Are you good at telling lies? Are you good at noticing them? October 1, 2009
Recently the TV series “Lie To Me” started it’s second season. A show detailing the adventures of a human lie detector. And throughout the show, they offered hints on how to tell if someone is lying. Hints like micro-expressions, word choice, body movements, gestures and more. All very interesting.
Unfortunately, even with hints like that, even people you’d think would be good at lie detection – psychologists, poker players, actors – are no better than you.
When most people talk about lie detection, they consider things like a cheating husband, or thief claiming innocence. It is however very useful in everyday life. For example, have you ever had the experience where you asked someone for a favour and they flaked on you? How useful would it be to know when you ask for that favour you know they don’t express the whole truth when they say ‘yes’?
Other examples are when you talk to your boss about your raise, or when you ask a client if there is anything else you can help them with, or when you as a friend if they liked the cake you baked?
Maybe with that last example you’d rather not know…
Either way, lie detection is a science, and can be learnt. It’s also an art, but that too can be learnt.
So here are a few hints and tips for lie detection:
Be aware of the behaviours in front of you - How the person holds their hands, blinks, breathes, where they look, how long they pause. It all relates to their internal state.
Be aware of dramatic changes in those behaviours such as holding their breath, reduced or increased blink rate, faster or slower speech etc. These all relate to this individual, at this time, only. Tomorrow they might well be the opposite.
Listen, all the time – Verbal pacing, word choice, incessant talking, pauses (or lack of). They all give you hints of what’s going on internally for this person.
Look for anomalies - hands and eyes pointing in different directions. Saying yes and shaking their head no. Blink or look away.
Ask the right questions – Asking ‘are you lying?’ will (almost) always get a congruent no. Asking ‘is there anything else you want to tell me?’ may also get a no, but might also show some of the other hints above.
After a while, you might discover that someone ‘always’ covers their mouth when they lie, or that they ‘always’ look you right in the eye. You might also discover that there is no common element with someone else. Understand how someone lies is deeply personal and varies depending on the lie, context, environment, pressure they feel and many other variables.
In the end, once you know someone just lied to you, withheld some information, or just exaggerated the truth, what you do next is up to you.
Stage fright’s frightening solutions September 24, 2009
So I was reading a blog on some methods for dealing with stage fright. Most of them are basic methods I describe, teach and use. Things like practice and preparation. However one particular one shocked and angered me.
They suggested taking drugs.
And not just something you can get over the counter (not that all of those are harmless) but a prescribed drug. Prescribed for an unrelated physical illness.
It’s very bad advice for many reasons, not the least of which is taking off label drugs for a problem that can be solved quickly and permanently via others methods. This really makes me angry and I find it difficult to express my anger fully in text. Let me try with a metaphor.
If you’re driving your car one day, and all of a sudden the oil light comes on, what do you do? Do you ignore it, check the oil levels yourself, take it to a garage, or place a piece of duct tape over the light?
If you were a mechanic, and someone described to you their solution to a warning light on their Ferrari dashboard was to cover it with tape, how would you react? That’s probably pretty close to how I feel.
Do you think taking drugs is a valid solution to stage fright?
Simple non-verbal communication changes get massive response January 29, 2009
Late last year I spent the week training in
But this post is not about how good
Let me give you an example. The class contained only Koreans. Their primary language is Korean. English is a distant second (or third or fourth!) So on the first day when I asked a question, I would get no response. The first question I asked? “Can everyone speak English?” The response; silence.
Two days later, we are having an interaction, a conversation. Their English is ok. Not perfect but perfectly understandable. They are (and were able to) on the first day understand me. What changed them from silent attention to asking questions?
One specific non-verbal behavioural change on my part.
I play with things – all the time. If I’m not, then I’m thinking about how to. I also test, constantly. I try things in new ways, use tools where they are not meant to be used, push boundaries and edges. Doing so keeps me interested and learning. This is play.
So after lunch on day two, I started playing with facial expressions. Normally, I smile a lot – but I decided to stop and freeze my facial expression. Suddenly the students started asking questions. Confused, I slipped back into my regular smiling and they lost interest with my answers and didn’t ask more. It was like turning on a switch. Freezing my face induced more questions. Back and forth it went.
One ’simple’ change and my results change. What simple thing can you change in yourself to get different results?
Ten Points to help in Selling with Powerpoint June 15, 2008
I’ve talked about PowerPoint before. I don’t like it so much, but many companies insist on using it for everything.
One such company I was recently working with used it for all sales presentations. That’s right; a ‘Death by PowerPoint Sales Pitch’.
