Authors: Philip Houston,Michael Floyd,Susan Carnicero
After a momentary pause, Lee looked up, seemingly mustering the courage to formulate the words. “The Foelandians,” he said.
There it was. Okay. Phil nodded with a look of finally understanding what Lee was going through.
“Thank you, Lee. That makes perfect sense. Let’s face it, your life’s work has been built around associating with and understanding the Foelandian people. And you know what? I don’t blame you a bit. I’ve always been fascinated by Foeland, too, and I’ve often thought about how incredible it would be to travel through the country, and to meet the people and see everything. But I don’t have that option, because it’s just too hard, Lee. Because of the way things are in the world, there are just too many hoops to jump through.”
Lee looked up. Phil seemed to be striking a chord.
“So regardless of all the political stuff, Lee, I can fully understand why you would be attracted to the Foelandian people. I just need to have an understanding of why you were thinking about the Foelandians when I asked you the question about working for another intelligence service, Lee. So let’s talk about it. Let’s at least do that.”
Lee nodded. “Okay,” he said.
After taking a moment to collect his thoughts, he began his story by taking Phil back to the World Cup, when he met Otto. He said Otto had introduced him to a Foelandian friend of his who lived in the city where the university he was attending was located. Lee said he and this friend of Otto’s, whom we’ll call “Horace,” also struck up a friendship, and that they often talked about Lee’s studies and his acquaintances in the university. He said he had applied for a position as a research assistant to one of the senior faculty members, and when he mentioned to Horace that he had been accepted, the Foelandian seemed to be especially interested in the connection. Lee said this particular faculty member served as an advisor to U.S. policymakers, and that fact appeared to be what had piqued Horace’s interest. Horace would often ask about the advisory work the faculty member was performing for the government, Lee said, acknowledging that he would occasionally provide Horace with copies of documents pertaining to the faculty member’s government-related activities.
By that point, Phil fully recognized that the issue he was dealing with was perilously close to the worst-case edge of the continuum. He went back into his monologue. This time, the transition was from DOC to DOG.
“Lee, thank you for sharing that with me, it’s tremendously helpful. It’s become very clear that what we’re dealing with here is your work with Horace in an intelligence-gathering capacity, and having that out in the open makes this so much easier to fix. Lee, please understand that in our world, this is the sort of thing we see all the time. I’ve worked with people from all walks of life—mothers, fathers, students, government officials, corporate executives—who have found themselves in exactly the same situation we’re looking at right now. The reason is that genuinely good people sometimes get in over their heads, and before they know it, they’re thinking, ‘Jeez, how did I get into this?’ They got into it because their hearts were in the right place. I mean, let’s face it: Your Foelandian friends have helped and supported you over the years, and it’s only natural to want to repay them somehow. If someone does you a favor, it’s just natural to want to do him a favor in return. That’s just natural, Lee. I understand that, Nate understands that, everybody understands that. Maybe your Foelandian friends took advantage of you—I don’t know, that’s not my call, and I’m not going to sit here in judgment of anybody. What I do know is that this is a fixable problem. But in order to fix it, we need to get everything out on the table so we know what we’re dealing with. That’s the only way. So, Lee, who do you think these people were that you were gathering this information for?”
“Come on, Lee,” Phil said, his voice as calm and measured as it had been all along. “You know who they were, right?”
“Who were they, Lee?” Phil asked.
Lee looked at Phil. “Same as you,” he said.
“No, Lee. No. Who were they?” Phil’s tone was gently encouraging, as if he was eager to help Lee lift an enormous weight off his chest.
Lee’s head dropped. “FIS,” he said, referring to the Foelandian Intelligence Service.
In the bathroom, Nate closed his eyes, and shook his head. This longtime friend was an FIS asset. It seemed unthinkable, and yet he had heard it himself, straight from Lee. His mind started to drift off to some of the times he had spent with his friend, but he snapped it back. He needed to hear the rest, but at that point Phil decided to give Lee a breather.
“Thank you for that,” Phil said. “I know that wasn’t easy. Tell you what. Let’s take a break.”
Phil went into the bathroom. There was Nate, still shaking his head.
