Lists of what to do in a negotiation are great. Books, like this one, that get you thinking about your own methods and the steps you should or shouldn’t take are fantastic. You can learn to be a negotiator, and a big part of learning should come from books and lectures and classes.
But sometimes it just comes down to doing it. Even for the pros, negotiation is just a gut check.
When the man who hijacked the Lufthansa jet agreed to surrender, there was one little snag involved. It wasn’t a snag, exactly; you might call it a condition, except it wasn’t precisely that either. Part of the deal was, the hijacker wanted to surrender to me.
Which, you know, was cool, because I was a cop. I did arrest people. It may even have been in my job description.
But I’ll tell you, it was a long, long walk out on that concrete. I wore a bulletproof vest, but that doesn’t cover every part of your body. One of the downsides to being trained as a sniper is that you’re very aware of the parts of your body that aren’t covered.
And another thing: Airbus 310s are very large aircraft. Lots of places for people to hide. Guy with a gun near the tail, in the cockpit . . .
The door opened.
Man came out.
Came down the steps.
There was a second there, a split split second, when I thought maybe it might all go wrong. I was beyond negotiation at that point—I was beyond trust and any of that stuff. I was just a cold guy on an airport runway, taking a chance on my gut that this was going to work.
And I was scared for that split split second, as scared as I’ll ever be.
Then that instant passed and it was over. Ninjas around, good arrest, happy hostages freed, newspapers, TV.
It all looks easy now.
The Hardest Negotiation
You take risks every time you go out, no matter whether your negotiation is life and death or for a few extra minutes of break time. Don’t let yourself get frozen by fear. Everybody feels it in some situations; it’s part of being human. The key is not to get paralyzed by it. If you do, if you don’t make the attempt at the negotiation, then you have exactly zero chance of achieving the goal you want.
The most important negotiation you’ll ever do is the next one.
It’ll also be the hardest.
Good luck with it. I know you’ll get through it.
Take care and stay safe.
Agreements with hostage takers:
last-minute changes to, 67–69
writing down, 67
Alcohol, avoiding, 31
Alternative plan, deciding on, 45–46
Antisocial personalities, 110–111
Appearance, message sent by, 29–30
Argument of negotiator, supporting, 166–167
Asking questions, 51–52
Backup negotiator, 15
Borderline personalities, 113–114
Breaks, 66, 131–133, 147
Buyer’s regret, 68–69
Calm, maintaining under fire, 146–148, 178–179
Closing, 60, 66–67, 137–153, 165–166
avoiding surprises following, 152
definition of, 140
determining important issues and, 131–143
discussing surrender with hostage taker and, 94–95
explaining surrender to hostage taker and, 150–151
focus on goal and, 143–144
Clothing of negotiator, message sent by, 29–30
Coach negotiator, 15
Comfort, familiarity of setting and, 28–29
role of, 16, 19, 42, 70–71
Concept 51, 52–53
breaking of, 63–64
Conversations, keeping going, 81–83
Cooperation, fostering attitude of, 95–97
Credibility of negotiator, 51
Criticism of negotiators, 84–85