Unintended Consequences: How Communications Technology is Killing Our Children’s Future Reply

Young adultsBy Chris Simmons

Digital natives, the term used for Millennials and the follow-on generations, are at grave risk from the very technology they’ve so thoroughly embraced.

New research finds that this reliance on emails, texts, and similar impersonal tools has removed the non-verbal component  from how these generations communicate. However, as readers of this blog are aware, however, the bulk of every single human interaction is nonverbal.

Devoid of all the subtle nuances  that comprise effective communications, digital natives are left with nothing but emotionless words. Given decades of research demonstrating that at least 60% of every message is nonverbal, digital natives are at risk to experiencing lives of institutionalized miscommunication.

This news alone is startling, but more devastating is the second key finding of this latest study. Absent the emotional (i.e., nonverbal) component of their cyber interactions, the digitals‘ brains are being rewired to process communications in a reason-based fashion. Thus, communication is reduced to mathematical equations wherein “word+word+word=irrefutable fact.”

Sadly, the rest of the world does not think and act based exclusively on logic and reason. Emotion is, and always will be, at the heart of every decision made by non-digital natives. This puts natives in a significant disadvantage whenever they interact face-to-face. Inexperienced at reading body language and the other theatrics of language, their failure rate in analyzing and interpreting others’ actions or negotiating favorable outcomes is stunning.

Predictably, this discomfort and unfamiliarity with F2F communications leads some digitals to retreat back into their comfort zone of technology-based tools. This response, however, can send the digital into a communications death spiral and increasingly deep personal and professional isolation.

Fortunately, the digitals can be saved, but only if older generations intervene. Non-digital natives need to teach the younger generations about nonverbal communication, the emotional roots of being human, behavioral cues, statement analysis, and so forth. Its not to late to save them – but their personal and professional futures require our immediate assistance.

“Angel Faced Killer” or Innocent Bystander? Analysis of Amanda Knox’s Interview With Diane Sawyer 1

Case Summary

Amanda Knox is the American woman tried for the murder of Meredith Kercher in Italy, along with co-defendants Raffaele Sollecito and Rudy Guede. The latter was convicted of the sexual assault and the murder in a separate trial. Knox and her boyfriend (Sollecito) were tried together, found guilty, and spent almost four years in prison before being acquitted at a second trial in October 2011.

She returned to the US while prosecutors appealed their case to the Italian Supreme Court. A third trial was ordered. Knox remained in the United States during these proceedings, which began in September 2013 and concluded in late January 2014. Authorities again found her guilty and sentenced Knox to 28 years in prison.


The key requirement for accurately interpreting the words and gestures of others is a baseline. All verbal and nonverbal messages do not necessarily mean the same thing. To be accurate, one must observe the other party long enough to create the “baseline” of their normal mannerisms. Any subsequent anomaly displayed would then warrant attention.

That said, certain gestures and speech patterns can be seen as “Red Flags” and categorized as consistent with truthful behavior or consistent with deceptive behavior. (Note: It would also be safe to use the phrases indicative of or suggestive of).

In this video, Knox displays a wide range of emotions and behaviors. She provides many answers and emotions consistent with a truthful person. Her eyes maintain a slow blink rate throughout the interview, generally indicative of truthful behavior. Additionally, her posture and arm/hand gestures often appear relaxed, indicating a lack of stress – suggestive of truthfulness. In several instances, she seems genuinely outraged.

However, there are also 11 “Red Flags” indicating possible deception. This timeline shows the precise locations of these anomalies and explains their possible relevance.

00:13 – Asymmetric smirk in response to Sawyer’s first question. See 13 Ways a Liar Can Say “No,” But Mean “Yes”

00:16 — “No” with smirk. See 13 Ways a Liar Can Say “No,” But Mean “Yes”

00:18-00:20 — Answers “No” but nods yes.

00:24 – Swallows before answering a threatening question. See When to Watch the Throat For Signs of Deception

00:27-00:33 – Multiple denials to a single question. See 13 Ways a Liar Can Say “No,” But Mean “Yes”

00:53-00:58 – Displays misdirected anger at the police for doing their job. “They knew what they were doing and that’s unforgiveable to me” (paraphrased).

