Emotional intelligence is a crucial factor in coaching and L&D. The ability to accurately read feedback from learners is essential for success, but it can be challenging due to the nuances of communication. Recognising when learners conceal their true thoughts and feelings is particularly valuable, especially when anxiety or lack of confidence is present.
Using the SCAnS methodology, coaches and L&D practitioners can uncover information from a person’s facial expressions, body language, voice, verbal style, psychophysiology, and verbal content. By understanding and interpreting feedback signals transmitted through these channels, coaches and L&D practitioners can enhance their ability to read learners accurately and provide effective support to help learners achieve their developmental goals.
The 6 Communication Channels
In coaching and L&D, the ability to accurately read information or feedback given off by learners is crucial for success. However, capturing all that is said or done can be challenging, especially with the many nuances in the spoken word, such as inflexions, pitch, and tone. Some individuals are incredibly expressive in their facial mannerisms, while others give off more information through their non-verbal activity, such as body language and facial expression.
Recognising when learners conceal their true thoughts and feelings is particularly valuable in L&D, especially when anxiety or lack of confidence is present. It can be an obstacle to successful communication and detrimental to achieving developmental aims and objectives. Training to detect deception and limit avoidance behaviour can make a significant difference in various situations, such as facilitating team building events, offering feedback on difficult performance issues, and coaching individuals on goal setting.
This article delves into the world of emotional awareness and the science behind examining truth and deception, drawing from the latest research and applications. By gaining insights into the cues that reveal emotions and detecting signs of deception, coaches and L&D practitioners can enhance their effectiveness and help learners achieve their developmental goals.
To read the behaviours of learners successfully, it’s important to pay attention to the six communication channels that transmit signals. Using the SCAnS methodology, you can uncover information from a person’s facial expressions, body language, voice, verbal style, psychophysiology, and verbal content. These channels provide insight into learners’ emotions, thought processes, and behaviour.
Facial expressions, for example, reveal actual emotions and cognitive processes. The research by Charles Darwin and other scientists of the 19th century has been advanced by Paul Ekman, David Matsumoto and others, leading to the discovery that all humans display seven universal emotions in the same way. These emotions are happiness, sadness, anger, fear, disgust, contempt, and surprise and can be given off involuntarily in less than a fifth of a second, known as micro-expressions.
On the other hand, body language is the non-verbal signal that can reveal what learners think and feel. While the research literature in relation to body language and deception is not straightforward and is heavily influenced by myths and cultural variables, it can still provide illuminating insights into learners’ thought processes and emotions.
Voice, including rhythm, speed, volume, and pitch, has become the dominant communication channel, but paying too much attention to it can cause us to miss important cues in other channels.
Verbal style is the structure, contradictions, and flow of the words learners say, which can also provide valuable information. By knowing learners’ baseline or normal operating behaviour, we can learn a great deal from any change from the baseline, particularly in verbal style.
Finally, verbal content, the words learners say or write, has been studied for decades to seek a language or composition that can discriminate between credible and non-credible statements. This technique provides a language and structure to articulate what might be amiss in a learner’s communication.
The psychophysiology channel captures physiological signals that users can sometimes see and hear without technical aids: that is, changes in skin colour, perspiration, blood pressure on visible veins, breath, dryness of the mouth and pupil size.
Planning and Preparation
Social interactions are complex and fascinating, revealing our thoughts, beliefs, perceptions, and emotions through the intricacy and unpredictability of language. When it comes to recruitment, the interview process is a crucial step in confirming and reassessing a candidate’s fit for an organisation. However, despite the use of psychometric tests and research, interviewers can struggle to articulate what they feel is amiss about a candidate.
Whether you’re a coach, line manager, or group facilitator/trainer, accurately interpreting communication signals is critical, particularly when the stakes are high, such as in performance reviews or learning environments. Planning and preparation are crucial to achieving successful outcomes, ensuring interventions are based on real development needs and delivering lasting results while being mindful of the time and financial costs.
