A baseline is how someone acts when they are under normal, non-threatening conditions. It can be very easy to establish baselines.
Baselines With People You Know:
Oddly, it is more difficult to establish baselines with people you know well than new people in your life. This is because you are used to and accustomed to the people you know well. Sit down with the person you want to read better—your child, your spouse, your parent, your friend and talk to them casually about the weather or what they are making for dinner (it should be something with no emotional ties and nothing they would ever lie about). Then take note of some of the clues I list below.
Baselines With Acquaintances:
If you want to get to know a baseline of someone you work with or a friend of a friend you can observe this person in other conversations or ask them to update you about the status of a work project or weather for the weekend.
Baselines With People You Do Not Know:
If you are just meeting someone say at a party or during an interview always start with a few easy questions to discover their baselines. This will not only relax them but give you a good picture of how they act when they are calm.
Clues In Baselines
There are few things you want to look for specifically when finding someone’s baseline. Here are what you should take note of:
-Hand gestures and positions
-Position of eyes (up to the left, to their feet)
-Pace of speaking and breath
-Twirling hair, picking lint of themselves, fidgeting, neck rubbing
-Position of feet
There is no need to create a mental checklist, just get the overall picture of how they act. Are the animated? Stiff? Easy to smile? You want to simply tap into your intuition of when there is a subtle shift in their behavior that is when you know you are either onto something emotional (and) or the person is lying.
People have often asked me, “I blink and fidget a lot normally will people think that I am lying?” I always explain to people with this worry that it’s ok because that is their baseline so it should not be misinterpreted as lying.
P. Ekman, “Facial Expressions of Emotion: an Old Controversy and New Findings”, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, London, B335:63–69, 1992
Haggard, E. A., & Isaacs, K. S. (1966). Micro-momentary facial expressions as indicators of ego mechanisms in psychotherapy. In L. A. Gottschalk & A. H. Auerbach (Eds.), Methods of Research in Psychotherapy (pp. 154-165). New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts.
Gladwell, Malcolm (2005). Blink, Chapter 1, Section 3, The Importance of Contempt
Camilleri, J., Truth Wizard knows when you’ve been lying”, Chicago Sun-Times, January 21, 2009