Interview and Interrogation Training: Have You Evolved—Implicit Promises

This week’s International Association of Interviewers interview and interrogation training tip provided by Wicklander-Zulawski, has Dave Thompson, CFI, vice president of operations for WZ, continuing the series, “Challenging You: Have You Evolved?”

The topic of this video is something that we see a lot of experienced interviewers do. Interviewers often make an implicit promise or suggestion of leniency, without actually realizing what they’re saying.

Something we hear often when we listen to interviews for consulting purposes is an interviewer or investigator saying something to the subject such as:

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  • “I hope you and I can solve this in the room today.”
  • “Hey, if you tell me the truth, we can keep it within these four walls.”
  • “Listen, if you don’t talk to me, we might have to talk to an outside agency.”

The use of these and similar phrases is something that has been going on for a very long time. These are the types of phrases that our teams sometimes use and see a successful resolution to the case, so they think, “That was a good line to use; I’ll likely use it again.”

The problem with phrases like those is that they are implicit suggestions of leniency or promises. “Hey, if we can solve this in the room today, essentially, you won’t be getting into trouble.”

“Talk to me and not an outside agency” is really a threat. What you’re really saying is, “Talk to me or we’ll contact the police.”

When we say things like this, we run into two different problems. One, with a guilty subject, we might be making a promise that we won’t be able to keep. Two, with an innocent subject, we might be giving them an incentive to confess to something they didn’t do, just so they can get out of the room, since they don’t feel like there is any consequence attached to it.

Either one of those outcomes is risky and causes a liability to you and obviously the person you’re talking to.

Next time you conduct an interview and run into a wall with your subject, think about the risks that come along with your go-to lines or phrases. Think about other ways we could understand why the subject is resistant and get more information, versus resorting to some type of promise or suggestion of leniency.

Every loss prevention investigator should continuously strive to enhance their investigative interviewing skills as part of an ongoing commitment to best-in-class interviewing performance. This includes holding ourselves to an elite standard of interview and interrogation training that is ethical, moral and legal while demanding excellence in the pursuit of the truth. The International Association of Interviewers (IAI) and Wicklander-Zulawski (WZ) provide interview and interrogation training programs and additional guidance to investigators when dealing with dishonest employees, employee theft, sexual harassment, policy violations, building rapport, pre-employment interviewing, lying, denials and obtaining a statement.

By focusing on the latest information and research from experts in the field as well as academia, legal and psychological resources, these video tips provide interview and interrogation training techniques that can enhance the skill sets of professionals with backgrounds in law enforcement, loss prevention, security, asset protection, human resources, auditors or anyone looking to obtain the truth.

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