The Defuse Podcast - Taking the guesswork out of protecting your privacy, reputation and status.

The Online Bodyguard - The Science behind Interviewing with Bram B. van der Meer

July 12, 2022 Philip Grindell MSc - The Online Bodyguard® Season 1 Episode 7
The Defuse Podcast - Taking the guesswork out of protecting your privacy, reputation and status.
The Online Bodyguard - The Science behind Interviewing with Bram B. van der Meer
The Defuse Podcast - Taking the guesswork out of +
Become a supporter of the show!
Starting at $3/month
Show Notes Transcript

In this podcast we discuss the subject of interviewing with Bram B. van der Meer from Dante Psychology.

 This podcast discusses whether building rapport works and how to do it, whether police officers and other professional interviewers are better at it that the general population. We discuss memory and ask how effective is it? What helps us to recall in an interview and why memory can be tainted. We further discuss the various interview methods, such as the PACE model and what their strengths are as well as their limitations.

Bram B. van der Meer holds academic degrees in Criminology from the University of Pretoria, South-Africa and received a MSc. in Clinical-Forensic Psychology from Leiden University, the Netherlands. He received additional specialised education in offender profiling, threat assessment and forensic linguistics from law enforcement agencies around the world. He completed a post-doctoral education program in investigative psychology.

He is a guest lecturer at the Netherlands Police Academy and the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management. He serves on the editorial board of the American Psychological Association Accredited Journal of Threat Assessment and Management. He is the former president and currently board member of the Swiss based Association of European Threat Assessment Professionals. He is an internationally recognised threat assessment professional and is registered as such with the Association of European Threat Assessment Professionals.

Support the show

Philip Grindell  0:37  
Hi, and welcome to the online bodyguard podcast. And it's an absolute pleasure this week, this month, in fact, to have Bram Van der Meer who is a very esteemed individual who holds an academic degrees in criminology, and in an MSc in clinical forensic sight like psychology. He's further educated in in offender profiling, threat assessment, forensic linguistics, and completed the post doctoral education programme in investigative psychology. He specialises in the assessment and risk management of threats against public figures, families and the C suite of companies. He advises on concerning behaviours in higher education and major companies. And his sir he serves clients on a national and a global scale. He also is a guest lecturer at the Netherlands Police Academy and the Frankfurt School of finance and management. He serves on the editorial board of the American Psychological Association, accredited Journal of threat assessment and management, which if you don't ever receives, you want to get that magazine, because it's one of the best publications, it's a fantastic read. He's the former president and current board member of the Swiss based Association of European Threat Assessment Professionals, which I'm a member of, and again, if this is of interest to you, that's it. That's an organisation I'd highly recommend. And he's internationally recognised Threat Assessment professional, and is registered as such with the Association of European Threat Assessment Professionals. So Bram, delighted to have you on the podcast today. And when I first approached you, it was after reading the article that or the or the paper that is included in the International Handbook of Threat Assessment, around interview, and we were just chatting beforehand, and I was, you know, relaying the misconception that because I was a police officer for 30 years, and I was a detective for most of it. We would often assume we were good at interviewing, without any real evidence to suggest that in terms of what is good at interviewing, what makes somebody good, how do you quantify if someone is good at interviewing? So I suppose where we should start is, you know, what is it interviewing your view?

Bram van der Meer  3:42  
Thank you. Thank you, Philip. And before I answer your question, I'll try to answer your question. And thank you for having me on this programme. And I respect that and appreciate that, to tell a little bit more about my field and my work. And, indeed, interviewing is something that I've always been interested in starting as a clinical psychologist in a forensic hospital. How do you speak to these special people that you meet? But also then later on in police set in a police setting? How do you talk to people who don't want to speak up? And you have plenty of experience to you know, how that feels? How you are there in that room? And I always fascinated me. So again, thank you for for being here. And you just asked me well, what is a good interview is that I repeat that what is a good interview? What is an interview for me? Yeah, there's this I think different answers to that question. It's it can be an interview is not a conversation. It's somehow suggests some form of inequality or not inequality, but different roles. Like if you and I sit in a bar it's Like, we have an equal conversation, you tell about your stuff, I speak to my life and that's fine. But if if you invite me for an interview, it is not my free choice perhaps or I have to go, I need to go. If it's a job interview or police interview, I don't make that I find it difficult, I find it stressful. So there's all kinds of barriers for me in that conversation. So interview is a conversation, but it's, it suggests some form of formality. That also, that formality is also one of the things that we need to be aware of, and the struggles that that comes with it. So I think it's very important for every interviewer, to be to realise, to put him or herself in the shoes of the one coming into that room, whether it's a nasty psychopath who just killed somebody, or a witness, or a victim of a crime, or anyone else, just position yourself in that situation. And try to feel what this person feels and try to understand or this person, given his or her situation and his or her personality, try to picture and try to prepare yourself for that situation. And how to make this person comfortable and how to reduce all these barriers.

