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Key Takeaways

  • Emotions are pivotal in negotiations. The importance of maintaining the right mindset during such situations is underscored. Equally important is empathy towards the involved parties, keeping one’s ego in check, and ensuring clear and effective communication, especially in high-stakes scenarios.
  • Emotional intelligence isn’t just a buzzword; it’s a crucial component in managing intense and potentially volatile situations. A negotiator must know their emotions and those of the other party to navigate the conversation successfully.
  • A good crisis negotiator doesn’t just react; they have a framework. This includes a deep sense of emotional awareness and an ability to regulate emotions.
  • When preparing to negotiate with difficult individuals, Scott emphasizes the power of preparation. One of his strategies is the “bunch of fives” technique, where he anticipates the top challenges or threats and prepares accordingly, ensuring he’s never caught off guard.
  • Once both parties set clear expectations early in the negotiation process, they can better understand each other’s positions, guiding the conversation more effectively.
  • Managing expectations is required in high-stakes situations, especially those where walking away isn’t an option.

Executive Summary:

Hey, everyone! Thanks for joining us on a new episode of the NEGOTIATEx podcast. We are joined by Scott Walker, a former Scotland Yard detective with 16 years of experience specializing in covert policing. 

Ever since leaving Scotland Yard in 2015, Scott has been instrumental in helping various entities negotiate hostage releases worldwide and has also worked on other crises like piracy and cyber-extortion. He now utilizes his vast experience to coach individuals and organizations on handling conflict, enhancing resilience, and improving emotional intelligence and communication skills. 

Additionally, Scott is an adviser on organizational culture and team development and has written a Sunday Times bestselling book titled ‘Order Out of Chaos,’ which delves into negotiation principles.

So, without further ado, let’s get straight to the meat of the matter. 

Scott’s Insights On The Role of Emotion In High-Stakes Negotiations

Aram sets the tone for the conversation by asking Scott about his vast experience, having successfully negotiated in over 300 situations with various dangerous entities. 

Scott responds by underscoring the significance of mindset during negotiations. He recalls an early incident in his career when he let his emotions interfere, becoming overly blunt with a distressed family whose son was kidnapped. 

However, a timely intervention from a seasoned negotiator helped Scott recalibrate. Drawing on this experience, Scott observed the importance of empathy, ego regulation, and effective communication when interacting with the families of the kidnapped and, crucially, the kidnappers themselves. 

He narrates an incident where a family member, overwhelmed by emotions, shouted at the kidnappers, emphasizing the inherent risk of such behavior. Scott emphasizes the need for emotional intelligence, and Aram concurs, reflecting on the complexity of managing emotions under such circumstances.

A Solid Framework For Effective Crisis Negotiation

Next, Nolan dives deeper into Scott’s perspective on the quintessential attributes a crisis negotiator should possess. The latter stresses the vital importance of emotional awareness and self-regulation, not just in negotiations but across all facets of life. Additionally, he encourages cultivating what he terms ‘sensory acuity,’ the ability to discern one’s own emotions as well as those of others. 

He also suggests identifying and voicing emotions can help mitigate tension, bringing self-awareness to remain balanced rather than reacting impulsively. Emphasizing the human propensity for emotion, Scott clarifies that our interpretations of situations determine our emotional reactions.

Dwelling further into the concept of emotional regulation, Scott highlights that humans are primarily emotional creatures that think. He introduces the ‘immediate action drill’ — a three-step process derived from his experiences to maintain emotional control. 

The steps involve interrupting the emotional pattern by physically disrupting the current situation, feeling the emotion without succumbing to its story, and then seeking constructive interpretations of the situation. 

Furthermore, Scott notes that allowing 90 seconds for intense emotions to subside can be beneficial as it’s the typical duration for an adrenaline rush, after which one can then address the situation more rationally.

Navigating Team Dynamics In High-Stress Negotiations

Moving on, Nolan prompts Scott to delve into the dynamics of team negotiations, particularly during high-stress situations. Scott’s experience in crisis negotiations, which often involved kidnappings, provides a unique viewpoint on handling team tensions and dynamics:

#1 Crisis Within The Crisis 

Scott introduces the term “the crisis within the crisis” to describe the internal challenges faced within a negotiating team. While external negotiations (such as with kidnappers) can be complex, managing the internal dynamics and stressors of one’s own team can be even more challenging.

