Can teachers use students' facial features to understand them and their learning styles better?
International profiling and communication specialist, Alan Stevens, says yes they can. Alan has developed a process he calls rapid trait profiling which enables people to make a fast personality and character assessment of others. He says large companies and organisations such as Disney Films have seen the benefits of clearer communication and understanding between people.
Alan spoke to The Learning Capacity Podcast about how rapid trait profiling is being used in many areas of life including education and parenting. He also discusses learnings from Australian Aboriginal lore, and taking up free fall Skydiving at the age of 50.
Listen to the podcast:
- Rapid Trait Profiling
- Education & learning
- Body Language
- Australian Aboriginal Lore
- What facial features reveal about learning style
People & organisations mentioned
- Paul Ekman Group
- Disney Films
- President Donald Trump
- The Campfire Project
- Naomi Tickle
- Mens' Shed Association
If you would like to read the complete podcast transcript, here it is:
Episode 87 of The Learning Capacity Podcast
Profiling & Communication with Facial Traits - Alan Stevens
Peter Barnes: Alan, you're an international Profiling and Communications Specialist. In fact the UK Guardian newspaper describes you as the leading authority in reading faces globally. Can you tell us about what you do?
Alan Stevens: As a profiler, it's all about being able to recognize other people's personalities and speak to them in a way that they want to be spoken to. But also being able to pick up their character as well. Understanding their emotions, and also recognizing whether they're telling you the truth, when you're asking them questions.
Peter: So this is understanding people's personalities, without doing a battery of pen-and-paper tests or online tests? It's just by looking at their faces. Is that correct?
Alan: That's exactly right, and the way that works. If you think about it, if somebody lifts weights, you're be able to tell by the shape of their body that they're fit and so you can get an idea of what type of exercises they do. Because of the structure of the body, the way the ridges and crevices are made in the muscles. The form of the body.
At the same time, everything we feel, is shown on the face and in the body. So if we think in a particular way over and over, we're going to pull particular expressions which are therefore going to create different ridges and crevices, that really then are a map of the history of how we like to think and process. And there's our personality. And that's all through the facial features.
Then we have body language and expressions which tell us the person's emotions. We only need to, with the first instance in looking at their personalities, we can do that from photographs because facial features don't change overnight. And we can now read somebody from that state.
Then when we add the body language and expressions to it, we can start looking at the character, when we're talking to somebody.
Rapid Trait Profiling
Peter: Putting all this together, you call this Rapid Trait Profiling, is that correct?
Alan: That's right.
Peter: How did you come to get involved in this? Get interested in this and learn it?
Alan: Probably my past, not being very good at reading people, but business partners had emptied the bank out. I hadn't read them very well at all. I've been in a lot of relationships. I've raised three boys on my own, so I had to understand them more effectively. It's been a progression of different things.
I've worked in just about every industry you can think of. I've realized in all of those instances, it was more the relationships that I had with people that were more important than anything else.
For a period of time after leaving telecom where I was working for 23 years as a technical or a principal technical officer, I then worked in other industries, and finally became a massage therapist and started getting interested in understanding why people do the things they do.
NLP, body language, Myers-Briggs and DISC
Got into NLP, Neuro-Linguistic Programming, where you understand the words that can steer somebody, the conversations, and steer the direction of thoughts.
I've worked with body language for quite a period of time, and been working with psychometric profiling like Myers-Briggs and DISC and those sort of programs. One day doing a workshop, somebody just said to me, “You ever look at reading faces?”
My belief has always been the most important thing I'll ever learn, is the next thing I learn after I think I know everything. I got on Google, did some searching and found a specialist in those particular areas, trained with the Paul Ekman Group, which is all about the micro-expressions, and a lady by the name Naomi Tickle, who's now retired over in the States, who were talking about the facial features.
I'd had the body language under my belt for quite a long time, and I'd also had the NLP, had my Masters in that. I thought, "These things work together. Why hasn't anybody else put the whole lot together?" So I put it together and then created Rapid Trait Profiling.
Peter: Right. Body language is fairly well known. NLP is reasonably well known. But what you've described, is how you've taken those two things and facial traits and put them together, and created this Rapid Trait Profiling system, or process, or knowledge of yours?
Alan: That's right.
Peter: This is not something you can go to a university to learn, is that correct?