Unknown Speaker  6:32  
Are there some people that are just naturally good at it? 

Bram van der Meer  6:34  
They think so? Yeah, I do think so. And I think, I think a good interview is good listener. Interviewer Is not my opinion is not somebody who necessarily can formulate these great questions. But as somebody who can show some empathy does show understanding. And while he was able to, to look at the world, through the eyes of the one who is talking to, and that is one big step in an interview, it's not about just having this great question at the best time. Of course, it's about that to its strategy as well. Let's talk about we talk about police interviewing strategies, like when to ask, Which question and how and where do I start, like, you know, it's a, it's a plan behind it. But if we want to, if my goal is to, to get a story from somebody to get the truth, and to get his or her view on things, I need to listen to this person, make this person feel comfortable. So I do think that some people are better at that than others. Some people are just more talkative than others more tended to interrupt somebody while speaking. Maybe not be that good of a listener. So that's all factors that that play a role. I think I'm a good interviewer. For certain interviews for certain interviews, I don't think I'm good. And I'm aware of that. That if I have interviews on a regular basis, difficult situations for people, but when I listen to myself recording, because I have to read that a big man, why do you ask that question? Wow, that's, that's not good. So we're human beings, you know, and we we are failing and making mistakes. But yeah, so yeah,

Unknown Speaker  8:56  
it used to be one of my worst experiences to to have to listen back to the interviews and in the old days of policing when I had to transcribe the interview, and it's amazing how many unconscious habits you have in arms and other things and questions that you asked that made no sense at all or so yes, so it is a really good thing actually to do that because you do pick up on on your own habits 

Bram van der Meer  9:26  
Youre making a very important point. It's never nice to hear yourself. But it's very important because you see those come here the headlights that you have that you've never thought you would do like one of the thing I recognised the other day is like like this a lot, you know, not because I need to just sort of a habit and then told myself like stop this man. Or, like, I did an interview with with somebody a week ago and yesterday I had to do to quote myself and her in that in View. And then I just I just asked the close question just this is, this is in a critical moment. And then I think well, here, here are my with my years of experience and teaching out how to ask open questions, which is not easy. But there I do it myself. So it's a constant learning.

Philip Grindell  10:25  
So if we start if we start at the beginning, though, because I think I think there's probably lots of misconceptions. And there's probably lots of assumptions about some of the processes that go into an interview. So I know that you you've talked previously, and I've read one of your articles, where you, you talk about moving away from what's called a question based approach to a topic based approach. Can you can you talk more about that?

Bram van der Meer  10:55  
Yeah. Let me start by saying this, like, it's, as I said, In the beginning, it's very important to, to have somebody feel comfortable. No matter if it's a victim, fender, suspect or witness, whatever, just this person needs to be feel comfortable. Because we know from research, it's important to, if you want to have a full detailed story, then that's important. People will speak up more when they feel comfortable. That's it. And so you want to you don't want to confuse people by saying like, Okay, this is a suspect interview, but you, you're trying to make it look like a chat. If that's not right, you have to make this person aware that this is a formal situation, you don't need to be here, you don't need to ask my questions, all those legal stuff. So it needs to be clear for people which situation they're into. But once talking, you want to make it feel like conversation that you're having. And if I'm letting go back to that situation where you and I are in a bar, if I'm just firing questions at you all the time. And I'm just fine. You want to ask the other? It doesn't feel very comfortable for you. You feel like Oh, wow. I mean, just guys, just asking any questions is now interested in myself is now interested in my story is just asking questions. So what we've learned, what also science tells us is that it's much better to create topics. Topics of relevance for should be, of course, relevant for the conversation. And there should also be some structure to it, like, First Topic number one, then Topic number two, and make it flow naturally, through one from one topic to the other. But that makes it much feel much more like a like a conversation you're having. Yeah. So for example, if I were speaking of a victim with a victim of sexual assault, that's like a nasty incident, then that would not be my first question. That would not be the first my first topic to start with like, Okay, please explain to me exactly what happened. First of all, I would like to maybe talk to this lady about another topic that is not directly directly related to that, and use that topic to make her feel more comfortable to make it feel more relaxed, which are explained what the situation is, etc. And then, slowly but surely moving from one to the other.