I watched one of the presentations, and the sales guy came a distant second to the slides. This destroyed his sales abilities. He was a good salesman when able to interact directly with his clients, but stuck behind PowerPoint, he really struggled. Is it any wonder the companies sales were low?
In an ideal world, we wouldn’t be forced to use PowerPoint in our sales presentations. If we are, there are things we can do to improve the results we get.
So we sat down and devised a new set. This set used his sales skills directly in the presentation, with the slides to back him up. This slide set also used little known persuasion techniques from a variety of sources to improve his sales results.
So what did we do? Here is a list of what and why…
1. Each slide is given a unique headline that describes a benefit to the client in one single sentence. This benefit is then expanded within the slide itself. The only time you’d mention a feature is if in direct reference to the benefit the client gets. Some example titles might be:
- Increase your customer satisfaction by 32%
- How XYZ can increase your IT hardware ROI
- Decrease downtime by at least 22%
2. These headlines are written in an active voice. Drop the cold wet fish of business language and use active, first person language. Doing this actively involves the readers brain, and keeps their attention longer.
3. Make the slides about the client, not about you or your company. How can your product and service help the client directly? They don’t care about you or your product and service. They only care about how you can help them.
4. Each slide is to have no more than 5 bullet points (Each point written in active, first person language). The reason for 5 points only, is because there are volumes of research on how the human mind can only deal with 7 +/- 2 chunks of information. Some people in the room might be able to deal with 9, but the actual decision maker might only be able to deal with 5. Why risk it?
5. Each and every slide and each and every point of every slide must defer to the sales person to explain and expand on. If the points are well written, everyone in the room with is waiting with anticipation for the sales person to discuss it.
6. If you must read the slides out loud, then use a laser pointer so people can follow along. Otherwise they’ll be reading at different speeds, and starting to get annoyed as you fight directly with their own reading style.
7. This goes for every sales situation, but get excited! Your excitement in the slides will be directly transferred to your listeners. If you are sitting at a desk, watching your laptop, it’s hard to get excited. You might have to stand up and move around.
8. Make sure your regular set of objections are covered somewhere in the slides! The more regular, the sooner you cover it.
9. Have different endings to your presentation. There is a well known adage in sales; “When the customer is sold, stop selling”. It’s difficult to do this with another 15 PowerPoint slides remaining. Within PowerPoint you can create a web site like structure, so instead of going from one slide to the next, you can jump around. Giving more details on a direct benefit the client is interested in, and skipping the ones they’re not.
10. On each slide as the last point, ask a question that is answered by ‘yes’. This can help test for closing and uncover objections on each slide.
11. Use pictures. If you can’t find a good picture that describes what you want, then use a picture of a face. Humans are hard wired to recognize and respond to faces. Doing so will keep attention focused and make the slides more memorable.
There are a few more subtle methods we used that were directly related to his client’s problems, but these should get you started on redesign.
Any other ideas or pointers you have used to get good results?
The reason to control stress February 12, 2008
Stress may be triggered by external events such as having a short timeframe, being yelled at by a customer, or giving an important presentation. It is your interpretation of the event or situation that will ultimately cause you to feel the mental and physical stress or anxiety.
Now, not all stress is bad stress. Stress is a part of everyday life. In the right amount, stress helps you focus better and achieve what you want. Stress can help you be more alert, motivated, and gain a competitive edge. However, non-stop stress is debilitating and will interfere with performance. In the worst situations, it can even kill you!
Stress occurs as a response to an event that you view as threatening. Imagine driving your car at 200 KPH on a windy road. Under the right amount of stress, you switch on your full potential. Under too much stress you crack under the pressure.
The sooner you can recognize the signs stress, the faster you can react and keep in under control.
So, how do you know when you need to hit the kill switch on stress?
There are three main areas where changes can occur under stress: (1) Physical, (2) Mental or Emotional, and (3) Behavioral.
Physical changes when under stress may include dry mouth, tense muscles, pounding heart rate, cold or clammy hands, headache, sweating, and a feeling of butterflies in the stomach. You probably feel these to some extent if you have an important presentation. These are the signs that your body is ready for the challenge.
Mentally you feel stress when you begin to worry excessively about results, make poor decisions, have a limited attention span, make mental errors, and are forgetful.
Other behavior signs of stress include talking faster than normal, biting one’s nails, restlessness, hyperactivity, insomnia, distractibility, and trembling.
By themselves, these signs may not even slow you down. These signs can stay around, and compound. This starts a chronic stress situation, you will seem tired, restless, and feel out of control. If this continues, more problematic physical issues might start.