“I was going to
you,” Nate said. Phil wasn’t sure whether Nate was most perturbed about the interview having transitioned to an interrogation, Lee’s revelation, or just being stuck in the tiny bathroom for the duration of what seemed like an interminable monologue.
“Yeah, I’m sorry, Nate,” Phil said, knowing this had to be tough on him.
“No, you played it exactly right,” Nate conceded. “We have to get to the bottom of this.” He apparently felt better after venting.
“I will,” Phil assured him. “Just be patient.” Nate nodded. They agreed they would go for as long as it took.
Phil sat back down with Lee, and continued where he had left off. The rest was painful, but it could have been worse. Lee admitted that when he and Nate were at the university, he had informed his FIS handlers that Nate might be applying to work at the CIA or the FBI. He said they encouraged him to maintain and deepen the friendship.
Lee said when he graduated and returned to his home country, he was introduced to a new Foelandian contact, and he acknowledged to Phil that he knew the contact was a FIS agent. Phil asked what had persuaded him to work with the FIS, and whether it was for financial gain. Lee responded that he had occasionally received small sums of cash, but that wasn’t what enticed him.
“Then why are you doing this?” Phil asked.
Lee seemed almost embarrassed by the simplicity of it all. “I like Foelandians,” he said.
Back in the bathroom, Nate was listening intently.
Ask him, Phil.
It was as if Phil could read Nate’s mind. He asked Lee if he had told his FIS handlers that Nate had recruited him to work for the Agency. Lee said he had not, and confessed that what he was most ashamed of was telling them about Nate when they were back at the university. Lee showed no signs of deceptive behavior in his response. He had simply been torn in two directions: He just liked Foelandians, and he liked his good friend, Nate, too.
At eight o’clock the next morning, fourteen hours after it had begun, Phil’s work was done. Nate, on the other hand, had more work to do. He was livid that Lee had betrayed him, but the pain of that betrayal was mitigated by the fact that Lee hadn’t reported his recent contacts with Nate, or his recruitment. A couple of weeks later, Nate, along with an FBI agent, took Lee back to the city where the university was located, and they went to all the places where Lee had met with his FIS handlers. Among the information passed to the FBI were the identities of those handlers.
With the Lee case at the top of our mind, then, our next step is to dive a little more deeply into the delivery and the content of the all-important monologue. We’ll begin that dive in the next chapter.
We’ve heard it said that a guilty person just wants to be understood, because being understood allows him to feel that he’s been forgiven. That observation encapsulates what the monologue is designed and executed to accomplish. When Phil was interrogating Lee, he never lost sight of the fact that he had neither the power to forgive him for whatever it was he was concealing, nor the authority to decide that there would be no serious consequences for his actions. But Phil knew that if Lee could, on some level, be convinced that his questioner could grasp the situation from his perspective, the chances of getting the truth out of him would rise tremendously. So how do we go about giving the person we’re interrogating the impression that we
It isn’t easy. It certainly wasn’t easy for Phil when he was interrogating Mary. After all, he detested that woman for what she had done: She had betrayed her country—
country. And yet, when it was all over, Mary felt moved to hug Phil, and as she hugged him, to say, “Thank you for understanding.” Of course, nothing could have been further from the truth of the matter. It was far beyond Phil’s comprehension how anyone could have engaged in such a betrayal. He couldn’t even begin to understand it. But in Mary’s mind, he understood.
Nor was it easy for Michael Floyd, when he was called in some years ago to assist in the investigation of a young father who had been accused of inflicting serious injuries on his three-month-old baby boy. Those injuries included several broken ribs, bruises that covered the baby’s back, and a seriously swollen liver. Thanks in large part to the rapport Michael was able to establish with the father in the course of the interrogation, the father confessed. For that to happen, Michael had to be perceived as being truly understanding, and as genuinely sincere.
A lot of people try to take what we do and apply it, but they’re unsuccessful because the missing element is sincerity. That person sitting in front of you has to believe that you mean what you’re saying. So you have to either genuinely be sincere, or have the ability to create an appearance of sincerity that’s equal to, or at least close to, genuine. In many instances, like Michael’s interrogation of this father, that will require a stellar acting job.