Unknown Speaker  13:54  
So that suggests not having a list of questions written down in terms of this. These are I've got 20 questions here. And I'm going to work through these questions. It's more about what are the topics I want to cover? And then ask questions and a more natural way that that perhaps flow through that conversation? Because of course, if you've got a prescriptive list of questions, then if you stick to that, rigidly, you're going to miss various things, because you might actually be going off on a sort of slight tangent and closing somebody down when they're when they're actually wanting to talk about something. Yeah.

Bram van der Meer  14:34  
Yeah, exactly. I mean, if you just look at a general case, and I, I want to, of course, when I read through a case file, and I say, Okay, I need to talk to Johnny. And then I have a right I can, I can go through the case file in a very superficial way and just listing all the questions that I have, where we are then where we have that and what's your name and what was your mother and Are your friends with whom you hang out with all those kinds of questions I would just want to know. But that sort of what I should actually do is, look at the interview on a much deeper level, in a sense, like, what is my goal with Johnny? What do I want to achieve in that conversation, that interview with him could be a goal, like, I want to have a profession, but there's just a little bit of a, my goal could be a realistic goal could be like, I want to know everything about Johnny's background, that is a realistic goal. And then on my next step of thinking, is okay. Which topics should I address in a neutral way that would make him speak about? Is that the situation I want to explore? How can I achieve my goal about so my goal is my I want to find out everything about his his backgrounds and his social activities and all that. All right, then. But I can list 1000s of questions, of course, that I need to do that in a structured way, in a natural and structured way.

Unknown Speaker  16:19  
Because of course, certainly, from a policing perspective, very often, there's this almost this obsessive nature around, I need to get this person to confess. What that suggests is that you're going in there, with your mind already made up. And we've all been in interviews where there's overwhelming evidence that someone's probably guilty of what they're being interviewed about, you're actually what you're not doing, you're not going in with an open mind, and you're not going in to investigate what's happened, you're going in, just purely because you want to get a confession. And we know, throughout history, there's been lots of confessions that have been falsely made.

Bram van der Meer  17:02  
True, definitely. So that's, that's a very naive, and very unprofessional goal. If you if you're saying like, I want to go for confession that is like Hollywood film making, and I get that I enjoy it. But that's not reality. So I mean, I can have your fingerprints on a glass here. And my naive investigator thinking might say, well, this means that Philip was here in the room. And I can go to the interview, said, Philip, well, I think we've done very quickly, but you know, you've been in my room, and there's this class with your fingerprints on it. That's a very wrong approach to my interview, of course, you, you just have to start thinking now how I'm going to explain that glass with my feet and landed in Brown's office. So you're going to make this great story where a friend of yours from England travelled to Holland and went to Amsterdam, and while he had your glass, that you had a whiskey with the previous day in London, and blah, blah, blah, and landed in my office? Well, that that gives me a huge problem as a police officer, because every judge would say, Okay, well, Mr. Investigator figure it out. Yeah.

Philip Grindell  18:21  
Can you prove that didn't happen? Yeah. Can you prove it? So, let's get back to the beginning. Because a moment ago, you talked about the lady, the sexual assault of the lady, and you said that, that your first The first topic if you like, was and you didn't say this, but this is what I kind of took from it was the kind of rapport building phase of, of that interview. Now we talk a lot, we hear a lot about rapport building. So I guess the question is, you know, what, what actually works? And does does it have a real impact? Or can it come across as been a bit contrived? And a bit obvious that you're trying to do that?

Bram van der Meer  19:01  
You mean, the report will? Yeah,

Philip Grindell  19:01  
you know, we're not, you know, I've, I've sat it into sheets, where the, the person you're interviewing is, is very clearly knows exactly what you're trying to do in terms of you're trying to build rapport? And, you know, even call you out on that. So how would you do it in a way then? I suppose the question was, I probably asked a poor question. How do you do it so that it's, it's natural, and actually, it therefore is effective?

