PI Perspective: The Art of Interviewing
Dean Smith, President and CEO of ICU Investigations, sheds some light on the art of interviewing and tactics used to identify if someone is telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help them, God.
According to Mr. Smith, there are two different scenarios that come into play; an interrogation for a crime, such as theft, and a witness statement. And both of these scenarios require entirely different methods to find out the information you want to know.
During an interrogation session, Mr. Smith advises to “let them think you know more than you actually do. A person’s mind is their worst enemy.”
Also, in order to tell if a subject is being deceptive, Mr. Smith pays attention to their body language.
“When someone keeps looking down and to the left, they’re being deceptive. It is not a normal, human reaction when speaking, and it will indicate that they’re not telling the truth.”
“When a subject crosses their arms across their chest, they’re being protective, on the defense, closed-off.”
“When someone is facing you head-on and rests their hands on their knees and legs slightly parted, they are open and ready to tell you what you want to know.”
“Tapping of their feet, fidgeting hands, quivering lips, eye movement, facial expression…huge.”
“One of the most obvious indicators of lying is perspiration.”
“A liar’s breathing is affected. Pay attention if they’re breathing through their nose heavily, and watch for rapid chest movements.”
Mr. Smith explains that after spending a lot of time interrogating individuals since his first experiences as a private investigator, spotting deception “becomes a sixth sense. You’re almost intuitive. The trick is to be able to tell the difference between a liar and someone who is nervous about being interrogated. One method of questioning is to pay attention to how uncomfortable they are with a certain line of questioning, and move off that subject for a little while. But bring them back. If you get the same uncomfortable reaction, they are either lying or withholding information.”
When conducting witness statements, Mr. Smith takes a totally different approach.
“I don’t identify myself as an investigator; I play the naïve card. It is human nature to want to help others, so go in as if you need help collecting information for the insurance company on behalf of a victim. Be personable and let them know you’re here to help. If you identify yourself as an investigator, they close themselves off.”
Mr. Smith still warns against what he calls, “Nosie Nellies”. Although encountering one happens very few and far between, he goes on to explain that, “they’re the people that just want something to say, something to talk about. You have to be able to weed out the embellishment.”
Lastly, Mr. Smith sticks to an age-old tactic that still holds true. He says, “Find out the who, what, where, when, how. Stick to the facts and extract the opinions.”
Mr. Dean Smith has spent almost 25 years in the investigative industry, and proves that experience is everything.