#2 Order Out Of Chaos 

According to Scott, the primary objective when entering a tense negotiation room is to bring order, calm, and balance. This requires an acute understanding of the emotional, psychological, and intellectual states of everyone involved. Recognizing and accommodating varying decision-making processes among team members is also essential. 

For instance, some might be data-driven, requiring extensive information before deciding, while others might rely on intuition.

#3 Reading The Room 

Scott underscores the importance of quickly interpreting data about people’s personalities, their positions within an organization, and their emotional states. This skill, honed over time and experience, allows him to adapt his communication style effectively. Much like muscle memory, the ability to read a room accurately requires consistent practice and experience.

#4 Suspending Judgment 

One of the foundational principles Scott operates under is to avoid premature judgments. He prefers adopting a stance of genuine curiosity by setting aside personal biases and ego. 

#5 The Value Of Listening 

Lastly, Scott urges leaders to prioritize listening, especially in the initial stages of a negotiation or collaboration. While it might be tempting for leaders to dictate terms or solutions right away, a more effective approach involves understanding team dynamics and individual preferences first. 

Long story short, Scott emphasizes the importance of interpersonal skills, empathy, and the ability to read and adapt to various personalities when navigating team dynamics in high-stakes situations. These qualities, coupled with genuine curiosity and a willingness to listen, can significantly enhance the efficacy of a team, especially during tense negotiations.

The Internal Challenges in High-Stakes Situations

Drawing from his vast experience in crisis management, Scott underscores a counterintuitive observation: dealing with external adversaries, such as kidnappers, is often less challenging than navigating the complex internal dynamics within an organization or team. 

His claim reinforces this observation that 80% of his time during a crisis is spent negotiating with the families or companies he’s assisting rather than the purported “threat” outside. Scott draws parallels to the business world, noting that companies often find client interactions to be relatively straightforward. In contrast, internal issues like ego clashes, inefficient processes, and politics consume most of their energy and resources. 

This suggests that effective crisis management, whether in high-stakes hostage negotiations or corporate settings, requires a keen ability to address and harmonize internal team dynamics.

Preparing For Complex Negotiations With Difficult Individuals

On a similar note, Nolan asks Scott how to guide individuals in negotiating with people they deem as potentially harmful, malevolent, or those they find hard to empathize with or trust.

Scott responds by providing an insightful perspective. He observes that individuals driven by ego or self-importance can sometimes be simpler to negotiate with because their motivations are clear. The key to success in such interactions is preparation. Scott emphasizes the importance of predicting challenges, threats, and issues that might arise during the negotiation. 

He references a technique called “bunch of fives,” where one anticipates the top three to five challenges or threats that could be presented to put them under pressure. When a negotiator anticipates these challenges, they can better prepare and not be caught off guard.

Setting Boundaries In Unyielding Situations

Lastly, Aram inquires how to negotiate when walking away isn’t an option, especially without using force, and seeks alternative strategies for dealing with kidnappers.

Scott suggests that negotiators and kidnappers possess what the other wants in kidnappings, unbalancing traditional negotiation dynamics. However, the balance is not as clear-cut as it may seem.

He then introduces the concept of expectation management as an essential strategy. When both parties set clear expectations at the beginning of the negotiation, they can understand their respective positions better. 

In the scenarios Walker has faced, he emphasizes the need to confront the kidnappers early on regarding the possible ransom amount. This confrontation is not meant to be antagonistic but serves to clarify the boundaries and limits of the negotiation. It’s essential to let the kidnappers know, for instance, that while they might demand a certain sum, the actual amount available is significantly less.

According to Scott, the early confrontation serves a dual purpose: it manages the kidnappers’ expectations regarding the ransom and accelerates the negotiation to its core, bypassing prolonged periods of unrealistic demands. 

His approach is underpinned by the idea that if the opposing side believes there’s more to extract from the negotiation, they will continue to push. However, if both parties set boundaries and limits early, they can steer the conversation towards a more constructive resolution.