Bram van der Meer  19:26  
Yeah, that's a difficult one, because I understand what you're what you're asking. And it's so difficult to explain, what do I do to make it look like a natural context? It's very subtle. And the extreme way, if you just, I have a young, young, new psychologist working with us here and he's now joining us to interviews and asking questions that he has, with all respect and appreciating his learning curve If he's like, Okay, first I want to introduce myself. And now I'm going to ask you a few questions. And then we'll move on to the next step. And then it becomes very obvious. But if the same person comes in into my office, and I said, Hey, I bought a coffee and stand here at the coffee machine, and the conversation, that strategy already starts at the coffee machine. So, so where do you come from? And I understand you had a long trip. That point this person is going to talk think about, oh, this is rapport building. He might feel like, oh, what's going on, buddy, I hope that it will make you feel comfortable. whilst at the same time, this is my strategy. And with coffee in your hand, we'll continue the conversation towards the table and take it from there. And of course, I cannot. I've had those situations where people told me like, cut the crap get to the point, they asked me, What do you want to ask? Of course, that happens. But I also think there are plenty situation where I think I could get beyond that point of somebody being sort of paranoid, or or sensitive to a well, what is this guy doing? What what is important, that thing is preparation. That's what many police officers, you know, I think, forget or not forget that don't have the time for often, is just to sit down for a couple of hours, to think about what's, who's this person? Where does this guy come from? What are his hobbies? Does he have children? Does he have a girlfriend or boyfriend, whatever? And just thinking about how can I connect to this guy with given his personality style, given his interests, given his just abilities or things that went wrong in his life that I didn't have some nodes will not say I'm going to use it all, but it gives me a some form of a context in which I can be working. So I, when I teach at the police academy, I speak about rapport building, because we all know as we go, rapport building is the key is the, to a deeper conversation. And truth finding is that I say we prepare the poor, the poor, as part of the preparation is not talking about the great weather outside. But it's just how do I approach this guy from beginning to end. And the rapport building starts at the phone call that I need to make, or at the moment, he steps out of his car, and I'm standing at my door, that's where it starts. And not when I'm sitting down and the recorders on.

Philip Grindell  22:58  
So I guess that really comes back to being actually interested and honestly interested, you know, that in the person that you're going to be engaging with?

Bram van der Meer  23:09  
No, definitely. And I think that's that, to me, in my experience, I mean, the chapter that I wrote is part of experience, but it's also combined with science with research shows, and luckily, there's some correlation in their positive correlation. But I think real understanding and real sincere interest in the other person that's That to me is the most essential part of the of the rapport building. Now, just just before this call, I had a like I said, prior to the to this call, I had to talk with with the with the guy who committed some unwanted sexual harassment kind of behaviour. And given his personality, given what he has done, given the stories that I've that I've read from from, from Scotland victims I mean, that will be a difficult interview for him. And but I will also this guy, I want to have him feel respected. And and I think that that's one very important point, respect, honesty and understanding I need to be listening to this to this person, his perspectives on what happened and who he is and what happened and all that. So yeah, just rambling now, but just so when people that's the key to report

Philip Grindell  24:54  
when we talk about more, should we say that unconscious elements of it in terms of mirroring and matching behaviour etc. Is that does that actually work? It does that does science tell us that is effective.

Bram van der Meer  25:14  
There is some evidence that Mirroring is like, eye contact. And mirroring does not mean to me it's like, doing exactly what you do to like, when you move on your chair, or, or when you nod your head when I do the same, that means like, that's Mirroring is much more than that. But there is some evidence that that builds rapport, I think the two most effective ways of two most effective ways of helping you build rapport is eye contact, and movement is like, if I look at you have eye contact, not stare at you. But that that is our most fundamental way of communicating I think, as human beings is eye contact with the child with the baby, as a mother and child as a father and, and child. That's, that's most essential. And I think that's also one of the most effective ways of building helping build rapport. But you need to be aware of the person's personality, mental state, and, and all those kinds of factors also play a role. But in a normal situation, if you try to connect to somebody that is important is empathy, listening respects, good eye contact, and a good setting as well. And

Philip Grindell  26:58  
in the current sort of time, and the last couple of years, where we've done a huge amount of work online in terms of zoom calls such as these, that becomes quite difficult, because I think I'm looking at you. But actually, you're probably not. When you're looking at the screen, it probably doesn't look like I'm looking you because I'm not looking at the camera. I'm looking at you on the screen. So there's a mismatch about I think, building rapport, because I'm looking at you, but that's not how it's received necessarily.

