Getting Emotional

Getting Emotional

All right, truth telling time: I can’t Always take my own advice. Even I have been known to play the maniac back.

One time during a negotiation, I had a real hard case in a room with an old lady. On the phone, he started going off about what he was going to do to her, and at some point I just snapped back: “If you hurt one little gray hair on her head, I will be the one to ID your body in the morgue today.”

It was a completely emotional response; it was absolutely not what you’re trained to do. It’s not what I was trained to do, and I certainly wouldn’t recommend it as a way to introduce yourself.

But it did actually work. I had a moment of controlled craziness. And the hostage taker responded instantly with, “She’s okay. She’s sitting on the couch.” That was the last time he threatened her safety, and five hours later he released her unharmed.

I can justify it now: I had a feeling that if I just kept letting him spew the venom, he was going to talk himself into slitting her throat. It comes under the category of using your personality and your emotions, and in that way it complies with the rules, not breaks them.

Still, I was a bit of a psycho that moment.

See? Everybody’s a little crazy.

A Change In Tactics

Sane people who use insane tactics as part of their shtick usually will drop those tactics when they realize they’re not working. Outrageous behavior and demands have a tendency to disintegrate when it becomes obvious that the real goal is obtainable without them.

Again, you’re not out to fix the person’s head, just to make a deal. That’s where the focus of the negotiations should be.

Summing Up

Everybody’s a little nuts when it comes to negotiations. Be prepared to deal with different personality types differently—change your tactics, not your goals.

Never be afraid of dealing with a professional negotiator. If you’ve done your homework, pros are the easiest people to work with.

The key to not being bullied: Know your goal before you get into the situation, and stick to it. Keep separation between the negotiator and the commander. This way, if the negotiator is bullied, a bad decision won’t result.

Cover all important points in the negotiation stage, even if the other side doesn’t.

Chapter 8: The Two Ds: Demands And Deadlines

To the skilled negotiator, demands and deadlines are like diamonds: your best friends.

Most people tend to get paranoid about two things in negotiations: demands and deadlines. Hostage negotiators are trained never to use those two words. We avoid talking about deadlines—ours or theirs—and we don’t make demands. We have points that are non-negotiable, of course; we’re never going to give the bad guy a gun, for instance. But we don’t present them as demands. We don’t need to make the people we’re dealing with any more squirrelly than they already are.

On the other hand, we welcome both demands and deadlines. They are valuable tools as we work toward a resolution in the negotiating crisis. If the other side gives you a list of demands—they won’t use that word, of course—and a deadline, jump for joy.

Demands: A Dirty Word

Demands is a very ugly word. It makes rational people act irrationally.

Don’t believe me? Go into a store and yell, “I demand satisfaction!” and notice how many different shades the salespeople’s faces turn.

Then go down to the other end of the mall and say, “Can you help me?” and see if there’s a difference.

Most negotiators realize that the word demand is too loaded to use in a serious negotiation. That doesn’t mean they won’t present them. They’ll use words that are easier to take, like wants or needs or even points or items. As a general rule, the more neutral the term you use to outline your position, the better off you are. Hostage negotiators generally present their own position passively: as a reaction to what the other guy does. We don’t have demands, but we do have non-negotiable points:

  • The hostage taker never gets a gun.

  • We never add to the hostages.

  • We never release people who are in jail or otherwise in legal custody.

As a general rule, we make these positions known as we answer requests by the subject. Which psychologically makes them easier for the other side to discuss. Not necessarily to accept, of course, but at least to discuss.