Thank you for your time!

Transcript

Nolan Martin : Hello and welcome to the NEGOTIATEx podcast. I am your co-host and co-founder Nolan Martin. With me as always, co-host, co-founder, Aram Donigian. Aram, want to kick it off for today?

Aram Donigian : I will. Sure. How are you doing today, Nolan? You doing alright?

NM : I'm doing well. I'm doing well.

AD : Good. So am I. A little wet up here in New Hampshire, but surviving.

NM : Hot in Florida, but.

AD : Hot! As always.

NM : I get to go to the beach so it works out

AD : Well we're visiting with somebody from across the pond, so we'll see what the weather's like over his way. Today folks we're joined by Scott Walker. Scott is one of the world's most experienced kidnap for ransom negotiators. He served 16 years as a Scotland Yard detective specializing in covert policing and left in 2015 to support organizations, government departments, and private individuals negotiate the release of hostages all over the world, as well as resolving other similar perils such as piracy and cyber extortion attacks.

Scott now uses his decades of experience to help individuals, teams, and organizations develop a unique understanding of what makes people think, feel, and act specifically during times of crisis, conflict and uncertainty. He regularly speaks at events around the world and coaches leaders on how to enhance their resilience, emotional intelligence, and communication skills.

He also advises on building a thriving organizational culture and developing fulfilled, purpose-driven and productive teams. ‘Order Out of Chaos’ is Scott's first book. It is a Sunday Times bestseller. It illustrates and shares the same principles that he has applied and helps others apply to be more successful in their negotiations. Thank you, Scott, for joining us today.

Scott Walker : Hi, Great to be here. Thanks for having me.

AD : So Scott, I got to tell you, it's pretty exciting to interview a former Scotland Yard detective. As a kid, in addition to watching a lot of BBC mysteries that always seemed to feature Scotland Yard detectives, sometimes not always in the best of light if I think about like Sherlock Holmes or something like that. But as a kid, there was this board game that we would play called Scotland Yard.

One person was the notorious Mr. X, who you were trying to catch. Everyone else played Scotland Yard detectives working together to capture them. I was wondering if the game was still around. So I searched on Amazon for 23 bucks. You too can become a board game Scotland Yard detective.

But anyway, so aside from my childhood imagining of being you, what was your path that brought you to this world of being a detective and a negotiator?

Scott Walker: From Scotland Yard Detective To Conflict And Kidnap Negotiator (03:13)

SW : I wish I could say it started by playing Cluedo. I'm not sure where you caught it over there. The mystery game. Cluedo. Killed on mustard in the library with the hammer, whatever it is.

AD : My kids were just playing Clue last night as a matter of fact. So yes, we still have it.

SW : Yeah, no, I loved the game as a kid and like you, I enjoyed all the cop shows growing up, particularly actually the American ones like TJ Hooker, William Shatner, and one like that. I actually started out as a Barristers Clerk working for the lawyers here in the UK, and we specialize in many areas of crime, but particularly in law, but particularly in crime. And I would just get fascinated reading all the case papers every day, all the statements, victims and witnesses and interviews and all the crime scene photos. And I just thought, you know what? I want to be doing that. And so I left the job as a Barrister's clerk and I moved down to the great metropolis that is London and joined Scotland Yard where I had 16 great years and always knew I wanted to be a detective.

So after my probation, we have to do two years on the beat in uniform, helping old ladies cross the road, school kids patrol, all that kind of stuff. And I went from that into a special branch, which was focusing on all counter-terrorism type activity. Again, love that. And from there into seriously organized crime, drug trafficking. And eventually that winding path took me to the world of kidnap for ransom.

NM : You left the police force in 2015. What can you tell us about the nature of the work you've done since and how are the situations you're involved with now any different from what you did before?

SW : I think the biggest difference was particularly in the kidnap space as a cop, as a detective, yes, the primary objective was going to get the hostages back safely. That was always the primary objective. But there was a secondary one of, we want to catch these bad guys. We want to lock 'em up, we want to find them, arrest them, put them before a court and send them to prison for a long time. But in the private sector, in the corporate world, I don't really care about who the kidnappers are, trying to catch them, or even if they're making this as a really strong business model.

