Facilitating communication through body language

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The way a loss prevention specialist conducts and manages themselves during an interrogation makes a huge difference in how many accurate, honest details they’re able to extract to support their investigation versus how little cooperation they get.

That’s also true for human resources specialists trying to choose the right person to hire, as well as store managers trying to keep an unhappy customer from escalating into verbal or physical violence.

These are occupational challenges that arise every day. Handled in an ineffective way, they can cause harm and cost retailers considerable financial losses. That is why more and more retailers are trying to move the odds in their favor by hiring body language consultants to help enhance job training.

Lisa Mitchell, founder of Power Body Language, is one such consultant. With 17 years of corporate operations experience, Mitchell’s scientifically based behavioral approach to managing challenging face-to-face interactions is based on the ability to read the body language of people. The skills she teaches to corporate-level executives can be passed down to employees at the regional, district and store levels.

Mitchell will lead a session on ways to quickly move toward positive communication results at the NRF PROTECT conference in Dallas, June 11-13.

Set an intention

There are two major components to the skills Mitchell teaches: Help the interviewer choose the body language and vocal tones that will help them quickly establish a rapport with the person being interviewed or interrogated, and help the interviewer learn how to read the body language and verbal nuances of the person they are interviewing.

The key to the technique, for everyone but especially useful for loss prevention specialists, is “to set an intention or a tone for yourself by deciding how you want to be perceived as you begin an interview,” she says.

“Don’t proceed on auto pilot, but remain aware of how you are presenting yourself to the person you will be questioning. The goal in the initial stages of the interview is to create a rapport.”

One method is to assume a casual posture, rather than a straight-from-the-shoulder, ramrod posture, which “has people reading you more readily as having high confidence,” she says.

Also, “speak with more flexible vocal inflections, a nice cadence that someone wants to listen to rather than in a plain, flat, ‘just the facts’ tone.”

As the interviewer helps the person being interviewed relax, “the interviewer can start noting what constitutes normal behavior for the person they are talking to,” Mitchell says.

“This is establishing a baseline of what they look and sound like when they’re being honest. This is where the decoding process begins.

‘Clued-in and confident’

As part of learning how to detect the truth, people in Mitchell’s trainings role play, teaching one another how to create their own helpful body language and to detect dishonesty in others.

A certified Forensic Interviewer, Mitchell is in the process of co-founding a technology startup,
Selfless.ly, currently in beta testing. Selfless is being designed to help companies manage their corporate social responsibility programs.

Set to launch in the second quarter of this year, Selfless.ly will help companies go online to find ways to contribute money, volunteer help and provide other services that will help nonprofit groups in their various charitable or community service endeavors.

“I want to help a million people show up as their most clued-in and confident selves in any room they walk into,” Mitchell says. “It’s hard to find that confidence sometimes but knowing how you show up in a room and knowing what’s going on around you goes a long way toward helping people achieve that.”

Liz Parks is a Union City, N.J.-based writer with extensive experience reporting on retail, pharmacy and technology issues.

NRF PROTECT, June 11-13 in Dallas, gathers LP professionals to learn, network and discover the latest LP technologies. Learn more.

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