Police hostage negotiators have a set of basic rules that they follow. One of the key ones is that no matter how strongly the bad guys might demand it, they NEVER give them a gun. Seems like sorta a no-brainer, et? However, in the heat of negotiations nothing is ever that clear. The police know that if the bad guys threaten to harm hostages unless they get guns, there is always the possibility that someone might say “yes” and turn a bad situation into a worst situation. That’s why they have all agreed on this rule long before they show up on site.
We can all learn from folks who negotiate every day. What they are telling us is that before starting any negotiation, you need to decide the specific goal that you want these negotiations to achieve and you need to decide what is negotiable and what is not. This is called setting your negotiating parameters: know your “out” and your “push”. The “out” is your best alternative – if the negotiations don’t work out, then what are you going to do? The “push” is the approach that the your are going to take: how hard and what buttons are you going to push?
Another key point that too many of us forget time after time is that we begin negotiating when we’re still gathering information. Negotiations don’t begin until you’ve gathered all of the information. Then it’s time for you to sit back, evaluate the data that you’ve collected and work out what your “out” and “push” are.
The Boy Scouts got this right a long time ago: prepare, prepare, prepare.