After years of study, and thousands of interviews, it still causes me to pause when I consider the findings and research of Avinoam Sapir from LSI.
Last night, Heather and I were discussing this very thing: the moments of pause we have in considering the accuracy of analysis in the simplest of matters. She said that this past Fall, a "light bulb" went off as she was listening to a lecture I was giving investigators on the word "left." We both agreed, with much discussion, that it is simplistic genius that was able to observe, listen, observe, and then begin research, into some of these principles.
Regarding the word "left";
Some people go to the store.
"I went to Sears."
Some people leave to go to the store.
"I left my house and went to Sears."
Both end up at the store, but for the second person's statement, the location from which he departed, is what is on his mind. He felt the need, in less than a second, to use the additional words, "left my house and" in his sentence. It takes more effort and the subject is not saying the same thing as the first subject, but this is not something generally picked up without training.
People use the word "left" as a means of mentioning the place where their mind is. It is like a way to get that place into a sentence.
First, this had to be observed, and then it had to be contemplated. Most of us do not get past the first: we don't listen enough to even hear that the person "left" to go to the store.
Secondly, it had to be contemplated. Why, in the law of economy of sentences, did the person feel the need to add in that they left first, since one cannot get to Sears without leaving? In that the subject felt the need to mention the place departed from, LSI learned something both simple and brilliant:
There is a story missing.
There is information, within the subject, regarding the departure, that is being 'telegraphed' by the word "left" (or 'departed') yet is not spoken. This is why the therapist, journalist, or investigator allows the subject to continue, highlighting the word "left" and asking follow up questions about this period of time, when the subject stops speaking. (We never interrupt a subject; we do not 'focus' the interview, we allow the subject to guide us).
When someone feels the need to not simply state where they went, but the leaving, first, of where they were, we know to back up, and ask questions because there is missing information at that period of time, that is likely very important to us.
II. "I didn't do it"
Today, an interview was conducted in which the accusation was plain: theft of missing money.
If you have read here for any length of time, you know that an innocent person will say, "I didn't take the money" and if challenged, will use the emphatic, "I did not take the money"; often not waiting for the accusation to be verbalized, if known. In this case, everyone in the company knew why the investigator was there: someone stole money.
The investigator debriefed with me after the interview and expressed such admiration, in spite of his training and years of experience, for the simple teaching of Reliable Denial. He said that the subject was unable to say he didn't do it, even though he had been given opportunity after opportunity to say so over a long period of time.
What did he say? Some of his answers are quite common, but a few caused the investigator to squelch a smile.
"I would never have taken the money. "
"I just can't see myself doing something like that."
"I just isn't like him to do something like that."
He wondered how his company could even question him.
Taken the money "never even crossed my mind."
The investigator took careful notes, moving slowly through a lengthy interview. This is important for anyone, including journalists: get quotes. Do not paraphrase. If you are an honest person, you will project yourself into the quotes.
I learned this lesson many years ago when I transcribed interviews of children. My notes and the recording were not in unison.
"How are you feeling?"
"I'm good" became "well" as I took notes. I found that I instinctively correct grammar. This was a great lesson, listening to audio recordings of interviews taught me to write down precisely what the subject said, especially when the subject uses broken sentences and even illogical, incomplete sentences.
In today's interview, the investigator said that after a very lengthy interview, all the statements were compiled and the quotes were read back to the subject, who affirmed that everything was accurate.
In all the time of the interview, the subject did not say, "I didn't (or did not) take the money."
"If the subject is unwilling or unable to bring himself to say he did not do it, we are not permitted to say it for him."
My initial confrontation with this teaching was a rough one: I did not believe it would stand the test of time. It is just too simple. How easy is it for a liar to simply phrase these words?
LSI taught that during the free editing process, that is, when the subject is speaking freely, using his own words, it will be rare that the subject is able to deny reality using a reliable denial.
It has held the test of time.
The investigator is well trained and knows principle and is experienced. He was still...not surprised, but in his words, "amazed" at how the analysis has never been wrong for him.