Alan: It's not something that you really learn at universities. The facial expressions, I know Paul Ekman teaches those over in the States. NLP is not taught in universities, even though a lot of psychologists are now learning NLP, because they want faster ways of doing things.
The facial features are something that most psychology departments don't understand. Most universities go well, “Is this clairvoyance?” But it's not just explained, it's really based on a science which is the emotions, how the body works and everything else. It's just an observation of how the body develops and responds to the way that we think and process.
Peter: Right. So you've learned this just through personal research and effort and study. Are there other people out there in the world doing the same thing as you?
Alan: Not the same as mine. You will find that a lot of people are working with NLP. You'll find a lot of people who do body language. They're now starting to bridge towards the facial expressions as well, because you can try and hide it in your body, as far as the movements and everything goes, but your face will give it away.
Or if you try to control your face, the body will give it away as far as the emotions go. But the facial features ... training with Naomi who I would class as the best in the world, she didn't understand the micro-expressions and how they work. So I just realized that they needed to be brought together, and when I did, I couldn't find anybody else who was doing that.
My target now is to create my own competition, and train them to the highest possible level, so that more people can get the benefits of the Rapid Trait Profiling as one total package.
Companies, industry groups, teachers and Disney Films
Peter: You've been teaching industry groups, and large companies and including the Disney Films, I believe? All these.
Alan: That's right.
Peter: You want to tell us about how those organizations are using what you've got?
Alan: Well, in the case of Disney Films, when I first went over there a couple of years ago, it was mainly used to understand the stories the face gives away, before you utter a single word. So the expressions and being able to read somebody and their personalities.
The same thing with companies like Gillette. But then you have the Federal Police. When it comes down to enter a ... Relationships form the basis of everything we do in life, whether you're selling a product or a service, you're raising children, you're teaching or whatever. If you don't build a relationship with the person that you're connected to, they're not going to want to do anything with you.
If it's a teacher for instance, you can have a lot of opposition from the students, but if you build a relationship with them, they will learn faster, they're more cooperative, and your life is a lot better. So in that I knew that, we had to create the process and then start teaching other people.
With the Federal Police, their situation, like any police force, military or anything else, it's the relationships that they've got within themselves as well. PTSD's a huge problem. In industry, we have disengaged employees.
They state now in the Western world, it's about 87% of employees don't want to be at work. With all of that, you've got a lot of people who are unhappy, and if they're unhappy, their relationships with the people around them, aren't going to be very good either.
Peter: There's an application in the dating world, I guess?
Alan: Yes. Number one, you want to find the right partner, and as I keep saying to people, and that, "Are you looking for love in all the wrong faces?" Because we look at somebody and we think, "Oh, that's what somebody I want."
But first of all, you need to know your own personality, know the other person's personality, and then know how to speak to them in the way that I want to be spoken to. So changing to the way that you like to speak. In that way, you have a better connection.
So, you can find a partner more effectively, you can find out those that are telling the truth, as they say on dating sites, the repetitious playground. So we want to make sure that you're not dating, as I say, a psychopath.
That's the first thing. But then when you do find the keeper, how do you take that person? And again, that comes into the relationship and the way you speak and talk to them.
But exactly the same skills that I've taught people in that situation, they've turned around and told me that well, “With the children, they've even got better connections with them.” So then they go to work, they have better relationships with their colleagues.
If you're a sales person, you can connect with your client a lot faster, and as we know, people only do business with those people they like, know and trust. So if you're able to build their trust, you become their preferred supplier, if you've got competition.
Peter: All makes sense. Some psychologists and human resource people in business would say that they use things like the Myers-Briggs profiling tool, and DISC and other things like that, to try and achieve what you've just described. So what's the difference between those things and a Rapid Trait Profiling?
Alan: Originally I used both of those, and it was actually when I was doing a workshop for a friend who was running a spiritual retreat. We had people come in, and we were taking them through those psychometric profiles. We actually had, what would you call it, role playing and we said, “Okay, in this situation last we profiled them using the questionnaires.”
Then we took them through that process and somebody said to me on that day, “Have you ever looked at reading faces?” Now, at the same time, I'd also been teaching currency trading. There's a company that none of their students ever made any money, so they brought me in.
But I said, “Well, it's about the psychology of the students, and their psychology is different from person to person, so we need to know that psychology so that we can teach them how to learn how to trade.