The important lesson is that you can learn when helpful stress turns into harmful stress and be able to cope effectively. Bring that harmful stress back under control and be able to perform at your best. The key for you is to be aware of these signs and make the adjustments needed when you feel anxiety, tension, or stress. You can learn the skills needed to keep the balance, relax when you want, and stop the overwhelming stress.
Ways to boost your confidence August 13, 2007
The words you use might be wimp, spineless, shy or fearful. Other people always seem to be able to tell that you are lacking in confidence and walk all over you, take advantage or just ignore you. And it feels like, after each individual event they build together to make a huge barrier to your success.
This vicious cycle goes on. You try something, forcing yourself past the wall of past failures, but fail and get humiliated, so it makes it harder to try again. Because you don’t try next time, the wall becomes higher and thicker and more difficult to overcome.
Some helpful people might just tell you to “Stop being a wimp and get over it”. As if it’s easy to entirely change who you are. That’s what it feels like; that you’d have to change everything about yourself in order to feel like tackling the world’s challenges.
Confidence, like everything else in life, is a skill that needs to be practiced. When you lose confidence it can genuinely feel awful, and for many people might feel like there is nothing you can do to change it. It’s a common statement, “I just don’t have the confidence to do that.” As though we can walk into a shop and buy a kilo of confidence.
Everyone has times when we feel we can do anything, conquer any fear, take on any project, deal with any problem. The skill of confidence comes in when the situation start to become difficult. Thats when our confidence can start to be eroded.
Confidence may take a while to build, and it can be undermined or lost in a second. All it takes is for something to remind us of that wall and we feel wrong-footed, embarrassed or demoralized. It might be something that reminds us of a past failure or previous time we lost confidence. Think back in your own history, is there a certain situation that you always lack confidence in? It often only takes one episode where you feel humiliated or weren’t sure what to do next, and suddenly your confidence is shattered in that event and possibly future ones as well.
Evaluate what trips you up and what doesn’t
There will be some situations that undermine your confidence and some that boost your confidence. Take a piece of paper and divide the page in two. On the right side make a list of the times and places where you know you feel more confident. You might want to start with listing things you do well. If you know you’re a good listener, for example, you probably feel relatively confident when you take on the listening role.
On the other side of the paper make a list of the times and places where you don’t feel confident. Meeting new people, confrontations, giving a presentation, making decisions, etc.
Now we combine the two sides to create a whole. Pick one or two parts on the right hand side of the paper that you could use to improve your confidence in situations on the left hand side. Let’s say you don’t feel very confident meeting new people, but you do feel confident as a good listener. Get a new page and write these two things on the same line. The left side is again “I’m not confident meeting new people.” and the right is “I’m a confident listener.” In between these two statements combine them into one sentence using the word ‘but’. Now read that whole new sentence aloud. Writing it like this and then reading it changes your experience and understanding. Many people have said this alone is enough to fill them with confidence.
Given that above example, people love to talk about themselves, so you only need to get them started (and every good listener knows how to ask good questions) and they’ll be off. Then you can listen to your heart’s content because you know you’re good at it. This then in turn increases your confidence of situations that previously sapped your confidence.
There will be many other possible times and places where you can borrow one skill to help you overcome a deficit in another. Even combining two or three to become a whole lot more confident much more quickly than you think possible.
Repetition is the mother of skill
If you put yourself into those times and places where you naturally have confidence more often, you will increase your experience and bolster your confidence, not just in these situations but also into the rest of your life. If you’re good at riding a bike, go on more bike rides.
Confidence is just like a muscle. You have to use it to develop it. Unlike a muscle however, you don’t have to spend any extra time lifting weights or going to the gym. You can build it throughout your daily activities by consciously focusing on improving your existing confidence.
If you do have a bad day, and your confidence has been undermined, focus your attention on the parts of your day where you did have confidence. Dwelling on the bad does not help. If you get stuck, use the above evaluation sheet to help focus on the good.
And there’s nothing wrong with every once in a while deliberately avoiding situations that do stop you. There’s nothing so confidence-undermining as consistently forcing yourself in situations where you know you’re vulnerable.
The Confidence Cycle
Losing confidence can be a vicious cycle. You lose a little bit of confidence, and then because of that you do something wrong which chips away another bit of confidence. This in turn causes another error and we are suddenly plummeting towards jagged rocks.
Of course, I’m being a little extreme here, it’s not always like that. In fact you can reverse this cycle so that anything that happens can make you even more confident. Everyone has some areas of their life where they’re really confident, or at least confident enough. This is when those lists of qualities and skills come in when we look at the Confidence Cycle.
