A manner of speaking
reparing to interview former Oxford don and television psychologist Dr Peter Collett about the body language of interviewing is a daunting prospect. As I wait in a café near Chatham House, central London, where he has been talking that morning, I become intensely aware of how I am sitting. Will he judge my choice of questions, my hand gestures, the way I order my food? What will Collett, author of The Book of Tells, and the original in-house psychologist for the first four series of hannel s Big Brother, be able to tell about me? When he arrives, Collett immediately puts me at ease with his radio-friendly deep tones as he jokes with the waiter. Whether psychology is at play, or his past as a news reporter for the “ludicrously titled” Business and Economy in Central East Africa in Zambia means he is more sensitive to journalistic purpose, Collett is an “easy” interview: open and, best of all, funny. Big Brother was the start of ollett s move into the media, but his work has always focused
on behaviour. He explains: “Most psychologists do what I call sloth psychology; in other words, they quickly do a study so they can publish. “The last thing they want to do is to commit to research that is going to be painstaking and time-consuming. They are certainly not going to spend their days gazing at recordings or making observations it ust doesn t pay. Instead of doing experiments “where you have a hypothesis that is either going to be confirmed, or disconfirmed , his discoveries resembled “an a-ha experience”. None more so than when he moved to a life unpicking the body language of Big Brother contestants where the “material was dynamite”, and more recently in his articles for The Guardian, where he reveals the meaning behind the quirks of political leaders such as onald Trump s handshake. The interview is about the art of interviewing, but his insights apply to most interactions. He tells me that body language can reveal a hidden reality, how people feel
about the person they are interviewing, or even who they are co-presenting with. His udgement on the nation s favourite mock husband and wife Kirstie Allsopp and Phil Spencer from hannel s Location Location Location is eye opening o, they didn t get on at the start. The body language She didn t like to share the limelight.” When it comes to interviewing technique, Collett stresses that it is dictated by the situation: “It depends to a large extent what as a journalist you are trying to achieve. “Do they want to tell their story, or do you have to wring it out of them? Are you in the process of trying to expose things about them, or are you on their side? In essence, is it an adversarial Pa man like interview, or one that s more benign?” nd that s it. Throughout he is all charm, asking me about my dictaphone, how I am going to angle the piece, even what notes I am taking. Dr Peter Collett, body language expert, is always watching it s benign , but it works.
Photo credit: ITV1/PA Archive/PA Images
Body language expert Dr Peter Collett tells Charlotte Irwin why actions really do speak louder than words
60 | xCITY
p. 60-1 FINAL.indd 2