01:05-01:20 – Provides a weak denial regarding her confession, led by the word “Well,…” In this context, “well” is considered an Explainer, that is, an expression providing a reason or justification for an action, thought, or attitude. Explainers reveal a causal state in the mind of the speaker. Other Explainers include because, since, as, in order to, therefore, etc. The key take-away for Explainers is that they are frequently used as rationalization cues.

Note also she claimed the police “acted like my answers were wrong” and told Knox she “had to remember correctly.” Curiously, she displayed very little outrage against the police for these alleged acts although she appeared genuinely angry just moments earlier.

03:17-03:37 – “I wasn’t providing a lot of the detail…” In this context, the phrase “a lot” is known as a Qualifier or Hedge. This is a word or phrase that reduces the force of an assertion by allowing for exceptions or avoiding commitments. Note the continued lack of outrage against the police, whom she just claimed provided the bulk of her statement.

Also curious is her lack of eye contact. Her eyes are focused downward. Another possible indicator of deception is the ambiguity of her closing phrase — “It was all like that.”

03:37-03:42 – “And I signed it (confession)” with downward eyes. She continued to avoid  eye contact until she asserted “…because I was incredibly vulnerable at that time.” Note the use of because as an Explainer.

4:39-4:42 – Opens with “I can try to explain..” and ends with “That’s all I can do.’” The word “can” indicates the speaker (Knox) knew she had a choice (i.e., she can explain or she can choose not to). In contrast, a statement such as “I will” would have indicated both commitment and action.

4:43-4:58 – Knox expressed sorrow for falsely accusing Patrick and then rationalized it with “…BUT (pause), I was demolished…” The word “but” is known as a Retractor. This is a word that partially or totally negates the immediately preceding statement. Other Retractors include however, although, yet, & nevertheless.

Also note the imbalance of emphasis within her statement. Knox devoted just five seconds to her falsely accused colleague and then took ten seconds justifying why she accused him.

How Good Are You at Overcoming “Lies of Omission?” Try This “Real-Life” Test! Reply

Brenda’s Story

The incident described below actually occurred. Read Brenda’s statement carefully and then complete the practical exercise that follows her narrative.

“One night I had a visitor. It was a friend – or rather a relative. He was from out of town and he came up for the weekend. When he got to the apartment, I didn’t realize anything was wrong. I invited him into the – my apartment and gave him a mixed drink. Later on, he went back to his car and brought out beer that he had been drinking. He also had a gun that he brought into the apartment. He proceeded to get very drunk. I eventually went to sleep. When I woke up, he was very drunk and there was beer cans and beer bottles strung all around my apartment. He was smoking a cigarette and using an ashtray that was full of paper. There was also cigarette butts in my carpeting. I started raising hell and at one time I thought he was going to get violent. He started shaking me and he wouldn’t let me move. All I could think about was the gun he had brought in and I thought I was going to have to call the police to get rid of him. Finally, I just made him drink the end of his beer and I stayed up till he went to sleep. That’s it.”

In analyzing Brenda’s statement, you most likely realized elements of her storyline are missing. She is intentionally withholding information, which means her account is deceptive.

Now that Brenda has provided her story, you will need to review events with her in an effort to learn what really happened. Before continuing, you may want to review the following posts:

The Forensic Profile of a True Statement 

The Forensic Profile of a False Statement 

Lie-Spotting – It’s As Easy as “1, 2, 3” 

Questions as Verbal Tools – What’s in YOUR Toolbox? 

Now, using the “reply” icon, list at least 10 open-ended questions that could be useful in uncovering the truth. We will provide feedback on your answers to maximize the value of this exercise.

One open-ended question is already provided:

  1. You said, “I didn’t realize anything was wrong….” What did you mean?
  2. ?????

Lie-Spotting: It’s As Easy as “1, 2, 3” 1

By Chris Simmons

Spotting lies is simpler than you might imagine. Broken down to its basic structure, every narrative only has three parts: Before, During [the event] & After. In the investigative world, we call these segments Secondary Issue, Central Issue, & Secondary Issue. True stories are generally balanced, with each phase comprising about a third of the narrative. A deceptive storyline, however, almost always follows one of three patterns:

  • Central Issue only [extraordinarily short] (for example, “They broke in, stole my stuff, and left. That’s pretty much it”).
  • Short Central Issue followed by long Secondary Issue.
  • Long Secondary Issue followed by short Central Issue.

