WHAT CAN BUSINESSPEOPLE LEARN FROM HOSTAGE NEGOTIATORS?
BY LAUREN COMANDER

Whether negotiating in the boardroom with a fellow business leader or on the other side of a barricade from a terrorist, similar strategies can help steer the outcome. Drawing on his 30-plus years of experience as a crisis and hostage negotiator for the Miami-Dade Police Department, Scott Allen shared hostage negotiation strategies with students in the School’s undergraduate negotiation classes. With moderation by Patricia Abril, chair and professor of business law, students then worked to answer the question: What can businesspeople learn from hostage negotiators?

1. USE COMMUNICATIONS TO ESTABLISH TRUST.

When Allen, a senior staff police psychologist, arrives on a scene, it’s already in crisis. “Most likely shots are fired and the subject is barricaded,” he said. “We use communication to influence someone’s emotional state, their thinking, their problem-solving, their decision-making and, hence, their behavior.” Allen also maintains a policy against lying to hostage takers for several reasons, including the possibility of eroding trust and reputation, and the potential to forget the lie.

2. BECOME COMFORTABLE WITH SELF-DISCLOSURE.

“The more you self-disclose, the other person feels compelled to self-disclose back to you at a similar level of intimacy,” Allen said. “But police officers are not very skilled or comfortable self-disclosing. Most of my effort in monthly training is practicing self-disclosure by members.”

3. PLAN LOGISTICS CAREFULLY.

In police negotiations, Allen explained, the primary negotiator does all the talking, while the backup negotiator shares information from other team members who are gathering background information (on handwritten notes in real time).

4. HELP EVERYONE SAVE FACE.

“There’s always a power differential when you’re negotiating, and you don’t want to make them feel bad,” Allen explained. As one student noted, saving face is even more important in business, “where you have an ongoing relationship with the other person.”

Spring 2017
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