This is how it works: when you are confident, you try new things, and the more you try the better you get. Like public speaking, for instance. Any good presenter will tell you that the more they get out there in front of an audience, the more confident they feel about handling whatever happens. NOT that they feel less nervous (some people, no matter how practised they are, never learn how to be calm on stage), just that they know what to expect and also feel able to deal with the unexpected. If they get unbalanced they have enough experience to get themselves upright again.
But without confidence you won’t try new things. Where do you begin?
The one and only place you can begin is to practise. Practice for success. That means to practice just above your current level so that even if you make mistakes you are successful overall. This might mean you practice where no one will necessarily notice or where you are not in the spotlight.
For example, if you feel you have zero confidence speaking in front of a group, don’t start practising in front of a group. All you are doing in practicing zero confidence. Practice in front of the mirror first. Then practice in front of a trusted friend. Do this until you can do it with confidence. It might feel false and embarrassing, but practising with an audience of one friend is very different than going into the lion’s den of an audience of strangers.
Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance
Alongside practise goes preparation. Whatever the situation is you can prepare for all manner of eventualities. For example, one of the training drills I give to everyone that I train in public speaking is to give a 5 minute talk. During that 5 minute talk they are to make at least 3 obvious ‘errors’. These errors might be dropping a whiteboard marker, tripping, forgetting a major point of their talk, or anything else. This gives them the ability and experience of dealing with something going wrong. Before something like that would undermine their confidence and set them up for more errors. Now it builds their confidence because they have direct experience of dealing effectively with these errors.
Whatever you choose, remember to practice for success. Doing something correctly once is much better than doing something one hundred times wrong.
If you found this article useful you might also like to read how to build self-confidence.
Communication is Manipulation March 26, 2007
Most people have this strange thought that manipulation is evil, bad, and should never be done. Unfortunately we can’t escape it.
I had a discussion with a sales manager the other day about some of the standard sales closing tactics. For example, do you want the product delivered on Thursday or Friday? This sales manager didn’t like to use these methods because he calls it manipulative.
It took me a little while to explain that all of sales is manipulative. That’s how sales people do their job. They manipulate their client into purchasing the product. In the end he understood when I explained that asking a question – or any communication – is manipulation. You’re changing the listeners state, getting them to accept your idea, alter their perspective or just sending their mind down a different path. For example: On what side are the hinges on your front door?
You have to stop your current thoughts, imagine your front door and then answer the question.
Now I’m sure to get many complaints and comments that sales people don’t manipulate, or that some do, but I don’t. These comments and complaints are another form of manipulation – attempting to get me to change my idea or alter my perspective (but send them anyway). I am doing the same manipulation back at you right now.
The reason it seems most people shy away from manipulation is because they think it removes freedom of choice. What really removes freedom of choice is when someone refuses to accept the responsibility for the manipulations they engage in. They’ll happily excuse away abusive behaviour because “it’s natural and genuine” or “that’s just how I am”. You’ll often hear “Genuine people don’t manipulate”. As some counter examples, Stalin was natural and Hitler was genuine. Being natural is no excuse for bad behaviour. So not only do these people limit the choices of people around them, they remove choices from themselves as well. Being responsible for your own communication creates more choice for you and your listeners.
All communication is manipulative whether it’s purposeful or not. All great communicators know this. Because of this knowledge these great communicators know they are responsible for the results of their communication. They know that when you talk with them, and you get benefit from it, you’ll do it again.
So how are your manipulating your listeners?
What most people don’t know about Powerpoint presentations August 1, 2006
Microsoft’s Powerpoint is a very simple product. It does the job for what it is designed quite well. Unfortunately most people don’t know how to use it.
And the failure is not because people don’t read the Powerpoint manual. The issue is not about Powerpoint at all, but about the presenter. As part of the work I do in training presenters I have noticed a relationship between the comfort a speaker has on stage and the quality of the Powerpoint presentation.
You’ll notice the best presenters only sometimes use powerpoint, and when they do it is a single line of text, or a picture. They use it very specifically and very simply. The worst presenters have their entire speech in 8 point so everyone ‘can’ read it. The best presenters know Powerpoint is there to assist the presentation and audience’s understanding, the worst presenters sometimes think that a flashy powerpoint will distract the audience’s attention from their quivering voice.
When creating a Powerpoint presentation there are several things to keep in mind:
- The slides go with your words. Produce your slides when you know what you are going to say.
- A picture is worth a thousand words.
- The slides are not there to be understandable without your speech but there to represent the idea you’re talking about.
- You are the reason the audience is listening.
- Use huge fonts. Readable from the moon. At least 30 point.
- The slides are there for your audience, not for you.
- Keep it simple – each slide should be understandable within 5 seconds.