For a deceiver, keeping the Central Issue brief and vague are essential to success. In contrast, the truthful person’s narrative flows smoothly through all three Issues and is full of details.

Despite the ease of this process, knowing when you are being lied to and uncovering the truth are two totally different challenges. That said, the first step in getting to the truth is identifying the lie(s).

For more information on Statement Analysis, check out The Forensic Profile of a False Statement and The Forensic Profile of a True Statement

The 4 “Textbook” Admissions of a Guilty Person Reply

By Chris Simmons

At some point, many of us have found ourselves in a situation where something has been broken or stolen and we need to determine who did it. In earlier posts, we’ve addressed the forensics of true and false statements, as well as the importance of nonverbal communication. That said, certain exceptions exist within these fields of practice.

One of these exceptions is guilty comments. Inevitably, this response will fall into one of three categories: undue interest, unnatural acceptance, or the exaggerated redundancy.

In the first situation, an honest person is not interested in the forthcoming punishment, because it doesn’t impact them. As such, any interest in the punitive outcome is undue since responsibility has not yet been determined.

An unnatural acceptance occurs when a person takes responsibility for an act they insist they did NOT do. A guilty party is looking for a way out (an “exit strategy”) and so it does not occur to him/her that an innocent person will generally not confess to an act they didn’t commit. Note: This response does not apply to persons with diminished mental capacities, who have been known to confess to acts in which they had no role.

The third response, the exaggerated redundancy, is simply an overstated denial reminiscent of President Richard Nixon’s famous “I am not a crook” speech.

Examples of the four “guilty comments” are:
1. “What will happen to the person…” [undue interest]
2. “I didn’t do it, but if you want, I’ll say I did…” [unnatural acceptance]
3. “I didn’t do it, but I’d be willing to pay for it…” [unnatural acceptance]
4. “If I told you I did it, I’d be lying.” [exaggerated redundancy]

The Forensic Profile of a False Statement 2

By Chris Simmons

[Note: This feature should be read in conjunction with yesterday’s post].

Like a truthful narrative, a dishonest statement has five components and is arranged in a predictable pattern. However, in a falsehood, the sequencing of the core elements is reversed and the Main Information split in half. As such, a deceitful storyline is structured like so: Start, Main Information, Minor Details, Main Information, & the End.

The splitting of the Main Information triggers the “roller coaster” effect many people experience when victimized by a lie. In this scenario, the sub-conscious mind has spotted the anomaly (i.e., a deceptive pattern) but has not yet identified the lie(s).

These behavioral cues are indicative of a false statement:

1. The deceitful interviewee will only include information relevant to the discussion (in contrast to a truthful individual, who includes extraneous data).
2. The deceiver’s narrative tends to be very concise.
3. Almost without exception, the interviewee’s body language will show clusters of deceptive behavior.
4. When the interviewee is providing the Minor Details, be aware that he/she is studying your body language to gauge whether he/she is believed. If they see signs of skepticism, they may alter the second chuck of Main Information to allow themselves a way out.

Test a suspicious story by allowing the interviewee to tell his/her account from start to finish without interruption. After a brief period, ask them to tell their story backwards. Since a dishonest tale is memorized from start-to-finish, you will detect hesitation and stalling as the interviewee replays the story in their head. The timeline will quickly fall apart as well, as items are forgotten, moved around, and occasionally — added.

The Forensic Profile of a True Statement Reply

By Chris Simmons

When interviewing a person, bear in mind that every truthful narrative consists of five components which follow a predictable pattern: Start, Minor Details, Main Information, Minor Details & the End.

1. During the interview, the Minor Details you encounter will be blocks of the interviewee’s personal time or movement that smoothly guide you into and then out of the Main Information.
2. The Main Information, naturally, is the core focus of the interview and answers what are known as the basic interrogatives: who, what, when, where, how, and why.
3. As a rule of thumb, a true account is always told chronologically, like a novel.
4. The interviewee will inevitably include information unrelated to the focus of the interview/discussion.
5. In response to questions or comments, the interviewee’s body language will often be more subdued than their normal behavior.
6. Once the individual has presented his/her story, you can review events with them and their timeline will remain intact.