Bram van der Meer  27:25  
Know that that's totally true. I and I, it was an interesting experiment for me and my colleagues in my team here, my office, is this COVID time where we we needed to continue with our investigations and you personally must, must have experienced that as well, that was certain conversations question answer kind of style, that's fine. But at the moment where some form of emotional exchange connection, rapport has to play a role, then then that's, that's, then I'm struggling, there's no, it's difficult to put in words. But if we're to get them in a room between four walls, that's the total difference set setting, then you in your office, near my office with my surroundings, there is a distance there is also a sort of feeling of I can escape from the situation, but you cannot escape from my office, because we're here, you feel much more connected responsible for the conversation, as a player in the conversations are so much different. I also see that. So so when I teach at university, my experience is that when when I stand in front of a class people engage much more their eye contact, they feel sort of responsible to participate. When I do that online and see 20 of these blocks in front of me, the one is grabbing a coffee, the other one is playing with his phone. So there's much less responsibility in participating. And I think that's one of the key things that we miss.

Philip Grindell  29:09  
So can we move on into a subject I think, which is often misunderstood? And that's memory. Yeah, you know, and how accurate memory is so so, you know, I've taken my you know, my own sort of experiences taking statements if you like, from, from seven different people who've all been at the same incident, they've all seen, and I use the word seen consciously, the same incident, but they actually give very different accounts. And so you start thinking, well, who's telling the truth here? They can't be telling the truth, because how did they not hear the gunshots? So how did they not see that or what have you? Can you talk a bit about memory then and why we don't necessarily we're not we're not quite as good as it as we think we are.

Bram van der Meer  29:54  
Well, there's so much to say about memory and I don't have like a very structured presentation for you about this point, I'll just start somewhere and tell you a little bit more about memory. Well, maybe good to say that there are people, some people have better memory than others. And that is connected to our intelligence that's connected to a wave observing is also how we process information, how we store information that one person does just does it better than the other. Our Another important point is that our, our brain, and how we feed our brain with information, it doesn't work like a voice recorder, or a video recorder, it is our brain is a muscle, it is storing information. But when I need to retrieve that information, I need to go back in that system and get information out, it's already said damaged or influenced by all kinds of factors, that could be my own lack of my own lack of ability to do that my lack of intelligence, perhaps, or lots of emotions, trauma, a traumatic event, where my observation skills are much less effective. It could also be that what we see a lot is in between the observation of real observation and the real interview where people have to retrieve their memories for me, that there could have been a lot of talk about that, like, with friends, with family, with all the people and when you're talking to our other people, your story gets restructured, it gets like small little additions to it, or small little irrelevant things, or seemingly irrelevant things get lost. And then you see, once you present the story, after some time, you will never have never have a real copy of what exactly happened. That doesn't mean that people always realise that people believe that they have seen it. It's really the truth what they've seen. But our brain is just working very complicated in that way. So if I, if I have a child and I, we just went to a restaurant, and we move away, and I said how did you like that beautiful blue car that was right in front of the, the, the restaurant? And she will then start thinking okay, yeah, the car must have been blue. So now I've planted that the colour blue in her brain. And she accepts that as blue. So in the next time was the blue car was the red car, what was the colour of the car, it was blue. But it doesn't mean that she has observed that person. So that's just how we can be influenced. Of course, one one big problem with with with investigations is memory. Memory capacity is how do you three retrieve information. It's very complex.

Philip Grindell  33:44  
And of course, the other thing is that we're not, we're not all necessarily visually programme, so we don't necessarily remember necessarily. What we saw some people will remember the sound some people remember the emotion or the smells or the experiences. And you know, we have our own preconception that so if I'm very visual, I may ask like visual questions, which of course will break rapport with the individual because they may be very kinesthetic or something.

Bram van der Meer  34:14  
Yeah, yeah. But you can also you can also, test memory is like, Well, tell me about your before you. prep before you speak, start speaking about what you have witnessed as a form of rapport building, you can also start with Okay, tell me about the past weekend. I've heard that you were on a weekend trip to this beautiful city. Tell me about that. It's rapport building, but it's also testing memory and how is this person memorising things? And he or she will maybe say, Well, I saw this and I saw that and instead of I thought about it, and I thinking about stuff You know, so you get a sense of how somebody memorises things and you can connect to that, perhaps? And can

Philip Grindell  35:07  
we? Can we train ourselves to be better at remembering?

