The Ability to Focus Inward within the Executive Protection Industry.
There’s something to be said about the art of reading people, especially in the protection industry. The ability to pick up on nonverbal communication is an area where most, if not all, protection practitioners are skilled.
Where the gap lies is in articulation. More specifically, having the ability to articulate what has been observed. Without the ability to articulate what we see, as protection agents we are fundamentally flawed.
Observing those around us and identifying threats is the name of the game. As the culture and environment continue to become more polarized, there will be no lack of conflict, especially around those who can afford the service of protection.
Continuation training skills related to shooting, driving, and medical proficiency are always at the forefront of minds when talking to old and new practitioners alike. And while these hard skills should not be overlooked, neither should be the less ‘sexy’ soft skills. I believe that a heavier emphasis should be placed on building and honing soft skills. The ability to train a soft skill doesn’t take hours a day or a dedicated facility. Often, building or practicing soft skills can be achieved through our daily interactions with those around us.
The benefits of developing these soft skills can be immeasurable. For instance, learning a second or third language will give an agent a head start against those who may want to harm the principal. While English may be widely spoken, it will often be a second or even third language and likely not the primary means by which a potential attacker would communicate their intent.
Communication: the imparting or exchanging of information or news, a means of sending or receiving information.
Communication isn’t a new concept for any of us. What you may not know, however, is the breakdown of how communication works.
When talking about communication, it’s broken down into three categories:
- Verbal (the language used)
- Nonverbal Cues (body language or behaviors).
Nonverbal communication accounts for 55% of all information communicated. The other 38% is tone, and only 7% is the verbiage used. Those numbers may surprise those who think they have a complete understanding of someone based merely on what they say.
Verbal communication is the language and words spoken. This accounts for only seven percent of all communication. The verbiage used is entirely independent of the tone and the behaviors expressed. Language has the advantage that it is also encompassing the culture from which it comes, predominantly when it is the spoken native language.
The tone is how a person expresses verbiage through the vocals they use. Tone accounts for 38% of all communication. Tone is entirely subjective in so far as that when a person expresses something, how it’s perceived is dependent upon the emotional state of the receiving party.
As conscious beings, we communicate most effectively when a thought is at the forefront of our minds, to make sure that “what” we say is perceived in a way that delivers the most bang for our buck. The outcome of a conversation is often based upon the listener’s current mindset and emotional state the instant they hear the tone associated with the verbiage used.
The last category, and by far the most expensive regarding available information, is nonverbal communication. Nonverbal behaviors or cues contribute to 55% of all communication. This is because the primal segment of the brain controls nonverbal cues. The same segment that makes rabbits freeze when they see a larger animal, or when a cat fights a larger animal out of desperation to escape and survive.
Assimilating the Information
We all have different ways in which we learn. Be it through touch (kinesthetic), sound (audio), sight (visual), or holistically. Knowing how we learn as an individual is important, but that won’t help us in our desire to find the missing pieces when it comes to effective communication.
How does someone who has no prior training become proficient at seeing and understanding the nonverbal cues a person may give off?
First and Foremost
Being able to identify and understand what you are seeing is first. Having a common verbiage or language will create an understanding of the topics. It will help facilitate the information with finding homes in the file folders of your mind.
Much like a Rolodex, our minds can store information and then recall it in the blink of an eye. Thinking of memory as a filing cabinet allows information to store all the tidbits together. Having the data stored in files allows for quicker access when a similar situation arises.
There is no gym needed to build or practice these skills, and It doesn’t take hours of focused attention and neglecting other essential duties. A small investment of time is all that is required and can be as short as thirty seconds spent watching the people around you—observing and trying to identify which of the four behavioral categories the subject’s baseline of behavior falls into.
The four major behaviors are:
These are the most prevalent behaviors and the easiest way to categorize most nonverbal communication. We’ll take a closer look at these behavior classifications and how to distinguish them in a future issue.
Baselines of Behavior
Baselines of behavior are nothing more than a snapshot of the subject’s behavior. These snapshots can be taken in seconds and will always be evolving.
The baseline is not a static data point or an immovable structure. The baseline is much like a ship on the water, ebbing and flowing with the waves below it. It will be ever-changing based on each piece of information gained through the majority of the senses, be it hearing, sight, touch, or smell.
Does the person stutter as part of their typical mannerisms? When someone is speaking, do they hold their hands in their pockets? Do they fidget with something around their neck? If someone is standing in line, are their shoulders rolled back standing tall, or rolled forward? How are their feet positioned, and in which direction are their hips facing? Who in the group are the majority of members facing? All these questions can be answered exceptionally fast and give a vast amount of information from the baseline of behaviors.
Without first acknowledging and creating the baseline of behavior, there are no way anomalies can be noticed, let alone articulated. If they cannot be articulated, then they cannot be explained nor fully understood.
Focusing on the basics of identifying which category a person’s baseline matches is the easiest way to build the skill from scratch. It is so easy that my daughters, who are eight and twelve-years-old, have figured it out.
Like learning anything new, it can be fun, exciting, and may even become addictive. Once you understand the baseline of behaviors and have developed this basic building block, the doors to understanding non-verbal communication swing open wide.
How then can this skill be utilized for looking inward within the protective circle?
When working as part of a team on a protective detail, the body man/woman should not be the one tasked with watching the outside. It’s the job of the team member assigned with the protective role to focus on the needs of the client and facilitate said needs. In a corporate setting, a business may need to justify the use of a protective detail against the bottom line.
Knowing the baseline of behaviors for the principal is also an important task that is not so much overlooked as misunderstood.
When the defecation hits the vertical rotary oscillator, people always revert to their level of training. That being said, the goal as the protector is to intervene before a situation gets out of hand. This is done most effectively by reading your client as well as those who may do them harm. If a protector is unable to notice the behavioral changes of their client visually, then the team is ultimately set for failure when something unfortunate happens.
Rather than continuing to make excuses, invest in yourself and learn how to read the nonverbal cues of those around you. Be it the bad guys if you are in the projection role, or the client if you are in the protection role.
If you are interested in learning more about Nonverbal Communication and Baselines of Behavior you can download a free eBook wrote by Luke Daniel here:
By: Luke Daniel
Luke’s experiences as a Global Executive Protection Agent, Instructor at Tony Scotti’s Vehicle Dynamics Institute, and a student of behavioral analysis/non-verbal communication have led him to work with Fortune 1000 companies as a leader in human assets, “buy in,” and business resiliency.