Planning and preparation involve considering the overarching context of the situation, focusing on the person and the situation itself. Addressing bias, imported into the interaction and arising from our psychological makeup, is a key starting point. We can react to labels and become cognitive misers, selectively processing data that conforms to our previously held biases or beliefs. Therefore, we must be aware of and manage our own perceptions, biases, and expectations to prepare ourselves effectively.
By taking this step, we can create a more productive and equitable environment for all parties involved, enabling us to accurately read the communication signals of others and provide meaningful support for their development.
Decoding Truth and Deception
To accurately interpret the communication signals given off by learners/employees during coaching sessions or performance discussions, we need to ensure that we are working with real information. But how do we identify when someone is being truthful?
Consistency is a key indicator of truthfulness. When someone is telling the truth, their responses flow seamlessly, displaying a synchronised and spontaneous rhythm. The two domains of cognition and emotion are in harmony, without conflict. The speaker can easily recall the event, providing appropriate details and introducing spontaneous details prompted by reconstructing the event.
The challenge lies in picking up all this information from all channels while preparing the next question. However, the good news is that we are all hardwired to receive and interpret this data, and with training and practice, we can become highly skilled at doing so. This is part of our evolutionary heritage, as interpreting all these signals pays off.
The bad news is that there is no single indicator of deception, no Pinocchio’s nose, so we must focus on all that is taking place to identify potential signs of deception. Coaching and development professionals must develop acute observation and active listening skills. Knowing a learner/employee’s normal operating behaviour – the baseline – is also essential. It allows coaches to recognise a change in behaviour or response and identify why it occurred, depending on the context.
By understanding the psychological model of truth and lies and developing the necessary skills, coaches and development professionals can accurately interpret communication signals given off by learners/employees and provide meaningful support for their development.
The Psychology behind Deception and Lies
Effective communication is essential in any L&D setting, but how do you accurately interpret feedback signals from learners or coachees? This is a question that concerns many coaches and L&D practitioners and one that can be addressed through targeted planning and preparation. In this article, we explore the psychological aspects of truth and lies and reveal techniques specialist security staff use at key airports worldwide.
Dr Paul Ekman’s research into emotions has found that all humans display seven universal emotions in the same way, irrespective of ethnicity or culture. These emotions are happiness, sadness, anger, fear, disgust, contempt and surprise, and can be revealed through micro-expressions that last less than a fifth of a second. However, there is no single indicator of deception, and we must work hard to focus on all communication channels to identify inconsistencies.
When detecting deception, it is crucial to recognise the clash between cognition and emotion. In a lie, they are more likely to collide and require more energy, as the liar must remember more information. This can increase the chances of inconsistencies between what is being said and what emotion is displayed on the face or in body language. Rather than instantly labelling this as a lie, it is safer to label it a ‘Hot-Spot’ and conduct further research through probing questions.
We must develop acute observation and active listening skills to accurately interpret communication signals. This requires developing an open mind and resisting the rush to judgment, instead implementing a filtering process to collect, analyse, and consider data before reaching a conclusion. By doing so, we can develop a deeper understanding of learners and coachees, and provide effective support that delivers lasting results.
In conclusion, accurately reading and interpreting communication signals from learners or coachees is essential for the success of L&D practitioners and coaches. We can gain insight into a person’s thoughts and emotions by paying attention to six communication channels using SCAnS – facial expressions, body language, voice, style, and content and Psychophysiology.
However, detecting deception is only sometimes straightforward. It requires acute observation, active listening skills, and the ability to identify Points of Interest (PInS) – inconsistencies between what is being said and what is being displayed. When we come across a Hot-Spot, it is important not to jump to conclusions but instead to explore alternative hypotheses and consider all available information.
At the heart of our model is the need to appreciate the relationship between cognition and emotion and to understand how they compete for resources. By doing so, we can unlock important information that can help us to develop a deeper understanding of our learners or coachees.
As we extend this science into the L&D sector, we are keen to hear from organisations and individuals who want to participate. With training and practice, we can become highly skilled in interpreting communication signals, contributing to more effective and meaningful relationships in the workplace.