My sole aim is to support the family or the company to get timely release of the hostages for an appropriate amount of money so everybody can go about their day as business as usual afterwards. So there's that real similarity in terms of, it's getting the hostage back. But the difference is whereas previously I wanted to catch them, whereas having left the police, I wasn't really that interested.

AD : Was that a hard transition to make, Scott, as you think kind of the slight difference but important difference in those roles?

SW : Yeah, initially I'm like, so when's the briefing with the military or the cops to go and storm the stronghold? And the wise heads that they were mentoring me were like, what do you mean? Well, are we going to send the helicopters into the jungle? Are we going to go knock on the doors with explosions on the way? No, we are going to do a drop off the ransom money by the side of the road, wait for the hostages to come out. We're going to get a battered old Hyundai or truck or whatever it was, and we're going to bring them back to safety. And that's it. I was like, oh, okay.

So, that was a reality check of this is how it works in the big bad corporate world, so to speak.

NM : Well, I don't know if Aram knows this, but I have this burning desire to circumnavigate the world in a sailboat, so….

AD : I did not know that.

NM : Really interested to dig in here to figure out what I need to do to be safe. So

SW : I would just think to Lake Michigan or something or just don't go anywhere off Somalia or the Philippines or the Gulf of Guinea or yeah, I'd keep a wide berth.

AD : Nolan, please don't make me have to call Scott to track you down and figure out what's happened to you.

NM : Well, luckily I'm already building a good team to help me out, so I think we'll be alright.

AD : Hey, Scott, you've negotiated successfully more than 300 incidents with criminal gangs, cyber attackers, pirates, hijackers, and many other notorious folks. Can you share an example from any of these situations where your training, your preparation, maybe even your mindset in the moment made the difference between a good outcome and a not as good outcome?

Mindset Calibration: A Crucial Skill In Crisis Response (08:00)

SW : That's a great question and I think you used a key word there around mindset. We go in almost on autopilot sometimes into these crises. We get the adrenaline flowing, but until we can square away that mindset at the outset, just taking that stop check, breathe, calibrate before you engage, it helps so much. And I remember in the early days of doing the kidnap negotiation, I didn't do that. I allowed my emotions to get the better of me not being a great place mentally. And I caught myself almost. I wasn't shouting, but I was being very direct and blunt to this family who were going through a real trauma with one of their sons that had been kidnapped.

And I wasn't being that empathetic. I wasn't being able to regulate my emotions. My mindset wasn't where I needed to be, and I was just expressing my frustration with them not doing what we wanted them to be. But then the negotiator I was with, very, very experienced just literally put his hand on my shoulder. And that was enough to interrupt the pattern really quickly of “Scott, just take a moment.” And then I watched him, how he engaged, how he empathized and listened and validated and parked his own ego with the family that brought them on side.

And I saw that repeat many times with clients. So once I'd experienced it, I now knew what I needed to do to avoid going back there. But I could also see it when I was sitting down with families, particularly where they would allow their emotions to take over, how they would communicate with the kidnappers.

And on one case, the family member who was running the actual communication with the kidnappers because of the language barrier, he ended up shouting at the kidnappers, I don’t know about you two, but that's probably not the most sensible thing you want to do when your loved one is being held hostage and there's been mock executions and threats of harm. That's the last thing I want to be doing because I've seen how it's an inbuilt human natural reaction, yet the successful outcomes come about by getting a grip of that mindset early on.

AD : Yeah, I mean totally understandable. The frustration, the anger, the sorrow, all those feelings and emotions that somebody would be experiencing to let that come out in the form of shouting. And at that moment, if you can take a step back, clearly the last thing that's going to be helpful or necessary, so difficult, I would imagine to shift not only your own mindset, but also help the families or the other negotiators shift to theirs as well.

NM : I'd love to dig in a little bit more here and kind of elaborate on that as to what do you see as the critical skills or characteristics of a crisis negotiator, and how are these the same qualities beneficial to all of us regardless of profession or just in our personal lives?

