Interview Techniques By Witness Personality Type: Part II: The Empath.

empathy

(Continuing the series)

Interview techniques by witness personality type: Last week, we stated:

“An often requested service for investigators is to interview witnesses in order to obtain written or recorded statements.

To that end, a successful interview is often based on the investigator’s approach and the better she can assess the subject’s personality, the more effective the interview.”

In our multiple-part series, this week we focus on interviewing an empathic witness.

Definition of an Empathic Personality: (The Mind Unleashed.org):

  • Feeling others emotions and taking them on as your own

  • Sensitive to violence, cruelty or tragedy

  • Creative

  • Addictive personality

  • Loves to daydream

Description of a Empathic Personality: (from Psychology Today):

“Empaths are highly sensitive and supportive. They are finely tuned instruments when it comes to emotions and tend to feel everything, sometimes to an extreme.”

Empaths unwillingly, unwittingly absorb, intuit and feel other people’s emotions — from joy to misery.”

Armed with the above knowledge, below are effective approaches that can be taken by an investigator attempting to elicit a strong, accurate and credible statement from an empathic witness.

  1. The empath, prone to daydreaming, needs to be kept on track by sticking to the facts as points of reference. Empathic witnesses may keenly recall many details at once, flooding their sensitive natures.  Albeit more time-consuming, let the empath tell the story their way but guide them to stay on point with facts.  I.e., keep them on a timeline track.  “The accident occurred at 12:30 p.m.  How long after the accident  did the police arrive?”  rather than “At what time did police show up at the accident scene?”  The latter is too abstract for an empath who is reliving, moment by moment, the witnessed event.  We’ve all experienced startling incidents which seem to either have occurred much more rapidly or stretched out impossibly longer than the reality. Guide (not lead) the empath through a factual timeline.
  2. Don’t lead (you can direct) an empath as, they tend towards creativity.  “In which hand was the defendant driver holding her cell phone?” is very different from the correct “Was the def. driver on her cell phone before or during the accident?”  The former may generate a very wrong interpretation of the facts.  If asked the first way, conceivably, what the empath witness meant and can potentially state during a deposition or trial, might be, “In her right hand.  After she pulled it out of her purse to call 911 after the accident.” Lawyers do not like to be surprised during negotiations or at trial.
  3. Recognize the memory-clouding emotional process that an empathic witness may experience.  An empath’s sensitivity is heightened.  She may process the pain and shock through the eyes of the actual victim during recall. Do not rush the interview.  While keeping the witness on track by time and position reference points, an investigator may be surprised by the voluminous recall by empaths.   Again, an empath is able to place herself in the victim’s state of mind and emotions at time/place of occurrence and observe the event through that prism.  Follow the facts through the emotions; conduct soft fact checks, though, such as asking the empathic witness if she’d been involved in a similar accident/incident.  If the recall timeline doesn’t make sense, the empath may be emotionally overwhelmed, thereby relaying events with huge sequential gaps.  Ensure that the facts make rational and logistical sense.  E.g., the witness may say, “I was in the same train car as the man who got hurt. The train was stopped at the Chambers Street station.  He slipped and fell on to the tracks where he was then run over.”  (This scenario is graphic but also true, and representative of the need to take accurate statements.) There are follow up questions then that an investigator must ask to correctly interpret that statement: 1. What was the position of the witness relative to the victim? Clear line of sight?  2. Had the witness observed the victim before the incident?  If so, what were the victim’s actions? Did he appear sick, injured or under the influence? 3. If the victim was in the car, how did he fall onto the tracks?  Was he between cars? 4. Obviously, the train must have bolted forward (brake test?) or begun traveling for the victim to have been struck. How long had the train been stopped at this station?  (The list goes on but the point has been made – the investigator must ensure the logical sequence of events.)

Continuing with this series, in the next Bulletin, we will cover, “The A-Type”: techniques for interviewing an alpha personality witness.

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.

Interview Techniques By Witness Personality Type: Part I: The Narcissist.

narcissist

An often requested service for investigators is to interview witnesses in order to obtain written or recorded statements.

To that end, a successful interview is often based on the investigator’s approach and the better she can assess the subject’s personality, the more effective the interview. Fortunately, most people are cooperative, fairly truthful and possess a relatively normal personality.  There have been quite a number of times, however, when we’ve had to extract information from people whose base nature or personality has been overwhelmingly outside of the normal range.

With these type subjects, it’s the investigator’s people skills that determine whether she will prevail.

In our multiple-part series, we begin this week with tips for interviewing a subject with a narcissistic personality. Because of their compulsive, detail-oriented personality bent, narcissists can actually make very good witnesses – if you know how to handle them.

Definition of a Narcissistic Personality:

Most experts use the criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association, to diagnose mental conditions and personalities.

DSM-5 criteria for a narcissistic personality include these features:

  • Having an exaggerated sense of self-importance
  • Expecting to be recognized as superior even without achievements that warrant it
  • Exaggerating your achievements and talents
  • Being preoccupied with fantasies about success, power, brilliance, beauty or the perfect mate
  • Believing that you are superior and can only be understood by or associate with equally special people
  • Requiring constant admiration
  • Having a sense of entitlement
  • Expecting special favors and unquestioning compliance with your expectations
  • Taking advantage of others to get what you want
  • Having an inability or unwillingness to recognize the needs and feelings of others

Description of a Narcissist (from Psychology Today):

Narcissism is often interpreted in popular culture as a person who’s in love with him or herself. It is more accurate to characterize the pathological narcissist as someone who’s in love with an idealized self-image, which they project in order to avoid feeling (and being seen as) the real, disenfranchised, wounded self.

