What makes interpreting the sincerity of all those election promises so darn challenging?
All the prep time a candidate has gets in the way. Interpreting the nuances of non-verbal communication requires us to detect fleeting cues and they’re more accurate when an individual hasn’t had the luxury of polishing up their rebuttal.
Body language cues are most accurate when a speaker is initially put on the spot. It’s the gap before the brain has time to solidify a gauged response that elicits the best intel. What happens in the body during the pause before engagement is where the tells are loudest.
In those first moments, the body is going to ooze tells because fear or stress is kicking in unabated. The heart rate increases. The body sweats. The speaker begins engaging in unconscious actions designed to calm the brain down (excessive blinking, rubbing hands, playing with jewelry, building a wall between you and your accuser with whatever you have handy, including your hands).
Once the explanation or thought has been shared, the speaker becomes more comfortable with the story and it begins to flow more easily with each retelling. Any discrepancy with the message begins to become more difficult to ascertain.
Thus, detecting sincerity of your electoral candidates is a bit of a struggle unless you get the infrequent opportunity to gauge their immediate responses to an emerging situation. Candidates have a remarkable amount of time to get comfortable with their talking points and, as a result, the audience is deprived of the immediacy needed to detect disingenuous body language cues.
So, as we listen to all those campaign promises, how can we discern what’s sincere and what’s merely an election ploy?
Well, better sharpen up your skills.
And never underestimate the value of an unexpected question.
Instead of allowing the ramblings and distractions, hold the candidate to a higher standard of explanation – the good and the bad. Insist they elaborate on the cost and strategy for implementing each promise.
Or, better yet, ask them to legislate a financial penalty on themselves should they fail to keep those campaign promises.
Ask whatever question that places them in a moment of pause, then interpret the visual cues in the gap before they stammer a rebuttal.
Until then, promises are just promises designed for election day.
Troy Media columnist Faith Wood is a novelist and professional speaker who focuses on helping groups and individuals navigate conflict, shift perceptions and improve communications.