Bram van der Meer  35:13  
Yeah, I'm not a professional on memory. But obviously, I've had to study it, that I know that well known Dutch professor who was a memory specialist, and he told me once that yes, there is some, some good trainings on how to improve your memory, how you can better memorise things and, and it has to do with structuring information like, like you store information on your laptop, and which file. You can also teach your brain how to store that, but I don't know how and I don't know. I've never I should follow that tray.

Philip Grindell  35:54  
So one of the other challenges I suppose is that if we're speaking to a victim or or even potentially a witness, who has experienced an event or an experience that that is challenging, we have to be mindful of the the impact of that trauma on them. Whether we are embedding further trauma or their response to trauma, do they black things out? Do they delete bits of it? Because actually, it's to coin a phrase in the too difficult tray, and therefore I'm going to just blocked that piece out. So if we are interviewing someone, and particularly in it in a kind of threat assessment environment, you know, what's, what's the sort of? What's the sort of science behind it? Is there any is there any advice around how do you how do you make sure that you're not committing further harm by the interview?

Bram van der Meer  36:50  
Means further harm in attitude towards a victim? Who has been traumatised? Yeah,

Philip Grindell  36:54  
absolutely. Yeah, or even a witness?

Bram van der Meer  36:56  
Yeah. I don't know. It's, it's, it's hard. I think. What I do, and maybe some professional, some colleagues will say, well, that's wrong. But what I do is, when I speak to somebody as to, I think it's very important to introduce as a beginning at the beginning of your interview, doing to introduce yourself, but also to what I call a structuring phase is to structure the interview and have somebody understand what what will I be discussing? What are what will I be talking about during this this meeting? And is that okay with you? So if you have just been going through a very, you've just had an accident where you've lost somebody, your friend? Well, that could be obviously a very traumatic event, then I would probably say, oh, Phillip, thanks for coming over. You know, that's, I'm going to ask you some questions, I just want to make, check. If you feel comfortable with that, I'm going to tell you now what I'm going to do. So I'm going to ask be asking very detailed questions about things that happened to you. And I can imagine that it will be painful to because I will also go into details and I need to that's part of the work I need to do. How does it feel? How are you? How do you feel about that? Is that okay? We can always take a break when necessary, you just indicates. So what I do in a very active way is to, to be very sensitive to this person. And just just to check if that's if that's if that's fine. For instance, in cases of sexual harassment, sexual assault, that's, that's very important, because you can ask very intimate question as a very stranger to this person. So that there I see, when I do this kind of introduction, like listen, this, this, these kind of questions are coming. So the expectation management, that this is very much appreciated, and I seldomly, I must say, seldomly here, while the don't ask those questions, I can't deal with that. Most of them most of the real victims, and I'll explain what I mean with that. Most of the real victims and the honest people will say no, just ask, I think it's important to be here. It's painful. And I'm working on that need some help, but please do your work. That's in general what I hear. Just want to come back to the point I made it's like real victims, because you can also we also see people who are pretending and who are lying and who are creating stories that are not true. And, of course, when when I'm doing when I do that, when I, when I'm creating a story, and I'm doing a false statement, for instance, or make making up a story, I might just say, well, Philip, now please don't ask me those questions. That's so painful. That's, I can't I can't deal with it. So for me, that sounds very harsh for me. If somebody tells me, like, no, that's, that's too difficult for me. I can't do that. That's possible. But I also think, Okay, what, what could be behind this? And as you know, as investigators, we always need to think about what could be motivations of people to say or not say, or to participate or not participate? Or to talk about something or not?

Philip Grindell  40:50  
Yeah, I mean, I was thinking, why you? Why are you saying at all seven, I would say, work on a child abuse team for a few years. Oh, yeah. And I know that, you know, some of the some of the winners. And also, the interesting thing about that is they're not always children, sometimes they're adults recalling events when they were children. But one of the things that we were always very careful about was making assumptions about what we thought they made, when they were making reference to say anything. So very often they'd have different words for body parts. Obviously, wouldn't refer to things as the obvious thing, if you like, and so it was almost avoidance of, of actually talking about certain things in some detail, you have to be really clear about sort of, you know, making sure that we didn't make an assumption, and asking them, you know, you so you've just said, x, what do you mean by x? Can you can you point to a show us withdraw it, you know, what have you. But that, that thing about not making an assumption that, you know, what someone means, was key in those in those, it's got to be

Bram van der Meer  41:54  
very important, very important to, to, to and to have the same understanding well, but like, I was talking to somebody they need to do context and say, Well, we had the word rape was introduced. But I found that very important. So please, before we continue, what what, what is the what is great mean for you? And if you are naive investigate, you think, Oh, well, I know what it is. And I know what, what, what you get convicted of, but it could be that this person has a totally different concept of what rape is. Yeah.

