Former Lead Trainer at the Scotland Yard Hostage Crisis Negotiation Unit
I remember in my years as a hostage negotiator just how important preparation really was, even in the car on the way to an incident.
A while back, a fellow hostage negotiator and I received a call to attend a suicide intervention. A young man was threatening to jump off a bridge. While it was tempting to spend the car journey in silence with our own thoughts, in fact we spent the entire time plotting our options and rehearsing our opening lines.
If you had been in that Toyota Yaris witnessing my colleague and I shouting and swearing at each other, you’d have thought we had gone mad.
But we hadn’t.
By the time we arrived at the scene, we already knew who was going to do what, how we were going to introduce ourselves and, most importantly, our opening lines. We had also rehearsed our possible responses to the man in crisis – depending on whether he swore at us, shouted at us, remained silent or started to talk. We could not know what he was going to say but we gave ourselves the best chance at getting our response right.
Our preparation time had enabled us to talk through the possible reactions of the person involved and even the possible reasons for him being there. None of the time spent going to the scene was wasted in idle chit-chat or nervous silence. Frankly, too much was at stake.
My 1st tip:
When you rehearse for a meeting or a pitch (or any other form of presentation), rehearse in the first person. I see so many people talking through their presentation rather than actually doing it. There is no better way of testing whether it works than actually saying it out loud, as if you are actually doing it. Make sure you have a friend who will listen critically and tell you if your choice of words is right. If they tell you to change then listen to their advice.
I have been there when the opening line to a person in crisis has made the situation 10 times worse than it was when we arrived.
The reason? We hadn’t practiced.
I will admit: in my early days I fell foul of this lack of rehearsal.
I don’t now.
In any negotiation, there is one fundamental outcome that every negotiator is aiming to achieve – the safe return of everyone to their family. We do not want anyone to die and everything we do is aimed at protecting life.
To achieve this, every negotiator bears in mind the following quote. I do not know who said it or where I first heard it, but it’s the one thing I think of throughout all my negotiations, whether it is with a hostage taker, a business leader or even my children.
“When you communicate your ideas clearly, specifically, visually, in the context of the other persons values, beliefs and view of life, you significantly increase the value of your ideas”
In other words it is all about them it is not about you
In conclusion, remember the following:
Good preparation and rehearsal helps you to establish trust and rapport faster and starts you on the journey to discovering what makes the other person tick and how they see life.
In my next blog in this series, we’ll explore the importance of knowing your outcome. Too many meetings are a waste of time because no definite outcome has been set by the attendees. The next blog will help ensure that doesn’t happen to you. I’ll also share tips that will help you make every meeting a pleasure rather than a chore…
To find out more about the author, including his new eBook on Listening Skills & Communication Secrets of the Hostage Negotiator, click here.