Not all negotiators are
equal with their abilities and skills.
There are several mistakes that hostage negotiators can make during a
crisis or hostage negotiation. One of
the biggest mistakes hostage and crisis negotiators make is rushing the
negation process and moving entirely too fast (Sebenius, 2001). Time is said to be a negotiators greatest
ally during crisis or hostage negotiation.
Time is also one of the most crucial tools for negotiators during
negotiations of crisis and hostage situations (Fuselier, 1981).
In crisis situation, the
individual in crisis is not able to communicate and explain their story when
the negotiation is being rushed. When a
crisis or hostage negotiation process is slowed down, it allows the individual
in crisis to calm down (Sebenius, 2001).
This is important because crisis and hostage negotiations are
stressful. The individual in crisis is
emotional, angry, stressed, and mentally unstable. If the negotiation process is done at a
slower pace, the individual in crisis can speak and express what they are
thinking and feeling, and this information assist the crisis negotiator in
having a negotiation that is more cognitively based, instead of a negotiation
that is being controlled by emotions (McMains & Mullins, 2014).
One of the most efficient
ways of slowing down the negotiation process is by using the most important
skill a hostage negotiator has, which is active listening. When a negotiator is actively listening, it
allows the individual in crisis to speak openly and tell the negotiator what
caused the crisis situation. When the
negotiator is listening actively, the individual in crisis has his emotions and
narrative validated and acknowledged.
Once the individual in crisis sees that what he or she is saying is
being acknowledged, a new line of communication can be constructed (Bazerman,
Curhan, Moore & Valley, 2000). Trust
and a rapport with the individual in crisis is also built when the negotiation
process is slowed down. This is essential
because trust and rapport with the individual in crisis will create a
much-needed atmosphere, which allows the individual in crisis to work well with
the negotiator in discussing options that will allow the crisis situation to
resolved in a peaceful manner. Another
reason slowing down the negotiation process is important is because, it allows
the negotiation team to review all vital information that will allow them to
figure out the reasons the individual in crisis is in his current position
When a negotiator moves
to quickly during negotiations it prevents trust and rapport from being built
between the individual in crisis and the negotiator. It also prevents the ability to maintain
escalating emotions and it decreases the possibility of a peaceful end to the
crisis situation (Bazerman, Curhan, Moore & Valley, 2000). The results of moving too fast in crisis
negotiations can have consequences that are dire. It can cause injuries that can be serious and
sometimes even fatal (Fuselier, 1981).
It may seem that expediting negotiations would be the best idea, but
research has shown that the opposite is true.
Maintaining a slow process during a negotiation, builds trust, calms the
emotions of the individual in crisis and allow a rapport to be built. These contribute to a greater likelihood that
a negotiation can and will be resolved in a peaceful manner without anyone
being injured or killed (McMains & Mullins, 2014).
The second biggest
mistake a hostage negotiator can make is not using their active listening
skills, which reiterates some of above mentioned things that are necessary to
have a successful negotiation. Active
listening skills are easily one of the most important skills a hostage
negotiator must have. Active listening
is considered an approach to listening that allows a negotiator to listen in a
way which allows him to improve their understanding, gain pertinent information
and understand the point of view of the individual in crisis (Rogan, Hammer
& Van Zandt, 1997).
encourages the individual in crisis to keep talking and shows him that the
negotiator is paying attention to everything that is being said. Active listening also shows that the
negotiator is attentive and has interest in what the individual in crisis has
to say. These things allow the
negotiator and individual in crisis to build trust and a rapport (Bazerman,
Curhan, Moore & Valley, 2000). If a
negotiator does not use active listening skills, this can make the individual
in crisis feel that no one cares about what he is saying and if he has hostages
or is suicidal, if his emotions further intensify, he can then kill the
hostages or himself. This needs to be
avoided at all costs.
The third biggest mistake
a hostage negotiator can make when dealing with an individual in crisis is not
utilizing the help of a mental health professional. A mental health professional can provide
assistance that is extremely valuable during a hostage negotiation. A mental health professional can monitor the
negotiation and assess if the individual in crisis is at risk for committing
suicide (Bazerman, Curhan, Moore & Valley, 2000). A mental health professional can also assist
with gathering intelligence about the individual in crisis and interview
relatives and witnesses. This
information can give the mental health professional insight as to what mental
illnesses the individual in crisis may have, and knowing this information can
help the negotiator to negotiate in the most efficient way. A mental health professional will always be
able to detect if the individual in crisis, has shifts in their mood or stress
levels (Rogan, Hammer & Van Zandt, 1997).
The emphasis of this
important activity is on facilitating communication between the negotiator and
the subject. The consultant also monitors the nature of the relationship
between the negotiator and the subject (Rogan, Hammer & Van Zandt, 1997).
The affective reaction of the individual toward the negotiator is extremely
important and can often be utilized to direct the negotiations toward a
successful outcome. If stress is not managed
efficiently then the crisis situation can become destabilized. Stress can also cause the individual in
crisis to do unpredictable things that will complicate a negotiation, and this
needs to be avoided (McMains & Mullins, 2014).
Bazerman, M. H., Curhan, J. R., Moore, D. A., &
Valley, K. L. (2000). Negotiation. Annual
review of psychology, 51(1), 279-314.
Fuselier, G. W. (1981). A practical overview of
hostage negotiations (Conclusion). FBI L.
Enforcement Bull., 50, 10.
McMains, M. J., & Mullins, W. C. (2014). Crisis
negotiations: Managing critical incidents
and hostage situations in law enforcement and corrections. Routledge.
Rogan, R. G., Hammer, M. R., & Van Zandt, C. R.
(Eds.). (1997). Dynamic processes of crisis negotiation: Theory, research, and practice. ABC-CLIO.
Sebenius, J. K. (2001). Six habits of merely effective
negotiators. Harvard Business Review,