Philip Grindell  42:36  
So when we then we move into sort of the more technical side of it in terms of, you know, we've got cognitive interviewing, we've got peace process, we've got structural professional judgments, we've got all these different models of interviewing, how do you know which one is the right one for the scenario you're going to be involved in?

Bram van der Meer  42:56  
Yeah, I think it's more than we call an eclectic view, we are aware of all the models that are that you can be you can use all the rules and all the possibilities, and which one is better when and all that, and I've experienced them all. And I've tried some of the models. It's sort of an approach where you just naturally as your agile experience grows, you'll naturally choose from jump from one topic to the other. It makes me think of what a friend of mine always says. He says, when you start driving, you just had your licence, you just drive very, very structured way, like, Okay, I need to look out the window. And it's all these step by step thinking. And as you become more experienced, it becomes more natural. And if you look, if you have a look at Formula One drivers, they do things that are not allowed to do and as you knew first class have said, never do that, because that's, that's dangerous, or that's the shouldn't do that. So that's how expertise develops you. That's what I mean. As I'm getting older and doing this more often I get more experienced, it becomes more of a natural process in which models do you go into? That I think what I appreciate the most is sort of the peace model. I think that's in most situations very effective. Or at least a model where you where there's some form of introduction, where there's some form of a structure. You start with introducing yourself, making the person feel comfortable structuring the interview, what can be expected, what are we going to talk about? Moving them into a situation where you discuss topics slid on, not so intrusive and not so critical. And then slowly making bridges to other topics that are more relevant, more painful, more confrontational. So that's what I appreciate. That's what I find very effective. That there should be. Yeah, there should be some some structure to it, but in the natural way, in a natural way.

Philip Grindell  45:25  
So we were sharing some sort of stories before we came online. And I sort of specifically talked about the peace model, because of the, the experience we had working on some of the organised crime areas that I worked on and, and how the psychologist that we are working with at the time said, You got to be really careful around that around the free recall aspect of it, if you're dealing with someone who's psychopathic, because of course, control is their is their thing. So if you're not careful, they'll just run away with it, they'll control the interview. So is there an element there where, you know, clearly, that's about your preparation as well, in terms of understanding? What Who am I interviewing? Yeah, and actually, are there some? Are there some reasons why I'm going to choose this this particular type of model? Or why I'm not going to be doing something? And again, that's part of your planning and preparation, and really understanding the scenario who you're interviewing? And what's going to work? And also what your objective is? Right?

Bram van der Meer  46:25  
Yeah, I think it's very, I think it comes down to a very important point is, my view is that the personality and someone's emotional capacity, someone's emotions, or personality style, or how have you name it is the key to a good rapport. And conversation is like, I have to, when I speak to somebody, I need to prepare, who am I talking to? And then I, I'm trying to get a sense of this person's ability to show empathy, to have empathy is that that's a very important element, I believe, is what is the person's capacity or ability to, to have feelings like shame, and guilt, and affection? Does this person show any form of empathy towards the victim? Can I play around with with those emotions? Can I use those emotions in order to direct my interview in a certain direction? So if that's absent, then my interview gets more like a chess game. Right? So if you're speaking about, about psychopaths or sub psychopathy, what do we know about psychopaths is that they have a lack of empathy. They have very, they have very much difficult to difficult to show, to put themselves in other position, other person's position and to have feelings of shame and guilt and all that. So that makes the playfield quite cold. And what I do in that way, is that my preparation becomes even more important in the psychopathic suspects or interviewees? Because I need to understand very well, what what do I have as evidence? What do I have against this person? And when can I present my evidence, when I want with a psychopath is to get this person into a corner where he says, Okay, you want the game? Man, I've. So I want to have a strategy behind it, where maybe I end up in a situation where the person says, well, I should can say, well, you lied about this, you lied about that. You lied about being there? Because here's the evidence, how do you explain yourself and then it will be anger or, or just nothing or say anything anymore? Fine. But that's, there's no other way to compare to somebody who does have feelings of shame and guilt and empathy. I would, I could use that and use not misuse it, but use that to have an hour. invest much more in in connecting to this person, and having this person like me or in a certain way and show some empathy and listen to all that. That is, as we know, a psychopath doesn't care about that is like, like I said, like a chess game. He doesn't care about me. I'm an interview. I'm much more nervous than the psychopathic suspect. I don't realise that that They can behave like nervous was a bit but they're not, as a famous psychologist from from America would say, psychopaths, they know the words but not the music so they can play the game. But they don't feel what we feel. The point was the psychopath is also that's what I like to use. And maybe misuse sometimes, is that they are impulsive. They, they they might say things in their impulsivity, because they lack that ability to, to think ahead. Long, perhaps but the bet we're gonna save this now this might implicate my situation. They're not very good at that doesn't make doesn't say they're not intelligent, but they're too impulsive. So they might release information that they afterwards would say, shipped? I wish I didn't do that. Yeah.

