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Seeing Clearly – beyond Bias and Expectation

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Despite all the current debate around AI, human relationships in both the professional and personal sphere are and will remain vital for success and wellbeing.

We know that we form impressions of others in a fraction of a second, based on a limbic system legacy of checking for foes or friends. Responding based on first impressions or pre- conceptions can lead to missed opportunities, regardless of whether those first impressions are positive or negative.

A recent experiment for an ad campaign illustrated the mistakes we can make by forming pre-conceptions of the person before us. Six photographers were each given a different backstory for their subject – none of which were true. Each photographer based their portrait on the story, and perceived the subject to be the ex-convict, drug addict etc he had been presented as. See the video below:

We are all prone to bias in many forms, and it is probably impossible for humans to drop it altogether.  Whether we realize it or not we are continually broadcasting a wealth of information about ourselves just by turning up. Our facial features, expressions, posture and body language tell the world who and how we are. The shape of the face in itself frames the story. The features, lines, angles and colours literally flesh out the details. My role as a profiler, whether I work with individuals or companies requires me to be as objective and empathetic as possible.

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As per the above quote, allowing ourselves to really see and get to know the other person creates the possibility for us to like and trust each other. Please note that I would always advise against being naive. That something looks good doesn’t necessarily mean it is. Having gathered your evidence I recommend you to test it.  The strongest and most durable relationships will be able to survive tests and challenges.

Having a background in meditation helps me enter into an internal silence where I can simply allow the information to present itself. Rather than looking for anything in particular I start from the viewpoint that every individual has potentially interesting qualities. When profiling a candidate for recruitment/promotion or a potential client the process is by definition more clinical. Any information I glean must be directly relevant to the needs of my client.

When profiling a private client empathy plays a bigger role. Even highly successful individuals have doubts and insecurities. My role there is to help them identify their strengths with greater clarity, allowing them to present and communicate with an increased sense of purpose and confidence.

We live in an increasingly busy world with great demands on our time and attention. Allowing ourselves to step back even momentarily opens up great new opportunities to connect and build deep relationships. How about giving yourself that gift? The rewards are likely to be substantial.

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Joseph McGuire is the owner of Clearsight Communications who provide personal evaluation services and training in the areas of senior level recruitment/promotion, negotiations, sales and HR. Individual consultation sessions are available both in person and via Skype. He is also in demand for group presentations, private functions and conferences. For further information email: info@clearsightcommunications.com

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U.S. Presidents – Faces of Power?

FILE - 5 SEPTEMBER 2012: The 2012 Democratic National Convention began yesterday with former US Preseident Bill Clinton taking to the stage this evening to speak. The November 6, 2012 elections will decide between US Presidential Candidates Barack Obama (L) and Mitt Romney. For a look back at the last 100 years of US Presidential races. Please refer to the following profile on Getty Images Archival for further imagery: https://www.gettyimages.com/Search/Search.aspx?EventId=150262549&EditorialProduct=Archival#esource=maplinARC_uki_sep12 (FILE PHOTO) In this composite image a comparison has been made between former US Presidential Candidates John F Kennedy (L) and Richard Nixon. In 1960 John F Kennedy won the presidential election to become the President of the United States. ***LEFT IMAGE*** 1960: Senator John F Kennedy, the Democratic candidate smiles on November 9, 1060. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images) ***RIGHT IMAGE*** 1960: American politician Richard Nixon looks up on July 19, 1969. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 150262549
November 9, 1060. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

Even in this hi-tech world our faces are an integral part of our brand. Those we meet form impressions of us in micro-seconds. As part of my profession I assess people based on their facial features, micro-expressions and their body language. I do this to help clients make clear and informed decisions about who they hire and who they’re doing business with. Often I don’t have the opportunity to sit across from someone so I must form a detailed and accurate impression of their personality and behaviour style from their photograph. This might sound impossible but you can tell a great deal about someone from their photo.

Instinctively and historically we have tended to associate particular features with leadership and trustworthiness. A classic example of this came in the U.S. presidential campaign of 1960. This was the first time the candidates were shown debating live on TV. John F. Kennedy recognised the power of the medium and was amenable to the requests of the studio people, including wearing makeup. Richard Nixon in contrast was ill, wasn’t taking his medication, and refused to wear makeup, on the grounds that it was unmanly! (Anyone appearing on TV nowadays will know the importance of makeup.) During the debate Nixon perspired and looked unshaven, whereas Kennedy appeared youthful, relaxed and energetic. The TV debate was regarded as being a decisive factor in a close run election. Interestingly a survey of radio listeners made Nixon a clear winner of the debate. A clear case of pictures painting a thousand words!

