Emotional Skills and Lie Detection for Negotiators and Lawyers

Learning Microexpressions

I can never spot any of the microexpressions on Lie to Me. Am I just not emotionally intelligent the way that some people just aren’t good at math?
The good news: research shows that many people can improve their ability to recognize all different kinds of concealed emotions, including the microexpressions shown on Lie to Me.

That’s a lot of information! How do I learn?
Several articles published in scholarly journals show that people can learn by using some version of the microexpression training tool developed by Paul Ekman.

Do I have to be emotionally intelligent to begin with to learn from Paul Ekman’s microexpression training tool?
No, indeed the published research shows two groups improve with relatively low “emotional intelligence”: those with autism and those suffering from some kinds of severe mental illness.

How much time do I need to learn using the microexpression training tool by Paul Ekman?
It takes less than one hour to complete the basic training. First, you take a pretest. Second, you hear Paul Ekman explain the distinctions between some easily confused emotions. (For example, many people can’t spot contempt before hand, but many improve after hearing him describe two different faces – one happy and one contemptuous.) Third, you get to practice with many examples. Fourth, you hear Paul describe differences between emotions again with different examples. Fifth, you take the test.

Of course, you’re in business with Paul Ekman. Would I be better off with one of the other online training tools, like the one developed by a former graduate student?
I doubt it. Paul Ekman’s training tool was tested by researchers who had no financial relationship to Paul. One leading anti-terrorism group considered alternatives to training by Paul. As they put it, “Why would we hire the student when we could have the teacher.” And Paul Ekman is the master teacher. Time named him one of the top 100 scientists of last century.

What if I don’t seem to improve from the microexpression training tool?
The way I learned myself was to attend a class of less than thirty people taught by Paul Ekman himself. Paul does not teach many groups these days. However, I and others are authorized by Paul to teach his approach to learning microexpressions and other kinds of emotion in classes as short as half a day or as intense as several days.

Why would I learn better in a class than just using the tool?
Several reasons. First, in the class, we often walk you through every possible change in the face associated with each given emotion. Second, in the class, we give you many examples of the actual expression of emotions from different videos. In my classes specifically for lawyers or negotiators, I use examples from courtroom trials and depositions, and my examples for negotiators include materials I developed with Michael Wheeler at Harvard Business School. Third, if you have specific issues, such as confusing some kinds of emotions or just missing some altogether, we can review some special tips for that – subject to the number of people in class and the number with other questions, of course!

If I’ve really improved my ability to recognize emotions, is there any reason to take a class?
Many! Paul Ekman’s microexpression training tool only teaches you how to recognize emotions – not what to do with them. Remember: when you see a microexpression, you are seeing something hidden. It’s one or more of two problems. Maybe the person is unaware of the emotion. That’s repression. The person might also know the emotion but want to keep it from you. That’s suppression or sometimes deception.
The class gives you some information on what to do with the information. In general classes, we identify some options on what you might say or do when you see a microexpression. Depending on class size, you get to try this – and see how others in the group might react.

What do you teach differently to negotiators?
I teach an entire framework for emotion and negotiation. Why might there be emotions in negotiation? Why do positive emotions matter so much? How long does it take someone to “get over” an emotion if I upset them? What can I try to help someone get over an emotion faster? How do I know if it’s working? Do some emotions mean someone is lying?

So you’re teaching about how people can negotiate to feel better and kumbaya?
Well, I do want people to be happy! And happy people often negotiate better. But I believe negotiation isn’t just win-win. All animals were equal in George Orwell’s novel, Animal Farm, but some were more equal than others! So I also teach about how you can get more in a negotiation. For example: you and your employer/employees will both be better off if some compensation is not taxable, such as retirement plans or – as of now! – some health insurance. But an employer would still rather give less retirement compensation, and an employee would still want more.

To get started, click here to register for an upcoming training.