Know When Your Child is Lying Reply

Seventy-five percent of the everyday falsehoods told by children are lies of omission or misdirection. The remaining 25% are hardcore acts of deception. Sadly, lying is a learned behavior, so the flow of hardcore lies will steadily increase until it reaches 60% by the time a child reaches adulthood. In this interview with Fox5, I share some quick tips on lie-spotting.

How Liars Lie: The “Referral Response” 1

By Chris Simmons

In trying to deceive, liars may refer to previous statements in an attempt to create the illusion they have been cooperative and to buy themselves more time. This is true even if the earlier claim was actually a “non-answer.” In this countermeasure, typical replies would include “As I told you earlier…” “We already addressed those allegations…” or “Like I told Mom…”

Stating something once often leaves little or no impression. However, every subsequent “telling” erodes our skepticism or disbelief. Repetition is a subtle and often underestimated psychological tool. Even when we don’t believe someone, the recurring response reverberates within our mind and over time, can open one to the possibility that he/she is telling the truth.

As Vladimir Lenin so famously said, “A lie, told often enough, becomes the truth.”

Reminder:  No single technique is foolproof.  It is simply one of many tools available to help you discern the truth. However, deception generally manifests in a cluster of behavioral cues, which often provides opportunities to use several additional tools (in sequence) to preclude you from being lied to or manipulated.

Three Simple Steps to Becoming More Influential – Instantly! Reply

By Chris Simmons

Think Strategically

Be more successful in getting everything you want by remembering that all communication is theater and every personal interaction a distinct performance. While this may sound like an overstatement, step back and think about it for a second. In one manner or another, all encounters have a set, costumes, sound effects, lighting, acting, and dialogue. While some performances may be more “bare bones” than others, increased audience engagement and recall occurs by integrating as many senses as possible into a performance (i.e., sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell).

Understand The Redundancies in Spoken Communication

While it may seem counterintuitive, the pathway to influence comes not from speaking, but from listening and observing. To paraphrase Mark Twain, “No one ever learned a damn thing while they were running their mouth.” Or more to the point, as Steven Covey so famously said “”First seek to understand, then be understood.”

As humans, we are born to over-communicate. In fact, every time we speak, we broadcast our message in three distinct manners. Our words provide the verbal content, while non-verbal communication provides both auditory and visual cues. More importantly, non-verbals generally convey 60-93% of the intent and meaning of a spoken message. Non-verbals consist of utterances and body language. Utterances are the speed, pitch, tone, and volume of what is said, as well as any non-words that may be included (a sigh of exasperation, for example). Body language consists of both intentional and involuntary gestures and physical responses.

Take These Three Steps to Increased Influence

  1. Listen to the words.  Understand that every word has meaning, as does its placement within a sentence or paragraph. Generally, the initial word(s) in a sentence convey the bulk of the message. For example, to say “Tomorrow, I need to head back to school,” emphasizes the timing of the event. In contrast, “I need to head back to school tomorrow,” emphasizes the focus on the speaker.
  2. Watch the body language. Do not assume that all gestures mean the same thing. Observe others long enough to create a “baseline” of their normal mannerisms. Any subsequent anomaly displayed by their body warrants attention. For example, imagine a meeting during which a colleague offers to partner with you on a project. Then, after making the offer, he/she proceeds to lean back and interlace their fingers behind their head. This would generally be an anomaly due to the disconnect between a seemingly genuine offer and a gesture that is a classic sign of perceived superiority.
  3. Take note of the utterances. The manner of delivery is everything. The words “I love you” can be said in every fashion from soft and romantic to mockingly and dishonest.

Ideally, the three communicative streams compliment and reinforce one another. Their purpose is to ensure a message is clearly received and understood. In doing so, they provide a behavioral  “cluster” which paints a much more precise image of the speaker’s intent, areas of interest, and sincerity. Conversely, when the verbal and non-verbal worlds collide, always trust the latter. The body hates deception and will always provide a physical response to reveal the truth.