Having the above knowledge, a field investigator should be able to quickly assess the subject’s personality during the pre-interview casual conversation we engage in with witnesses to determine where they are “coming from”.

If the investigator has ascertained that she is dealing with a narcissist, the three best basic approaches are:

  1. Provide positive feedback throughout the interview without being disingenuous and overly solicitous.  A narcissist needs to be constantly recognized but, is also suspicious of people who are being nice.
  2. Base the account from the narcissist’s perspective.  As with most people, but more so with a narcissist, people recall best when mentally positioned (though guided imagery) to recall an event from where they were at the moment of occurrence.
  3. Let the subject talk.  At some point, with mild encouragement, the narcissist, because of the compulsive component of this specific personality, will give you the information necessary to complete a thorough statement.  By his very narcissistic nature, he is exacting with details.  Also, we’ve found that engaging a narcissist in minor physical tasks (such as drawing a diagram of the location of accident or arranging site photos) during interviews, helps defuse excess energy and OCD-like behavior.

In the next Bulletin in this series, we will cover, “The Empath” – Does she give a true account of the incident or is she wrapped in the emotion of the moment, clouding her recall?

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.

Subject Locates: Successful Searches v. Expensive Failures

One of the most common assignments we receive is for a subject locate.  Usually generated from attorneys, insurance companies, financial institutions (as, as you know, we do not work for individuals), we are often asked to locate:

– Adverse Witnesses

– Cooperative Witnesses

– Debtors

– Clients

– Heirs

– Etc.

The difference between a successful locate and an expensive failure is how much attention and care is given to a case.  Obvious, right?  But it has to be the right attention, which is a tight focus, and the proper care; to detail.

The starting point in a successful locate is to gather as much information from the originating requestor as possible:

Name: AKAs, Extensions (Jr., III, MD, Esq…), Maiden form, prior marriage form

Address: Last known contact date at this address, form of contact, (e.g. mail, phone… ), contact outcome, ( i.e. returned mail, no response, etc.).

Phone Number:  Last known phone number, cell, landline, Skype, other  VOIP (internet phone).

Personal identifiers: DOB, SSN, TIN, DL#, Medicare/caid recipient? School i.d.?

Contacts: Family, friends, employers, coworkers

Prior lawsuits: If known.  To include class of involvement (e.g., plaintiff, defendant, petitioner…)

Civil records: Is/was the subject married, divorced? Has s/he declared bankruptcy or have judgments, liens… against him/her?

Criminal records:  Almost every state now allows for an inmate lookup.  (If a person is missing for a considerable period of time, there are only so many scenarios, short of a bizarre abduction, to account for this disappearance: a move, death or incarceration.)

A good investigator will then form a profile of the missing subject and conduct an address history search which will generally yield a pattern.  (We’ll get to that in the next para.)  The address history may not contain the subject’s current address. (All databases, from DMVs to privately held, fee-based information companies operate within the limitations of data input regularity.  The subject may not release his/her most current address to an agency.  P.O. box registration is no assurance of a current address either.  If it is a planned moved, one simply has to apply and receive the P.O. box prior to moving and generate forwarding from the old address.)

Having created the profile, the investigator now looks for the pattern.  Is the subject constantly relocating?  Staying within a certain geographical area?  Is s/he beholden to a mortgage?   Has s/he foreclosed?  An address history search will also almost always reveal family member information.

Once the profile and pattern have been formed and detected, the investigator must decide on a course of action. The approach will determine if the locate will be successful.   Each investigator has his/her own technique but there is a different methodology applied between “friendly” locates and those involving people who’ve intentionally chosen to stay or go off the grid.   A sharp investigator will know how to entice a friendly subject and not tip off an adverse one.   That knowledge comes with experience and skill and a great deal of curiosity.

As a final step, an investigator may have to physically check an address to verify the subject’s address.  By arriving to this point, all other methods of locating have been exhausted but valuable knowledge on the  subject gained. (The location should be thoroughly researched before heading out to the field.  Showing up on a private road on 2 acres of land in the middle of nowhere is usually not going to result in a productive session.  Suggestion: Google Earth.  There should also be an established strategy to observe the location, discreetly,  within a restricted time span of when the subject’s presence is most anticipated.  If covert observation is not possible, the game plan must be thought out prior to, and include at least Plans A, B and C. )   Below; lack of a plan:

Finally, if your investigator returns with an address, ask that it be “verified”.  If there is  no confirmation that the subject is at the reported location, and the requestor is not made aware of the nonverification, a costly situation for the requestor may result, financially and with regard to negotiation stance.   If  the locate results are not verifiable, (and that occurs, although that number should be in the single digits, percentage-wise, in a competent investigator’s record), the requester will at least have that knowledge with which to make decisions.

Our operatives: A step ahead.

As always, stay safe.