Donald Trump (Mobile)

More recently Donald Trump became the 45th POTUS. Over many years he has crafted a public image of himself as a powerful, decisive and no-nonsense business leader, with exaggerated body language to match. This image helped to impress a high enough percentage of the electoral college for him to be elected. A closer look at his facial features provides a much more detailed profile of his personality. Trump has a relatively square face, which the Chinese refer to as an Iron face – a trait he shared with Winston Churchill. This shape is associated with great stamina, a very strong will, and a tendency to rely on strong instincts – which are often accurate. His bone structure is strong, and coupled with his large nose indicates that he will be an imposing personality with very strong drives – He will invariably speak his mind. The dip at the bridge of the nose shows his lack of patience with meetings.

His eyes are usually narrowed, and where this is not as a consequence of visual impairment it is a likely sign of a calculating personality. (NB – Ultimately the eyes are the most important part of Face Reading. In western culture making eye contact is important, and we should pay close attention to the message we get from the eyes. In the case of Donald Trump there is very rarely any warmth evident, so we can be clear that he acts primarily in his own interests.)The thick upper eyelid folds are a sign of a large ego. The left eyelid fold is noticeably thicker, meaning that his ego will be more pronounced in his private life. The inner angle of the left eye is more acute than the right eye, so his temper will be quite evident to those living with him. The 3-dimensional fleshy bump on his chin is associated with bursts of impulsive, unpredictable and even childish behaviour which will frequently be a means of demonstrating his macho side.

In our increasingly busy world we can become accustomed to brief glances, leading to what psychologists refer to as ‘inattentional blindness’. It pays to take a little more time and care to see the details and discover who we’re really dealing with and prepare accordingly.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Joseph McGuire is the owner of Clearsight Communications who provide personal evaluation services and training in the areas of senior level recruitment/promotion, negotiations, sales and HR. Individual consultation sessions are available both in person and via Skype. He is also in demand for group presentations, private functions and conferences. For further information email: info@clearsightcommunications.com

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So What’s in a Face?

Cat with staring eyes - magnus rosendahl

A man finds room in the few square inches of his face for the traits of all his ancestors; for the expression of all his history, and his wants.  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson, Conduct of Life

Professional poker players frequently wear shaded glasses to hide their eyes from their opponents for fear of offering vital clues as to their state of mind and intentions. Whether the eyes are the ‘windows to the soul’ is a philosophical question for another time, but they’re certainly key to both establishing a connection and providing insight into the person within.

We register faces in about 1/17th of a second – quite possibly a throwback to a limbic system fight or flight response. Research from Harvard shows that we form impressions of others within 2 to 7 seconds of first meeting. Whether we realize it or not we are all ‘people readers’ with gut feeling frequently determining likes and dislikes.

In business we inevitably meet some people with whom we feel little connection, but with whom we must interact. Having insight into their personalities, behaviour and communication styles enables us to better build bridges, or resolve conflicts should they arise.

Our facial features and the changes that occur throughout life offer a wealth of information if we can learn to decipher them. The ancient Chinese art of Mien Shiang is proving invaluable to corporates today in key areas requiring face to face interaction. TV and Hollywood have also made great use of facial archetypes e.g.  in Star Trek the Next Generation we see the Ferengi with their large noses and ears being focused on money (check out any richest people list); the Klingons with their large and big-boned faces with angular features are direct and aggressive; Bambi’s big eyes represent openness and friendliness – notice how few politicians have big eyes!

We know that CEOs at corporate level have predominantly wider mouths, being by nature more verbally expressive. We also know that it is rare to find very successful entrepreneurs with small noses. If we do we note that they are likely to be working full-time hands-on in their business with very little free time to develop a broader vision. Their tenacity is essential to their success and should not be underestimated. These are, by definition, generalizations with each individual set of features allowing us to be more specific in our profiling.

Learning to read faces is a process requiring us to pay attention, a major challenge in today’s world. It is about making accurate observations, not judgements. When reading faces/people gut feeling is important but not enough. Having a demonstrable system is essential to establish credibility.

This is the first in a series of occasional articles on reading faces and body language. I’ll also be producing a number of short informational videos on the topic.

If you liked this article please feel free to share it.