The Immediate Action Drill: Managing Emotions In Negotiations (11:07)

SW : I think if people only take away one or two things from this podcast, it would be emotional awareness and self-regulation is key in all aspects of life. When you're dealing with a kidnapper, it's a client that you're trying to close a deal with, your kids, neighbors, anybody. If you can develop this, let's call it a sensory acuity, you've got this antenna where you're constantly scanning for your own and other people's emotions. And once you can identify what they are, we call it, ‘name it to tame it’. So if you can name it by what you are feeling right now and perhaps calling out what you are feeling as well, that can kind of just dissipate any of the tension, almost like a release valve almost.

So, it's having that sensory acuity, it's having this awareness, this emotional awareness, and then the self-regulation that 80% of the time you can operate from a place of equanimity rather than some kind of knee jerk emotive reaction. And by way of a caveat, this is not to say that you're going to glide along gracefully through life, not really experiencing any high emotion. What this is about is you can still feel the emotion, but you don't become a hostage to it, excuse the pun.

You can be aware of it, you can tune into it, and then through that regulation and the awareness you can allow it to dissipate and then you can engage with the conversation, the negotiation

AD : That's got to be so difficult. I mean, people like to pretend that emotions and feelings aren't present in a negotiation, and yet they are. Can you say just a little bit more maybe about this idea of emotional regulation? I mean, I love the idea of scanning for them. How has this shown up for you in the past, either in the person you're negotiating with in the family or company you're trying to help or for yourself, and what are the things you do and what would you recommend people do to really master this emotional control?

SW : Yeah, I think it's worth understanding from an evolutionary perspective, we are emotional creatures that think rather than thinking creatures that feel. We're designed as a species, we're driven by these emotions, but we create them, we architects of our experience because all three of us on this call could experience exactly the same situation completely differently.

One of us, it could be deep joy, one, it could be deep sadness depending on our perspective, our model of the world, our belief system, etc. So it's really emphasizing accepting that emotions do dictate the quality of our lives, but we're in charge of determining what those emotions are. Does that make sense, really? And so the way we can do that is whenever we get hit by the tsunami of overwhelm or the trigger, and we only have to go on social media for about five minutes these days before somebody will get triggered over something.

And in that moment I give people a three-step process and I call it the immediate action drill. You guys in the military, you'll know all about these immediate action drills where you need to, get time to really sit down and do an elaborate plan. “Hey, if this happens, if the button gets pressed, we need to go straight away.” And so I devise this out of experience really, of keeping this in my back pocket metaphorically. And it was the first step is when the trigger happens, it's interrupt the pattern because that could involve everything from just standing up, if you're sitting down, taking a couple of breaths, going outside and do some jumping jacks, whatever's going to work for you.

But it's in that moment rather than allowing yourself to fall in the river, whether the person is and the rushy water emotion, you can stay on the bank. It gives you that space with which to move to step two, which is to feel the feeling, but drop the story behind it. I call it riding the wave for any surfers listening or any skiers, when you really skiing at the edge of your comfort zone down those red or black runs, is you've just got to hold on, you've got to get in the flow, but then eventually it'll run out. The wave will crash, you'll get to the bottom of the slope.

And where emotions are concerned, it's 90 seconds. Scientists have proven, neuroscience has proven that we get this wave of cortisol and adrenaline pumping through our bodies when we get triggered for about 90 seconds, two minutes. And so if we can interrupt the pattern and just keep schtum, just keep silent for those 90 seconds without saying or doing something related to regret, then once those emotions have calmed down a bit, our nervous system balances out, we can then re-engage with a third step, which is just ask better questions.

What was all that about? Where did that come from? What's the learning from this? Where's the improvement? And again, using the military analogy here for you two around this overlenting pursuit of excellence, what could I do differently? Where's the learning here? Where’s the after action review, what can we learn from this as a team, as an individual so we can make sure we minimize the challenges happening again.

AD : We obviously like the steps. We like that model.

NM : Yeah, I love immediate action drills. I love being able to kind of use that in the heat of the moment. I still remember sports, which is what happens if we have a malfunction in our rifle and it's slap, pull, observe, release, tap, squeeze.

SW : You still got it. You still remember it.

