The last time your significant other somehow just knew about your eyebrow-raising coffee meeting with an especially attractive coworker, you probably wondered when did he or she become such a Nancy Drew?
Theres a common misconception that some people are simply born with a talent for sleuthing whether to uncover infidelity or to solve more sinister mysteries. But the truth is that many of the skills that make a successful sleuth can actually be taught, and therefore, they can be learned.
It doesnt hurt, however, to have a curious predisposition.
In TBSs upcoming new show, Search Party, a young girl named Dory flexes her sleuthing muscles to solve a vexing mystery the disappearance of a former college acquaintance.
To get inside Dorys head, we examined some of the personality traits and intricacies of detective work.
Character traits of a successful sleuth
Certainly, a few basic personality traits suitable for detective work are ingrained in some people at birth: perceptiveness and attention to detail, an affinity for puzzles, an innate sense of direction, advanced problem-solving skills and relentless persistence, to name a few.
Research suggests that people who fall into the ESTJ extroverted, sensing, thinking and judging personality type on the Myers-Briggs scale may be well suited for police or detective work. Presumably, this has to do with the tendency for ESTJs to have a strong moral compass/sense of right and wrong, an acute awareness of their surroundings and a strong work ethic. Not to mention that extroverts likely have an easier time grilling sources for information in an interview setting than do their more introverted counterparts.
Lee Silber, a bestselling author who has written a number of mystery novels, says that theres a less obvious correlation between character traits and mystery-solving skills: Artistic inclination.
In many art forms (painting and sculpting, for example), the artist brings different and sometimes random elements together to create something new, he says, citing the approach of a skilled photographer who often sees things that other miss.
When you think about it, all of the things that make a person an artist are similar to [the talents that] make someone a sleuth, he adds.
Innate talent versus teachable skills
Even though some individuals may be more predisposed to detective work than others, it doesnt mean that as with any art form the skills cant be learned.
Silber notes that when it comes to developing sleuthing skills, practice makes perfect.
“People can practice being observant on a daily basis.”
People can practice being observant on a daily basis, he says. The more you pay attention to details that others miss, the better you get at it. Solving problems can also be a daily part of your routine. When something bugs you, think about ways to improve the situation.
Rob Holmes, a second-generation private eye with more than 10,000 cases under his belt and the CEO of IPCybercrime, says that natural talent may be somewhat overemphasized when it comes to developing detective skills.
Holmes notes that in his experience, people who tend to describe themselves as naturally curious or good researchers often actually make terrible detectives (at least when it comes to solving crimes).
Holmes also points out the importance of having a mentor when trying to hone sleuthing skills.
I always say that ‘curiosity kills the case.’ The reason is that it is easy for an amateur sleuth to follow a clue down a rabbit hole for far longer than needed, Holmes explains. This is where having a mentor is important. A great detective is not naturally curious. She needs to be able to qualify leads on the stop of a dime. ‘Which one do I follow? Is this lead dead? Should I bookmark it and come back later?’
Sleuthing may be an elusive art form for some but that doesn’t mean it’s out of grasp for those dedicated enough to put in the time and effort.
Want to learn more about how to hone your sleuthing skills? Watch the first episode of Search Party below and tune in on 11/21 on TBS to see the rest of the story unfold.