The Negotiation Skills Company -- Newsletter February 2001
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The occasional newsletter of
The Negotiation Skills Company, Inc. (TNSC)
Number 15, February 2001
This issue of our newsletter addresses an issue that appears on the news altogether too often. Curtis M. Johnson, an acknowledged expert on hostage negotiation -- and one of TNSC's Senior Trainers, contributed the following article.
Hot Tips on Negotiating in a Hostage Situation
By Curtis M. Johnson, TNSC Senior Trainer
You are at your desk and some work from the week
before is facing you. Monday morning is here and
you're just coming out of the weekend's "daze".
Whether you live in New York City or in Bogotá,
whether you work in a 2-person office or work with
500 people, the potential is there for surprises.
It takes one angry employee, one angry customer to
take control of your environment, your little
world for a minute, an hour, or who knows how
long. You are for that short time -- or for the
long run of that incident -- a Hostage.
Can you prepare men and women with the necessary
innovative verbal skills, assessment tools,
management skills or even preventative qualities
that go hand in hand with handling difficult
people or difficult situations? The hard answer is
you really do not prepare for these situations.
Nevertheless, there are some tips to improve
surviving a Hostage situation, be it in a U.S.
post office or an MD80 Airliner.
Rule Number One; if you are a Hostage, you cannot
negotiate your own survival. A hostage Negotiator
trained in that field can assist in the
negotiations; but you, the Hostage cannot. So stay
calm, talk to the hostage taker if a question is
asked of you. Do not offer opinions (he or she may
not necessarily agree with your side of an issue),
but do look at the hostage taker if they are
looking at you with that question (it is "more"
difficult to hurt a person looking into their
Rule Number Two; During the "chaotic" stage of the
hostage take-over incident, everything will be
chaotic. There may be loud noises, throwing
things, or banging. This is meant to scare you,
bring fear to you or this could be as simple as
the Hostage taker just being out of control.
Additionally, this is the most dangerous stage. In
the beginning take-over stage the potential to be
shot, slashed, or attacked has the greatest
likelihood of occurring. Do what you are told, as
quickly as possible. Do not be the "sore thumb" or
the "squeaky wheel" person. Stay "low" and out of
the way. Stay quiet and unobvious.
Rule Number Three; THINK SURVIVAL. I use an
acronym called T.H.I.N.K.
T=Team Control; you are never alone in the
incident. Even if you are the only hostage, you
will have professionals working to aid your
release. However, remember they will not have the
luxury of communicating with you directly, so
remember you ARE part of the TEAM and your
assistance is needed.
H= Hold them Accountable. Watch what is going on
around you without being conspicuous. It will be
useful in future disciplinary and legal actions.
Moreover, it is useful in keeping your mind off
your present situation.
I=Instincts, Follow your Instincts. Before you are
"caught" up in a poor situation, listen to your
gut feeling. Listen to that "butterfly" in you
tummy. If the situation does not look right, smell
right or even "sound" right or normal, tell
someone. Talk to someone in authority. Let people
know what you are thinking or sensing. Even if
you're wrong, you do not have to live with the
failure or guilt of not having let someone know
what you felt. Keep in mind Team Control even if
you are not on the current team that your senses
have been alerted about.
N= No escaping! If you try and you fail, you are
in big big trouble with the hostage taker. That
will undoubtedly "piss" him or her off. That is
not to say if there is an OPEN door, and I am
standing by that door, that I would not try to
leave. Nevertheless, I would have to consider the
other persons being held and their potential
problems if the hostage takers got angry over
their recent loss.
K= Keep your self-esteem. Keep your chin up. That
is so important to your sanity and your survival.
Remember your family and your friends. Keep your
We hope you and your co-workers never need to use
While this is not 'new' news, we just wanted to
remind people involved in purchasing that the NAPM
has accredited TNSC's Fighting Fires Without
Burning Bridges course for continuing education
Denise Delaney has joined our line-up of Senior
Trainers. You can read her bio on our website at:
Like our other trainers, Denise brings extensive
experience as a deal-making negotiator to our
programs. She also adds new areas of expertise to
TNSC was featured last month in the Christian
Science Monitor and will be featured this soon on
'The World', a radio broadcast co-produced by the
BBC and WGBH (Boston's original public
broadcasting station). The show was recorded in
the United States and France.
Our website's advice section, 'Ask Steve's Advice'
contains approximately 190 pages of responses to
questions ranging from negotiating with children
to dealing with pay and promotions. Each time our
webmaster, Tim Dubuque, sends out a new quotation
he also lists new questions our advice column has
addressed. When you're faced with a challenging
negotiation situation, visit us at the following
address to see whether your concern is covered:
http://www.negotiationskills.com/qa.php If not, let us know so we can respond to your concerns.
We always value comments from our readers and
would appreciate hearing from you about our
newsletter or other issues. Our email address is:
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
If you present yourself as the victim in a negotiation, you are sure to emerge as one.
Good luck with your negotiating,
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