NM : Yeah, so. Still got it. So I’m definitely a fan of immediate action drills. So, yeah, I love that. Many of the negotiations you've been part of involved working with teams. How do you handle the internal negotiations involving stress, different priorities, conflicting perceptions and so on to ensure that the team is as effective as possible?

Order Out Of Chaos: Mastering The Skill Of Room Reading (17:38)

SW : Yeah, the great question. When I would go on a case, I would fly in somewhere. I'd go straight from the airport usually to the embassy or the conference room in the client office. And as soon as you walk in the room, you can just feel the tension. You can feel the competing egos, the internal politics, the high stakes, and then everybody's looking at you for that. Oh, the cover arrived. We can breathe a sigh of relief. But there's all this stuff simmering under the surface there, and we call it the crisis within the crisis.

Dealing with the kidnappers is easy compared to dealing with our own side. In fact, my main job was to reassure everybody and then come up with a strategy about how we were going to deal with this. But the real goal was, which is why I called the book order out of chaos, was to bring some order, was to bring some balance and calm. But I could only really effectively do that if I could quickly work out where everybody was at emotionally, psychologically, physically, intellectually. Where were they in the organization?

And it's, I guess interpreting all this data as quickly as possible to know, okay well, Aram, he's the sort of guy who takes things a bit slow and needs lots of data in order to make a decision. Whereas Nolan, hey, he's an intuitive gut thinking guy, makes decisions in a blink of an eye and they've got maybe different beliefs or rules. And so quickly I can try and sense where everybody's at, and based on those personality types essentially and the emotions I'm sensing, I can then adapt my communication style to them. And obviously you don't just read a book or do a course once and then are able to do that really well. It's just through experience and it's a bit like muscle memory. You go to the gym not just once, but you need to go all the time to get stronger.

And so I was just through the sheer throughput of cases that built up this experience of being able to walk into a room, into a crisis situation and read the room and read the people very, very quickly. The way I managed to do that was suspend judgment, park my own ego at the door and be just really super curious. And so I guess as a former detective, it served me what is, I was just really nosy. I wanted to get under the hood, what makes this person tick? Why do they think feeling that the way they do? I'm just nosy, I'm curious. I want to get to the heart of it, and that takes a bit of effort, but bear in mind, I'm going to be sat next to these people for 16 hours a day for 4, 5, 6 weeks, two, three months, whatever it is.

So it's worth spending the time with any team, but taking those early days, just getting together. Now, how do people operate? What's their operating system? And then it's about that whole seat first to understand before being understood and as a leader, maybe listen a bit more than you're talking, particularly in the early days. And as leaders, I've made this mistake myself where we've gone in and we've just dictated how it's all going to be. Whereas actually if we just spend a bit more time listening and interpreting and asking questions and then come out with our plan, I think it's a better result long term.

AD : You said that the kidnappers are the easy ones, and there's this focus internally. I also read, you were quoted in an article in The Guardian that in a crisis you spend about 80% of your time and energy negotiating with the families or companies you're assisting. Again, it's this inward focus. I find that amazing as a number, and I just think so much we can learn from how you manage those conversations to protect that relationship, which is essential to understanding the choices you got to make, the decisions are going to need to be made. Yeah, I mean, can you say just a little bit more about the importance of getting that right?

Internal vs. External Challenges: Balancing Crisis Management Strategies (21:50)

SW : Yeah. Let's use a business analogy. I mean, now I go into businesses and I work with leadership teams or how to operate in a crisis or how to improve their communication and culture. But from your own experiences of going into organizations, regardless of the industry or sector, where is most of the focus of the training and the problem solving and the processes? It's all internal.

Actually dealing with the clients in all these companies, in my experience, that's the easy bit. That's the bit that the companies get right more often than not. It's the internal issues, the dramas, the egos, the processes, the systems that don't work, the competing, the internal politics, whatever it is. That's the stuff that most of us as a consultant or a trainer as a facilitator, as a speaker, will go in and have to address. So the same principles apply, sitting around a crisis management team negotiating the release of hostages or dealing with, I don’t know, any company in the corporate world, it's the same.

NM : Some of the people you negotiate with are dangerous, maybe even evil or have evil intent. How do you coach people to engage with people that they don't trust or find it difficult to empathize with?

