What Can The NYPD Crisis Negotiations Team Teach Us About Negotiating?

What Can The NYPD Crisis Negotiations Team Teach Us About Negotiating?

We need to learn crisis negotiation techniques from negotiators in the trenches
We need to learn crisis negotiation techniques from negotiators in the trenches
Image Credit: Gilbert Mercier

In the world of negotiating, we all run into negotiating situations that can be stressful. The other side gets upset with us for some reason, they rant and rave and make a wide variety of threats, we try to keep things moving forward and ultimately if we are lucky we are able to reach a deal with them. Just imagine how hard it would be to be a member of the New York City Police Department’s Hostage Negotiation Team. Every negotiation that they go into is going to be stressful. How the heck do they deal with negotiations like that?

Keep Calm

I’m not sure how they handle it. We’ve all seen those situations on TV where the police negotiators get called in. More often than not, the other side has one or more people being held hostage and they are threating to harm them in some way. This is the environment that a police hostage negotiator has to enter into. Unlike the negotiations that you and I get involved in, they have not had a chance to research the other side and discover what is really driving them. Instead, they’re just going to have to leap in and do their best.

What the police hostage negotiators realize is that one of their most important skills is the ability to remain calm during a negotiation no matter how out of control things seem to be getting. The police negotiator is going to have to be able to display calm to the other side. The reason that this is so important is because they realize that their actions can be contagious. When the police negotiator is able to use a calm, respectful, and understanding tone with the other side throughout the negotiations this is what is going to help the other side realize that there may be another way out of this situation.

Be Self-Aware

One of the biggest challenges that a police negotiator is going to be facing is that they will be negotiating with someone who is a complete stranger to them. They have no real background information about this person and they don’t know what is motivating them. One of the biggest drawbacks of this type of negotiation vs the types of negotiations that we engage in is that the police negotiator probably does not know what the other side wants. Even worse, the other side may not know what they really want either!

A police negotiator is going to be facing a real challenge here. They are going to be required to do two things at the same time. The first is to, obviously, establish a relationship with a complete stranger. This may mean that they don’t know the other side’s name, possibly where they are located, or what they really want to get out of the negotiations. Next, they are going to have to keeping their communication strategic and purposeful in nature. What this means is that they can’t allow the other side to hijack the conversation and take in directions that won’t lead to achieving the deal that they are trying to create with them.

Be Adaptable

When we enter into a negotiation, very quickly we may recognize what this negotiation looks like. It may remind us of a previous negotiation that we participated in and this will allow us to once again use a set of negotiation styles and negotiating techniques that we’ve used before. Police negotiators don’t have this luxury. Every one of their negotiating situations is new and unique. What this means that they are going to have to be able to do is to have the ability to adapt to changing circumstances. The goal is to respond to those circumstances in a way that preserves the relationship they have built with their counterpart. At the same time they are going to want to be bringing them closer to their negotiation goals.

Even though the negotiations are never uniform or universal, the good news is that the relationship building and communication skills advocated by police bargainers do apply in nearly every negotiation scenario. We can learn a lot from these police negotiators. Though not often fraught with the emotional complexity of a hostage negotiation, business negotiations still rely upon trust, rapport, and a mutual sense of respect in order to make the deal happen.

What All Of This Means For You

Most negotiators believe that they have a tough job. They have to go into a principled negotiation, create a relationship with the other side, work out issues, and see if a deal can be reached. None of these things are easy to do. However, when you take a look at the challenges that are facing the New York City Police Department’s Hostage Negotiation Team all of sudden our jobs don’t seem as difficult! The police negotiators know that they need a special set of skills in order to be successful.

Police negotiations can be high stress affairs. What police negotiators understand is that they need to display calm in the midst of a heated crisis negotiation because the negotiator’s actions can be contagious. Additionally, police negotiators know that self awareness is a critical negotiation skill. This involves the realization that the crisis negotiator must establish a relationship with a complete stranger while at the same time keeping their communication strategic and purposeful in nature. As is the case with every negotiation, a police negotiator knows that they need to have the ability to adapt to changing circumstances and to respond to those circumstances in a way that preserves the relationship they have built with the other side while also bringing them closer to their goals.

Thankfully we will never find ourselves in the kind of high-stress negotiating environment that the NYC police negotiators encounter every day. However, the lessons that they have learned about how best to deal with unfamiliar negotiating situations are skills that we all need to have. If we study how they do their job, then we can become better at doing our jobs!

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Negotiating Skills™

Question For You: If you enter into a negotiation not knowing about about the other side, how can you quickly collect the information that you will need?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

We’ve all heard about mutually beneficial agreements, but can anyone say just exactly what they are? By one definition, a mutually beneficial agreement occurs when both sides of the table attempt to use their negotiation styles and negotiating techniques to grab as much as they possibly can from the limited amount of items that are being negotiated. I think that a much better definition has to do with taking the time to create more value during a negotiation and then making sure that everyone is taken care of in the final deal. Great words, but just exactly how does one go about doing this?

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