Different personalities, ages, cultures, genders, emotions
But at the same time, know how to understand their own personalities so they can stay in the game long enough without losing money.” So we use psychometric profiling like Myers-Briggs and DISC. But then we found that, when we started teaching people, quite often they didn't fit the roles that we got from when we questioned them.
And then I realized that, well, the limitations were age. You can't ask certain ages questions, because they're too young to understand the value of the words. What our own education on what a word means to us, is different to somebody else's.
We had cultural differences. We had gender differences, and so I needed something better. At the same time, I've had a lot of profilers, DISC and Myers-Briggs set up. I can look at somebody and I can work them out by watching them. But what we're doing here is we're watching behaviours, and when we watch behaviours, if I'm in a good mood or a bad mood, the person I'm reading, I'll read them differently from one day to another.
So I needed something that took my emotions out of it, took their emotions out of it, and when I look at faces, I'm looking at the dimensions. I'm looking at the ridges and crevices, and it's really a mathematical-led decision on a lot of the traits, and if you divide three by four you get .75 or 75%.
It doesn't matter if you're happy or sad, you're still going to get that result. That's what I loved about reading faces, it took the emotions out of it, took my emotions out of it, and took the other person's emotions out of it.
And then I can then read somebody on a world scale, because we all think we're in a particular position, but other people around us will think we're different. By profiling people this way, I'm looking at them on a world scale so I can see where anybody is, related to anybody else.
Peter: So you could take a look at Donald Trump's face on video with no sound, and draw some conclusions about his personality and emotional state. I'm assuming?
Alan: The personality really just comes from the facial features. That tells you how somebody likes to think and process, but it doesn't tell you what they're thinking or processing. It doesn't tell you their intent.
But the body language and the expressions, that does tell you a lot of information. If it doesn't correlate ... So if I read somebody in their facial features first of all, then I go, “Okay, that's their personality,” I structure the conversation, and when I'm talking to them, the indicators I'm getting back in the expressions and the body language don't correlate, I now know something's wrong.
Either I haven't connected with them, haven't read them right in the first place, there's emotional stuff going on, or yes, I could have somebody that I shouldn't trust.
Words are only 7% of communication
But if you watch a video ... Because trouble is, when we listened to people at school we were told, “Listen, listen, listen.” So we focus on the words, but the words are only worth 7%. The body language, the tone of voice, the expressions on the face, that's the rest of the communication.
So when we listen to say Donald Trump talking for instance, or any politician, we're hearing the words, but because we concentrate on those, quite often, we miss the little indicators in the face.
But if you watch that video with the sound off, you look for the changes and you watch it a couple of times, then you watch it with sound on, it's surprising. You go, “Oh. Now I know what happened when that expression changed.” And, “Oh. That didn't sound like they really agreed with what was being said, or like they were telling the truth.”
Educators and parents
Peter: Really interesting. So a couple of things coming out of all this so far. With young people, with children, a large proportion of the listeners here today are educators and most of them are parents, and you're talking about fissures on faces and the crevices and so forth.
Young kids haven't had much time to develop that. They've got smooth faces generally, so can this apply to young people too? What's the lower age limit?
Alan: You find that, as we get older, we develop more ridges and crevices. These are the ... There's two types of both sides of our personality. We first of all have what we call nature, which is passed down in their genes, and then we have nurture, which is our response to our environment.
From 10 facial traits in a newborn up to 68 for an adult
Now, the facial features, the changes in the crevices, the ridges and things like that, they're more to do with the environment. They're more to do with the nurture traits. But when a child is born, it has certain traits that are passed down from the parents, so where I work with anything up to 68 or even more traits in the face in an adult, in a newborn child, there can be up to 10 traits, that you can see from the nature side of things, from the parents.
You look at two children from the same parents, there's differences in them and yes, their personalities are different from the very early days.
As they get older, by the time they're five years old, there's about 24 traits we can see. By the time they're 10 years old, there's about 40, and so as a child starts ... You can look at a newborn child or a toddler, know what they're going to be like when they get to school.
Facial traits reveal learning style
You know what their learning style is going to be, so that when you teach them, they don't lose track and therefore they don't fall through the cracks. At the same time, as they go through school, where you got the hobbies and sports that will suit them, and before they pick their final subjects, there's enough traits there to give you a pretty good idea of what careers may suit their personality.
So instead of giving them a job guide at the beginning and say, “Go read this,” which is likely like the telephone pages, you won't read it. You're actually saying to them, “Here's a few careers that may suite you, go and read, research these ones.”