There’s an acting device we’ve found to be very helpful in selling that perception of sincerity—we refer to it by the acronym SEL. Here’s what it entails:
Slow your rate of speech
Keep in mind that when you transition to the monologue, your adrenaline will likely be kicking in. There’s a lot at stake, and you’re going for it—this is the big play. Make a conscious effort to speak slowly and distinctly. Placing an emphasis on some of the key words will help you slow down. The idea is to come across as unrushed and controlled, which in turn creates a more easygoing, relaxed mood.
Engage the person you’re interrogating
There’s no reason to take notes—the person isn’t saying anything, remember? So put your pen and notebook down. Absorb yourself in the person-to-person contact, without staring at him, or locking eyes with him. It may not be a cozy fireside chat, but the discomfort of the situation can be minimized with this engagement.
Lower your voice
Our experience has corroborated a great deal of research that has shown that as a control mechanism, a lower volume is much more effective than a higher volume. If you start yelling at someone, typically the natural reaction is twofold: First, he’ll probably yell back. Second, he’ll almost certainly tune you out, and that’s the worst thing that can happen. The first mistake he made was to allow you to talk. He doesn’t realize that you’ve stopped asking questions, and now you’re the one who’s doing the talking. The longer that goes on, the more it works to your advantage. To keep it going, it’s essential to stay low-key, and a voice that’s lowered a decibel or two aids that effort tremendously.
Keep in mind that as critical as the
of the monologue is,
trumps it—it’s that important. No matter how brilliant and compelling what you’re saying is, if it isn’t delivered effectively, the person you’re interrogating won’t even hear it. If your manner is harsh and overbearing, he’ll see you as an opponent, and he’ll be thinking of nothing but ways to fight you. You might as well be speaking a foreign language, because he’s translating whatever you’re saying as, “I’m out to get you.” The moment that happens, your job just got exponentially more difficult.
With your voice as your instrument of influence, your aim is to build and maintain whatever level of rapport you can in that situation. He may not like you, or like the position you represent. But all of a sudden, the way you’re talking to him, he’s likely thinking, “Wow, this isn’t what I was expecting at all. I expected to get brow-beaten.” You may still get some resistance, but if he sees you as someone who’s treating him respectfully and professionally, someone who’s objective rather than out to get him, someone who doesn’t appear to be an enemy, his resistance will be dampened significantly. The beautiful part is it’s all working to your advantage rather than to his, but he doesn’t know that.
* * *
When Phil began his monologue in his interrogation of Lee, the first two sentences after the DOC were these:
“Lee, this situation is somewhat awkward, I know. After all, you and Nate are really good friends, and have been for a long time.”
With that sympathetic sentiment, Phil was conveying to Lee that he got it. He could understand what Lee must be feeling, and he cared. There was certainly nothing extemporaneous about that sentiment, nor about the timing of it. It couldn’t have been more deliberate. An excellent rule of thumb is to make sure that the sentence immediately following the transition statement is a statement of sympathy or empathy. That way, the person hears right up front exactly what you want him to hear. Phil’s expression of sympathy primed the pump for Lee to receive the monologue in the right frame of mind.
At the point when Lee admitted that what he had been thinking about was “the Foelandians,” Phil jumped on the opportunity to convey an empathetic sentiment:
“I’ve always been fascinated by Foeland, too, and I’ve often thought about how incredible it would be to travel through the country, and to meet the people and see everything.”
Now, Phil not only sympathizes with Lee, he empathizes with him—he not only cares, but he has felt what Lee was feeling. We need to make it clear that this particular expression of empathy raises a point that warrants discussion: Phil’s statement wasn’t true. He’s never had any desire whatsoever to visit Foeland. The takeaway here is that what you say in your monologue needs to be relevant and believable, but not necessarily factual (we’ll explore this topic further in Chapter 9). Certainly, the truth stretching can never go so far as to promise something you can’t deliver as a means of eliciting a confession. But coming across as sincere is absolutely essential, and accomplishing that sometimes forces you to lie, especially when feeling any sense of genuine sincerity is simply impossible. Try to imagine, for example, that you had to interrogate a serial child molester. Phil doesn’t have to try to imagine it. He experienced it.