How do you address a potential mass murderer?
You call him “Mister” until he tells you that you can use his first name. And you do it politely, and with all the respect that another human being deserves.
I know, I know—you’re thinking I’m out of my mind on this one. You call potential mass murderers “Sir?”
But I do. I have. I admit it can be very hard. I have a real hard time dealing with child abusers and lowlifes like that. Call it a personal prejudice, I guess. But knowing that, I work at it and try to be even more professional in that situation—more polite, more nonjudgmental. Because when I’m doing the negotiation, I’m not dealing with the slime bag—I’m dealing with the human being. And all human beings deserve respect. Show a person respect and in most cases they’ll return it.
I mentioned earlier that lying is an absolute no-go thing for me. The thing I’ve found is that once you lay that idea out, people respond to it. On one of my very first negotiations, it turned out that the subject who’d taken a hostage and barricaded himself inside an apartment had grown up on the streets in the Bronx. Looking to establish some sort of rapport, I told him I grew up on the streets too. Different neighborhood, but basically the same sort of place. And then pretty much by accident I said, “Do you want me to lie to you or tell you the truth?”
Well duh, he wanted the truth. Which is what I was going to give him anyway. The thing is—and I hit on this by accident—by asking him that, I showed him I wanted to treat him with respect, no BS. The question is now one I ask all the time to get to the first yes. I talk specifically about that strategy in Chapter 6, “The First Yes,” but for now, remember how a simple, everyday question can help you build rapport and establish the trust you need to proceed.