So the job guide becomes a yellow pages, and it gives them some direction to get started. At the same time, they still make their own choice.
Peter: You just mentioned a few things there, where this could be very helpful. For parents guiding their children into career choices, subject choices for career counsellors, for educators. My question to you in relation to that is, how long does it take someone to learn enough of this?
You said there's 68 adult traits, you look at. You had years looking at this and thinking about it and testing it. If I was a teacher, and I thought, "Well, this is pretty interesting, I want to see what this will do as far as helping me, help my students." What do I do? How long would it take me? Do I need to know all those 68 traits?
Alan: If you know all of those, it covers every aspect of life. It doesn't matter if the person comes to you for counselling, coming to you for career selection, relationship issues with their partner, etc. You're able to do all of that.
Short 6 week course
But what I put together originally, was a very short course that looked at about eight traits for building instant rapport. That course was first of all used by just salespeople, that was then picked up by real estate agents, and became a professional development program for their CPD points.
It then got picked up by lawyers, Dentist Association, Reflexology Association, CPAs, all for the same thing. Those eight traits are also the ones that I've been teaching teachers, so that they can understand a child, build rapport with them, understand their learning style.
That was put together as a drip feed program that was taught over six weeks, and all I needed to do was spend about half an hour a week, and then come together and bring it all together for them, twice through those six weeks. It's very easy to learn, but it comes down to once you learn it, practicing it, that's all it is.
Peter: So that's about three hours of study effectively? Half an hour a week for six weeks?
Alan: That's it. With a little short time with need we've got ... Each trait has its own meaning, that they'd go, "Okay, if you've got this trait and you've got the second trait at this level, how do they moderate or enhance each other? And if you add this other trade, how does that moderate it, etc.
And if you change that trait from that extreme to the other extreme, what would be the effect?" So I teach people so that they can look at any combination, and pretty much work out how that person's going to behave in a very short moment.
Peter: It would be helpful then, for not only for teachers with their students, but in the personal relationships, in the school, or in fact in any organization with peers, with bosses, with subordinates?
Alan: Exactly. All across the board. If we've got the teachers themselves being able to understand each other's behaviours, or understand how they like to be spoken to, instantly means that you spend less time trying to resolve issues or getting messages across because you talked to the person, in the way they want to be spoken to.
If you've got two people, say one is more big picture, where they make a decision, just on the smallest amount of information, or you've got somebody is more analytical, yes, may look at the big picture, but wants more information.
Well, if they're talking to each other, one's not giving enough information, the other one's giving far too much, and the one who's giving far too much. Well the other one person is just switching off. It won't be alive, they don't connect.
Peter: I've had many experiences where, in a conversation each party thinks the other one is understanding them exactly, and if you replay it, it's just the conversations have been missing both ways. So I understand what you're talking about.
Alan: But you mentioned the analytical person, who's just spent so much time trying to get their message across. If they knew they could actually just tell that person, just an overview and a lot less information. The other person would have got it straight away, being happy with it, and the analytical person could have gone on with their other projects and saved a lot of time in the process.
Aboriginal Lore Man & the Campfire Project
Peter: Another thing you mentioned earlier on, was cultural differences. I note that you've been initiated in Australian Aboriginal Lore, and you're recognized as an Aboriginal Lore Man. Can you tell our listeners what that's all about?
Alan: For me it's been how to connect with people, and one of the things that the Aboriginal Lore teaches is love, humility and respect. And all of that is, putting your focus on the other person, understanding them. I run a program called The Campfire Project, which is interviewing men all over the world. In that, it's creating a safe place for men to come together, to be able to talk about their past, what they've been through, and be able to share that with other men.
It's a safe location where men can be vulnerable and share their information. That's what the indigenous side of things was about as well. Everything was done around the campfire. We learned not so much by listening to somebody, we learn by watching their behaviours.
When you're sitting around talking about things, well people hear that, but then they're watching more, "What do you do? Do you really do what you said you do?" And that, the whole thing with the Aboriginal Lore, is all about taking boys into manhood, and creating strong men.
I've looked at it and said, "Well, how many men out there want to be The Man as opposed to being A Man. You want to be The Man, you're looking over your shoulder all the time, and everybody come behind you. You're probably only there for 15 minutes at the top, because somebody else will knock you off your perch pretty quickly.
