Did you know?
Up until June 1, 2015, there were no licensing or certification requirements to be a private investigator in the State of Colorado. Anyone operating in Colorado could call themselves an investigator.
If you google 'private investigator Colorado' you may come away wondering who isn't claiming they are: professional, confidential, honest, timely, ethical, accurate and experienced? How can you tell? There were over half a million hits. It's like reading an online dating service where nearly everyone says they're good looking, intelligent, honest and funny. (How often is that true?)
I know there are some great P.I.'s out there. I've met them. I've also heard great things about others. But when you're looking for private investigation services and you don't have a referral, it can feel like you're throwing darts or flipping a coin. With that in mind, I thought I'd share my thoughts about what makes a good P.I.
PROFILE OF A GOOD P.I.
by Betsy Seeton
Have you ever known someone with great instincts? They have people smarts and street smarts. They read people and situations and just get it, you know? These people think outside the box. They are the definition of 'creative problem solver', ever ready to get the job accomplished with their finely tuned skills of adaptability, improvisation, and quick reaction time.
It seems to be in their nature to pull unlimited back up plans out of thin air to get the job done. They're able to make accurate assessments fairly quickly and be right more often than not. They see the small details without getting bogged down by them and seeing the bigger picture comes quite naturally. Best of all, you can always, I mean always count on them.
Building on those traits and adding the obvious (all those website claims) - being honest, ethical, professional, discreet, timely, experienced - a good P.I. is also someone who stays in touch with their client; someone the client isn't having to chase down to keep informed about their case.
When it comes to interviewing skills, a great investigator knows it's as much about asking the right questions, as it is listening, really listening. If an investigator only gets a pre-determined list of questions asked and answered, chances are the real story goes untold.
Reading facial expressions and body language is profoundly useful. This is a fascinating area of study. Two excellent books on this topic are by Paul Ekman called Emotions Revealed and Telling Lies.
Ekman writes, "The face often contains two messages: what the liar wants to show and what the liar wants to conceal." He says the face more often than the voice gives false emotional messages, although once you learn to recognize micro emotions - "very fast facial movements lasting less than one-fifth of a second" -you may be better able to detect the concealed emotion. It takes specialized training, but it can be done.
"It is well known that people don't always 'speak their minds', and it is suspected that people don't always 'know their minds'. Understanding such divergences is important to scientific psychology." implicit.harvard.edu website
This divergence is addressed in Malcolm Gladwell's book Blink.
Gladwell describes people being able, in the "blink of an eye", to accurately critique a situation by learning how to connect their subconscious knowledge to their conscious thought. You've probably experienced a gut reaction before, right? Gladwell explains that instant assessment - that knowing without knowing why -- is the highly aware subconscious responding first without your conscious mind weighing in. Learning how to connect the two parts of consciousness results in sharper analytical skills while increasing self awareness.
A GOOD P.I. IS ALWAYS LEARNING
Part of the point in mentioning these books is to illustrate that good P.I.'s are always researching and learning. So many factors are at play when investigating that staying informed is simply part of the gig. It's critically important to understand the role of culture, ethnicity, religion, age, fear, ego, life's 'stressors', economics, personal traumas, mental illness, relationship dynamics, bias, environmental factors and the list goes on and on. In the end, sharp interviewing skills not only reveal valuable information, but might offer insight into explaining the 'why' in a case. It's the kind of information that paints a clearer picture about who the players are in a particular case, and what important details occurred before, during, and after the time in question.