Dealing With The Unpredictable: Negotiating With Potentially Hostile Parties (23:02)

SW : In a way, those kind of people are some of the easiest to negotiate with or communicate with because often their ego is driving the show. It's all about them. Often they will have this perspective, their own sense of importance in the world. And so by spending a bit of time and preparing for these conversations, so preparation is the first step. Understanding that these kind of conversations are not without risk to hopefully not physically, but maybe emotionally reputationally more often than not.

And know that it's not going to be a plain sailing conversation that you may have with an easier client perhaps. And so by doing the preparation, working out what are maybe some of the challenges, the threats, the issues, the questions they're likely to raise against you, we call this a bunch of fives. Imagine the palm of your hand. And in a hostage kidnap situation, we would anticipate what would be the worst. If we were the kidnappers now, what would be the top three to five really difficult demands or threats or challenges to put us under pressure.

So by getting ahead of the curve, by working out what they're likely to be, it means we can prepare and plan for them. And it means it doesn't knock us off guard when they show up. And so the saying would apply for conversation in a difficult workplace scenario perhaps. And so by doing that, that's the first step. And then once you're in the conversation with this difficult person, it's being direct, not rude. It's being prepared to be challenged and threatened. And it's knowing where I guess your red lines are, your boundaries, just like in any relationship or conversation or any negotiation in fact, is that at some point, do you press eject? Do you walk away? What does it mean for you? What are the pros and cons, risks, the mitigation around this stuff?

Is this something that you have no choice? I couldn't walk away from a negotiation with a kidnapper, however difficult they were. But in a business deal or in a personal relationship or in a personal situation, you may go, do you know what? This just ain't worth it. We're going to walk away from this deal because even though this deal right now may be good, we don't want to do a long-term business with this kind of person or these people. And so it's having, again, that sensory acuity, that awareness throughout the conversation as to how it's going and where you are in.

AD : Let me ask a follow on question there. If I heard you right, you said, obviously in your negotiations, the option of walking away isn't really there. So how do you make up for that when you don't have that ability to go to an alternative necessarily, other than maybe direct force to get what you want done, which may not be feasible? Do you leverage some other things as you engage with the kidnappers?

Leverage And Transparency: Effective Strategies In Kidnap Crisis Management (26:15)

SW : Leverage is an interesting concept in negotiation. We could do a whole podcast on that, I'm sure. Kidnap scenario; they've got what we want, the hostages, we've got what they want in the money. And so what's the best alternative to negotiate an agreement here? Well, we're just going to walk away. Are they going to walk away? Are they going to kill the hostages? I mean, we've got some leverage. i.e. we've got some money we can pay them. Yet it’s not being afraid to have that difficult conversation by managing expectations right at the outset.

So I know, and I say this, every kidnapping case I go on, I sit down with the client. In the initial briefing, when I explain how this is going to work out, I say very early on, we want to bring about a confrontation with the kidnappers. And they go, what do you mean? Surely we don't want to antagonize them? I said, well, when they come in for a million dollars and you've only got 50,000 to pay them, we're going to have to manage their expectations somehow.

And one of the ways we would do that would be in our initial offer and they would, and I can guarantee you 100%, they will shout, scream, threaten, you name it. But we need to get that out the way so everybody knows where we're at with it.

And so then we can get into the negotiation proper. And so all I'd say on that is, if you need to have some kind of “confrontation to manage expectations”, do that as early as possible. And we wouldn't be rude or we wouldn't be rude or unprofessional. We would just say, “Hey, this is all the money we can get for you right now. We're a poor company. It's all tied up”, whatever the narrative is, “but we've got 15,000 for you right now”. And then we can enter the negotiation and slow everything down and get to the point where, like in any deal, not just in kidnapping, but in any deal, if the other side thinks that you've got more you can give, there's more money you can put on the table, they're going to hold out.

So we want to go, actually, no, this is the end point for us, whatever that is.

NM : Hey everyone, Nolan here. I have to jump in and end today's podcast for part A of this show. Be sure to rate, review and subscribe to the NEGOTIATEx podcast if you haven't already. And also join us next week for part B of this awesome interview.

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