For some more information, Guy Kawasaki talks about this specifically and has some examples. There is the always very useful www.presentationzen.com. And you can download some other examples from Tom Peters.
What stories are you not telling? July 6, 2006
Stories have been a staple in society for as long as humans can remember. We were raised at stories at bed time, Dan Brown’s “The Di Vinci Code” has sold over 60 million copies and Hollywood makes billions of dollars a year by telling us stories. At about the age of 2 we start telling our own stories.
The stories we tell send a very strong message to the listeners. The unfortunate thing is that most people don’t always get the full potential from their stories, and some work against their best interests.
A financial report tells a story.
A corporate brochure tells a story.
A business card tells a story.
The story each of these tell will be different and get different results. For example a hand written business card tells a different story about the owner compared to an expensive, high gloss, graphic designer card. What is the story that yours tells?
A common story
Stories allow us to understand the world around us. Some stories empower us, others hamper us. Sometimes these stories are so much a part of the environment, we don’t even notice them. One of the most common is the story about how Business is war. You’ll not always hear that story explained directly, usually just through comments like: “we need to roll out the big guns”, “motivate the troops”, “understand the enemy”, “prepare a defence”.
I will never forget a conversation I had about this topic some time ago. I was talking with a business executive that was stressed, angry and having difficulty coping. His description of his work environment, and the story he was telling, was entirely in terms of war. He was, in his own words, fighting a losing battle.
So after some time establishing how difficult working in a war zone is, I directed him to consider, for just a moment, if he would think about his work as a basket of fruit. There are the rotten apples that need to be removed, seeds to be spat out, pits that will break your teeth if you bite into them, yet the work itself is sweet, healthy and revitalises.
He looked at me with a blank stare, confused and trying to understand how to do what I asked. After a few moments he claimed it was impossible, “I can’t do it. It’s just not real.”
“Neither is being in a war zone.” I replied.
Stories are Persuasion
One day, there was a blind man sitting on the steps of a building
with a hat by his feet and a sign that read:
“I am blind, please help.”
A creative publicist was walking by and stopped to observe.
He saw that the blind man had only a few coins in his hat.
He dropped in more coins and, without asking for permission,
took the sign and rewrote it.
He returned the sign to the blind man and left.
That afternoon the publicist returned to the blind man and noticed
that his hat was full of bills and coins.
The blind man recognized his footsteps and asked
if it was he who had rewritten his sign
and wanted to know what he had written on it.
The publicist responded: “Nothing that was not true. I just wrote the
message a little differently.” He smiled and went on his way.
The new sign read: “Today is Spring and I cannot see it.”
- Taken from Kim Klaver’s blog
Stories are able to capture the listeners imagination and stimulate emotion. Stories have a profound ability to make you think in different ways. They have the ability to persuade when other methods fail. They can cut past beliefs, preconceptions, and conflicting ideas. Stories package information in a way that help the listener to understand that information. And for these reasons, and many more, stories persuade.
You are a story teller. What are your stories?
To Er in speech June 21, 2006
There is unfortunately a common occurrence that to me is like nails being dragged down a blackboard.
It’s the ‘um’ and ‘er’ that some people put into gaps in their speech.
These are sounds added in between words and sentences to fill the silence and tell listeners that the speaker is still speaking. In a normal two way conversation, the people having the conversation take turns to speak. Like a tennis match these turns go back and forth. The listener knows when to speak next, when the ‘ball is in their court’, by waiting for the speaker to be silent. So if the speaker does not want to give up their turn, they add in some form of filler noise. An ‘um’ or ‘err’.
Of course, when someone is presenting there is no need for the filler noises as there is an expectation from everyone that the speaker is not having a back and forth conversation. Yet I’ve seen CEO’s of multi-national companies presenting to a camera and have two or three of these noises in every sentence. It was excruciating for me to watch.
The interesting thing about these filler noises is that they are not needed. Not only not needed when speaking to an audience, but not even needed when speaking one on one. You can keep silent within a conversation, and still hold the speaker position. The most obvious, overt example of this is when the speaker holds up their hand like a stop sign.
You can hold the attention of all listeners with entirely non-verbal methods. Take a look a Tony Blair and Bill Clinton during interviews for examples of this. Watch their behaviour, not what they are saying. Listen to the timing and rhythm and become aware of the silence that they deliberately allow into the speeches.
There are many things that you can do to first stop the habit of ‘um’ and second learning how to keep attention. To start, consciously slow down your rate of speech a little allowing you to listen to your own words and enable you to self edit what you say. And secondly, play with how much you can slow down your speaking and extend the silence without others commenting…