Joseph McGuire is the owner of Clearsight Communications who provide personal evaluation services and training in the areas of senior level recruitment/promotion, negotiations, sales and HR. Individual consultation sessions are available both in person and via Skype. He is also in demand for group presentations, private functions and conferences. For further information email: info@clearsightcommunications.com

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Pay Attention to Detect Deception

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Deception leaves a bitter taste, and is destructive of relationships, reputations and credibility. Unfortunately in recent years we have seen all too frequent attempts at deception in the public arena, often under the heading of ‘spin’. Corporations, governments and media, sometimes acting in tandem have striven to gain advantage by mis-representing or denying factual evidence. It is short term thinking at best, and thankfully there is a growing awareness of the importance of Corporate Social Responsibility. Let’s hope it forms deep roots.

Over many years cinema has presented us with numerous examples of characters out to deceive. Some personal favourites in recent times are ‘The Usual Suspects’, ‘Catch Me If You Can’, ‘Insomnia’ and ‘Thank You for Smoking’. The reasons for deceit varied considerably, but the performances were all convincing – as one would expect from accomplished actors. In real life – unless one is a sociopath or psychopath – we are likely to leave a trail of both verbal and non-verbal clues pointing to any attempts to deceive. The key to spotting deception is to become observant enough to note the discrepancies of language and behaviour which act as ‘red flags’.

There is a great deal of mis-information in the public arena about Body Language, especially around this topic, and there are very few gestures which definitively indicate deception. The following sequence or cluster of movements tested in MIT and North Eastern University has been shown to conclusively reveal lying, when done in this order in this order:

  • Touching ones hand
  • Touching ones face
  • Folding ones arms
  • Leaning back

Of course there any many more indicators to look out for. If our suspicions are aroused when interviewing or negotiating we should be alert for sudden or incongruous gestures, movements, or changes in breathing patterns. If we spot any such changes it is important to note where in the conversation they have occurred and what issue was being discussed. Rather than automatically assume that this is a clear sign of deceit we should bring the conversation back to non-contentious issues for a few minutes to allow for a return to a relaxed posture. Only then should we return to the topic which triggered the initial gestures etc. If they are repeated we can then begin to probe directly to discover the underlying cause. It may or may not be deception, but it will certainly be a significant stress factor which can prevent a successful outcome. Double checking like this is important. It both prevents us from jumping to conclusions and clarifies that we have hit a ‘hot’ topic. A one-off shift in posture may be down to physical discomfort or itchy clothing.

Politicians

Politicians are a fascinating study when we look at Body Language, and they frequently reveal very deceptive behaviour. Perhaps the best known example was Bill Clinton denying that he had had “a sexual relationship with that woman…..Miss Lewinsky!” As he spoke he provided two visual clues and one verbal clue that he was lying. He is famously left-handed, but he gestured with his right hand. At the same time he looked to his left, distancing himself from his gesture.

His reference to “that woman….Miss Lewinsky” was an example of further distancing himself from what had clearly been a very intimate relationship, and is a typical verbal tic used when lying. (For a fuller list of verbal indications of lying look up ‘Statement Validity Assessment’, drawn up by German psychologists. This is an invaluable tool.)

To practice your deception-spotting skills I recommend watching politicians when they are making apparently emotional speeches. If you know which is their dominant hand check if that is the one they are using to gesture with e.g. Bill Clinton and Barack Obama are left-handed. Watch the speech first with the sound on, then rewind and watch with the sound off. In particular pay attention to the eyes and the mouth. You may well spot fleeting glimpses, known as micro-expressions, of smiles and smirks, in which case these are red flags – but hopefully your politicians are honest!

Joseph McGuire is the owner of Clearsight Communications who provide personal evaluation services and training in the areas of senior level recruitment/promotion, negotiations, sales and HR. Individual consultation sessions are available both in person and via Skype. He is also in demand for group presentations, private functions and conferences. For further information email: info@clearsightcommunications.com

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Missing the Connection? Open Your Eyes!

“What we have here is a failure to communicate”- Cool Hand Luke

Very few of us have all the business we could possibly want or cope with. To boost sales we join networks, attend gatherings and conferences, and arrange one-to-one meetings. Yet the amount of time invested, and the conversion rate from possibility to profitability is frequently too modest to satisfy.  At times there may be little or no fit between the businesses, and we say thank you and move on. Other times, however, we almost get a deal done, but an elusive ’something’ intrudes and blocks the way, and it is not necessarily down to price, presentation or sales technique.

Continue reading Missing the Connection? Open Your Eyes!