office. You don’t know if that person was on a phone call with one of their kids or their wife or somebody else that created that expression, that emotion that they had.

Susan Constantine:
But what we do know is that emotions are written all over our face and they can be read by the human eye if you know how to decode it properly, but you have to be trained. So I really caution people to make observations about others and decode it on their own without the proper training because research has told us that about 50% at best, are people at reading people. Their luck is about as flipping a coin. And that includes federal law enforcement, clinical psychologists. And I train federal court judges and I can tell you right now, most of them can’t detect deception. They get very skewed. They get very skewed because they’re watching so many people lie to them, they assume that everybody’s lying to them. So if they pick up on one clue, automatically they’re lying. But you can really misread people because there are certain people in certain situations. If a person was never brought into the office before and going to be reprimanded by their boss, and since that’s never happened, that could create anxiety. And they could show all kinds of physiological changes in their facial expressions, in their body language, that could be a misread just because of the entire environment was unfamiliar.

Susan Constantine:
Three tips that I would give is number one is to really hone in on their active listening skills. That means leaning forward, tilting your head, being present, making good eye contact, removing all the barriers in your mind, all the flooding that we have during the day. Remove it out of the way. And during that time you can employ some of the microexpression training, humintell.com and Dr. Paul Ekman both have a wonderful training programmes that’ll teach you how to read microexpressions, because that really gives you insight into a person’s inner thoughts and feelings. And then listen to the words that they actually say. One of the things you also could do is instead of focusing on the eyes, watch their mouth, listen to the words that come from their mouth. And when you’re doing that, you’re much more focused on the words that they’re actually saying because words have power.

Oscar Trimboli:
The reason why I selected Susan, why she’s the top of the globe when it comes to this field of science around body language, microexpressions, sentiment analysis, is that she’s on a journey now to code this into software. And this is no small undertaking. This is years and years of research in the software that she’s developing, but decades and decades of research in the work that she’s done in face-to-face consulting work. Susan, tell us what you’re trying to achieve by creating a set of technologies that allow what you’ve learned to be coded into software and to have a bigger impact on the world.

Susan Constantine:
I developed The Jury Lab technology that reads human emotion based on a need. And as a trial consultant, I’ve conducted multiple focus groups and mock trials. And it is actually virtually impossible to watch 12 people simultaneously all at one time. But now with new technology, we can do that. So I developed the first AI tool that can read human emotion based on Dr. Paul Ekman’s work of reading over 42 data points on a particular face, which are actually connected to muscles, which are insights into a person’s emotional state of mind. And that through a series of algorithms, a machine learning that can literally watch every movement, every flinch, every eyeball, every smirk, every eyebrow arch, whatever it is. It reads every single one of those movements and it provides an output that will give us a very strong indicator of 97% accuracy of what that person’s actually feeling, even though they may not know it themselves, which I think is just absolutely powerful.

Susan Constantine:
The AI tool that I created was out of desperation to be able to read 12 people at one time because my job is very serious. I have to be able to have my eyes on a group of people and to discern quickly who is a dangerous juror and which one is holding internal biases towards my client. And it’s humanly impossible to do it on your own. Since we have Dr. Ekman’s work, we know what that coding system is. This is very powerful and the reason why it’s helpful in groups is because people respond differently in groups than they do in individuals.

Oscar Trimboli:
So you’ve talked a lot about the application of this product in jury selection and in high profile criminal activity. Looking forward, do you see other applications for this listening tool in other domains?

Susan Constantine:
The same exact programme that I developed for trials or for mock trials and focus groups is also for market research. So if you went to efocusai.com, you would see a application that is identical to The Jury Lab, but it’s designed specifically for market researchers that they’re wanting to get input or feedback from participants that are testing products. It may be looking at a trailer on TV, how engaged a person is or who is disengaged. Keep in mind too, the beauty in all of this is that when you gather all of those participants, demographic factors, their age, their ethnicity, their occupation and level of education. Whatever you want to add on their intake sheet, all of that can be coded. One of the things that we used it for was during the elections. And one of our politicians here was speaking in a town hall meeting and he was talking about two very important laws that he was trying to get passed and one was the gun law.

Susan Constantine:
When he was speaking about that particular subject, everybody was anticipated. You could see that the participants that we were analysing were really engaged. They were really waiting to hear what he had to say, hoping that he was going to say the right thing. And guess what happened after he went through and the top politician went into his normal rhetoric, the disengagement, everybody dropped down to zero. What did that teach us? Well, if I were that politician, I’d say, guess what, I lost the engagement. I lost my audience. Apparently that’s not going to work. So I’ve got to change it up, change my pitch, change my strategy to reengage other people.

Oscar Trimboli:
What will I do differently in my listening practise after listening to Susan? First, focus on the mouth of the speaker and notice more their lip movements rather than just their facial expression around their mouth. And the second one, listen for tone. Listen for inflexion and tension. And finally, I’ll listen more deliberately for language patterns, especially as it relates to time, past, present, and future tense. What about you? Why not jump on to our Deep Listening community, Oscartrimboli.com/Facebook and share what you will use after listening to Susan today. Share it with the Deep Listening community. You might be surprised what you’ll learn from others when you share.

Oscar Trimboli:
The Deep Listening Podcast, for me, it’s such a privilege. It allows me to reach out to world class experts in their field like Susan and share their wisdom with you. A number of people have asked me, so Oscar, how do you find the guest for the podcast? Well, it’s a listening exercise in itself. Some of it’s proactive, some of it’s reactive. Here’s a tip. This is a proactive tip you can all use depending on whatever you’re trying to learn about. My proactive tip is I use google.com/alerts, google.com/alerts. In there I’ve got a group of 10 terms, all different ones as they relate to listening. And whenever something’s published on the internet, Google immediately emails me an article and tells me about that expert. Then I reach out to them and ask them if they’d like to share their expertise with you.

Oscar Trimboli:
Second one’s reactive and reactive falls into two camps. People who approach me seems really random, the group of people who’ve approached me. But there are a group of people who approached me who want to appear on the podcast and that’s terrific. I’d encourage them to continue to do that. And the second is you, listeners who are recommending guests for the podcast. I’m listening. So if you’d like to recommend a world class guest in the area of listening, then simply email me podcast@oscartrimboli.com with your suggestion.

Oscar Trimboli:
131 countries are listening to this podcast, countries including Puerto Rico, Portugal, Poland, the Philippines, Peru, Papua New Guinea and Pakistan. Recently joining our Deep Listening community group. Welcome to the group, to Kitten, to Kimberly, to Paula, to Steven to Sam, to Tracy, to Sarah, to Diane to Sarah, to Charlotte, to Amy, to Clinton, to Joe, to Todd, Helen, Louise, Hugh, Mitchell and Loraine. As you know, we’re on a quest to create 100 million deep listeners in the world, and we could get there in only 36 months if everyone who listened to this podcast shared it with one other person they know. Thanks for listening.

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