You're always feeling threatened because of other people around you, but if you're being A Man, then everybody else can be A Man as well and you can stand strong together. You become good parents, good fathers, good partners. That's what it's all about, and the more we can do that with men, then the real recipients of that are the children and the wives.
Peter: So your campfire project then, is focusing on men of all ages, from what I heard you say. The Men's Shed movement here in Australia is really for older age men I think. Is that right?
Alan: The older aged men run it, but it's also open to younger men to go in. It's a similar type thing. It's getting together and doing something that you've all got a common interest in, so woodwork and things like that, or metalwork, while you're working with somebody who mentors and everything.
Because, it gives the older men something to actually get involved in, to share their lives, because how many men go to their grave or even women as well, go to their grave without their stories ever being told? How much knowledge is lost?
So in the Men's Shed here, that thing for the older man then to ... Because they're retired, they've got no direction, etc. Want to get in there, and they can get to be there with other men. But at the same, time younger men can come in, and get mentored by those men as well. So everybody has a purpose.
It becomes more of like a community again, it's what we used to have when men had a rite of passage, but we haven't had it in our society for a very, very long time.
That's one of the reasons why, there are so many lost men out there, and why there's so much domestic violence, unhappy children, child abuse and everything else. That comes through from frustration.
Peter: Yeah, absolutely big need. So if someone wanted to connect with your campfire project, how would they do that?
Alan: They do that through, just going in and searching 'The Campfire Project' on Facebook. I can give you the link to that as well, you can put that in the comments if you like.
Peter: Yeah, I will.
Alan: Anyone can join, men and women can join. It's a closed group, only for the site, but it stays a safe place for men to be vulnerable and show their real strength, by speaking their truths and everything else. Anybody who disrespects that will be out pretty quickly.
It's starts off with the men telling their stories. I've been interviewing men from all over the world who have got some real horrific things that have happened to them as children, but how they've come through that. The next thing will then be creating panels, where we'll have a number of those men talking about particular issues that we'll put out as a survey and find out what other men want to know about.
Then the ladies will be interviewed, and then the ladies will come into the panels as well. So that we'll not just have a mint campfire, but we'll then have a global community of men and women.
And hopefully then it'll be a place that brings other men's groups together, and networks out into all those groups as well. And so it's, again, it's no culture or anything else. It's not limited to race or anything else.
Peter: All you just said, has the Rapid Trait Profiling you do, has a straight connection with this. One thing that I want to ask you about. We're just about to wrap up, I think, here. You're doing lots things that are beneficial to individuals, but more than that, it's beneficial to society at large.
Skydiving at age 50
But there's one thing I noticed from your website that you've done, which I think must be very solitary, and that is you took up free fall skydiving at the age of 50. Can we finish up with a little, you tell us about that and how that was?
Alan: I'd just gone through my ... and that's one of the reasons why I had to learn how to read people. I'd just been through my second divorce. I think I might've had a death wish, but I'd always been scared of heights. One of the things that, if you've got an issue that you're not very good at or you're worried about, challenge it.
So that's what, I'm scared of heights. I can't stand on top of the six foot ladder, so I thought, “Yeah, what's the next natural thing to do? Jump out of a plane" So I took up skydiving. Well, either way, I can throw myself out of a plane, but I can't still stand on top of the ladder rung of a six foot ladder.
Peter: Was that fun?
Alan: It was a lot of fun. The first time I jumped, it was a tandem jump and then on my 50th year, I decided it was time to start free falling, and falling at that speed. The only trouble is, you can get so involved in watching the scenery and everything else.
The first time I went to free from the other men, I almost forgot to look at my altimeter, and the ground was coming pretty close. As they say, "The fall won't kill you, it's the sudden stop at the end."
Peter: That's really interesting. Alan, thank you very much for your time today. Rapid Trait Profiling, Profiling and Communication Specialist. Really, really interesting, and I'm sure some of our listeners will be interested in following up, and seeing how they could use what you've developed and learnt. So thank you very much for your time.
Alan: You're welcome. And just for those people out there who have got children with Autism or Asperger's, it works extremely well with them as well. So I'd like to hear from anybody who would like to know more about it.
Rapid Trait Profiling for Educators
Alan Stevens is creating a rapid trait profiling course for educators to help them better understand their students' personalities, characters and learning styles. In the meantime you can see his course for business people here.