Philip Grindell  50:58  
So So bringing all this kind of back to our world in terms of threat assessment, and managing threats. What, you know, how do you bring interviewing into that threat assessment process?

Bram van der Meer  51:13  
Yeah, that's an interesting one. I like your background, I have a similar one is policing and having a suspect. Our goal with that suspect is to get this person charged, you know, get the evidence and get this person convicted. If if, if it happened, and if he is the criminal, in the in a threat assessment context is different. It's not about the could be if you're a police officer, and this person has been a stalker, or has threatened a politician or whatever, then you have a suspect situation. But in the threat assessment context, there are different kinds of interviews. Often, what I see is that it's you speaking about with witnesses is what? So I have, I have a victim who is a victim of stalking. And I My goal with that interview, is to speak with this person, get as much as possible information about their former relationship, and the behaviour of the of the person who is now a stalker. So that's my goal. So in a threat assessment context, I think that's what I see the most is like witness interviews, we need to, we want to have a full narrative of this person and other situations is that that we see in our field, a lot of people who are worried and scared. So we can all we also have to advise people. So that's another form of interviewing, or conversation, you could say, is that we need to advise our people, and there's other skills that come to come into play with that. So yeah, it's just a it's a different context, the threat assessment context, it's different kinds of cases. So we deal with stalking, harassment, all kinds of threats, that just provides a lot of different contexts and only the policing way. And the police is, of course, very much focused on collecting evidence. And Threat Assessment context is much more about collecting as much as possible relevant information.

Philip Grindell  53:47  
And I guess, and if you're actually ending up speaking with the perpetrators, it's a kind of rating, they are looking at their motivation, and understanding of the impact. And also what kind of work trying to work out. What are you trying to get from this? What's actually I know your motivation might be you're angry, or you want revenge, etc. But actually, what is it you think you're going to get here? And what about you know, so it's, again, it's a different process. It's not about trying to find their guilty, it's really trying to find a way for them to walk away from it as well.

Bram van der Meer  54:17  
Yeah, yeah. And trying to solve the problem. Yeah. Exactly.

Philip Grindell  54:24  
Listen, it's been it's been a tremendous pleasure and honour chatting with you about this subject. It's one that I think is is so important, and yet it's something that every police officer, every law enforcement, every customs officer, every everybody that were involved in the world of investigations, you know, insurance, anything does on a daily basis, and yet very often the training and the real depth of science behind the subject I think is often overlooked. And I think people underestimate the the value Have some of the knowledge and expertise that you have with your research what have you. So thank you so much for, for sharing that with us. I just for the benefit of of those that are listening on next podcast is with a good friend of mine, Paul Blanshard, who is a PR expert. And again, in a sort of similar vein is working in environments to try and, again deal with problems that that individuals have caused potentially or where things have gone wrong. And it's the power of communication, and using the right phrases and words and all this stuff at the same time understanding the impact on people. So it's gonna be really interesting one was Paul's got a breadth of experience, which goes right back to working on sort of Tony Blair, and what have you in the Labour Party and the government to we're working with with billionaires and some of the biggest corporations in the world. So looking forward to that. But for now, Bram, thank you so much for your time. I look forward to having that beer that we kept talking about, possibly remembered later this year.

Bram van der Meer  56:05  
Thank you. Thank you for having me in the programme. Phil, and it's been great. Thank you for for the opportunity.

Philip Grindell  56:11  
My pleasure. Good to speak with you. Cheers.

Bram van der Meer  56:13  
Thank you very much.

Transcribed by