Bringing Home The Bacon

Bringing Home The Bacon

My favorite manipulation story involves Frank Bolz. Now you’ve probably never heard of Frank, but within the world of hostage negotiation, the man is a god. He was a pioneer and an inspiration for most of us who followed him. There are a bunch of incredible Frank Bolz stories floating around, and they’re all true.

Frank had his team up in the city one time, trying to get a hostage taker out of an apartment. It had been a ball-busting night, and now dawn was breaking. He sensed that he just about had the guy out . . . but as we know, that last 1 percent of trust he needed can be the most elusive of all. So he decided he needed to do something to get the guy in the right frame of mind.

What to do, what to do . . .

Frank thought about it for quite a while, as he tells it, and then finally sprang into action. He sent a pretty perplexed young cop to the corner grocery store for a pound of bacon. In the meantime, he found and set up a little propane grill in the hallway outside the barricaded apartment. Within a few minutes of the cop’s return, the hallway was filled with the toasty smell of bacon crackling in the pan.

“We’re having breakfast out here,” Frank told the guy inside. “You oughta come out. . . .”

He did.

The “I’m Your Friend” Attitude

Is being nice manipulation?

Yes and no. You definitely do catch more flies with honey than vinegar, and many more deals are made through cooperation and friendship than ill will. I think a little manipulation along those lines is fine. But just a little. Too much is dangerous.

Hostage negotiators deal with people we don’t like all the time. Not one of the people I’ve talked off of bridges or out from behind barricades gets a postcard from me every year. Yeah, it’s nice to make friends, and that’s what life is all about—but negotiating is not making friends.

In everyday situations, emotions often skew the negotiations. It’s not just falling in love with a house or really wanting to impress people with a certain type of car. The emotions involved in talking to someone are part of the swirl. You can deal with them to an extent by focusing on your goals, but it’s hard to keep yourself separate.

When I talk to new hostage negotiators, one of the things I emphasize is, “Leave your cop attitude outside.” When you’re negotiating with a pedophile, you can’t think like a cop—because thinking like a cop is going to make you want to march in there and arrest him. At best.

It’s the same way with someone you like or would like to like on the other side of the negotiating table. Leave your friend attitude outside. I’m not saying be a mean person, or even to be cold and distant. Be friendly if that’s your style. But focus on your goal. You’re negotiating, not having a drink.

All right, you may be having a drink—but it’s a tactic and a means to an end, not the reason you’re there.

Summing Up

Different negotiations call for different tactics, but the overall approach is the same. Divide up the team, decide on your goal and tactics, do your intelligence, negotiate when you’re ready.

Simple or complex, you always have to know your role in the negotiation—and trust the other members of your team.

Don’t confuse your decision-making process with gathering intelligence about a deal.

Conning someone is not the way to make a deal. But you can and should use the truth to your best advantage.

And finally, nothing will smooth the way to a settlement like a whole bunch of bacon cooking in the hallway.