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Hi everyone! Thanks for joining us on another episode of the NEGOTIATEx podcast. We are continuing our conversation with Scott Tillema, a professional and former police negotiator. On Part A of this interview, Scott mentioned the essential steps of crisis negotiations: understanding, timing, delivery, and respect. He visualized these principles in a circle that represents the bond that needs to be formed with the counterpart.
So, without any further ado, let’s delve deep into the insights Scott shares in this informational episode.
Nolan resumes the conversation by asking Scott how he coaches others to navigate the gap between negotiation training and real-life situations with difficult people. In response, Scott emphasizes the importance of making active listening a natural part of one’s behavior rather than just a skill to be applied in specific situations.
He also suggests practicing active listening in everyday conversations, including cold calls and other opportunities, and using a checklist of active listening skills to ensure they are applied consistently.
Next, Aram asks Scott Tillema if his experience working on a crisis hotline had helped reinforce his negotiation skills. Scott explains that he used to volunteer with Crisis Text Line and recommends it to negotiators who want to practice high stake negotiation.
He emphasizes the importance of being trained in negotiating via text as this is common in real-life situations. On that note, Scott encourages people to volunteer as crisis counselors. Not only will they gain experience and skills in communicating with people in crisis, they will also be able to improve their relationship-building abilities. He suggests suicide hotlines as another option.
Moving on, the speakers discuss the importance of preparation in negotiation, whether it’s for crisis situations or business deals. Scott emphasizes the significance of gathering information about the person and situation being negotiated with.
Furthermore, he suggests working as a team and red-teaming the situation to get feedback on talking points, delivery and perspective. Scott also talks about having multiple strategies for negotiation and being trained in different negotiation techniques to adapt to different situations, which is an absolute must for a crisis negotiator.
Finally, he mentions that negotiations don’t have to be a fair fight, and sometimes it’s about finding what’s going to work with the other person.
Nolan asks Scott how the broader applications of crisis negotiation skills can help one become an effective leader in any sector or industry. Scott replies that great leaders need to be able to influence those they work with and that building relationships and connections with people is crucial to effective leadership.
He then goes on to give an example of a leader who made connections with his team members by having conversations with them about their work and strategies. According to Scott, effective crisis negotiation skills are at the core of effective leadership, including connection, bonding, understanding, timing, and delivering respect.
He suggests that teaching these skills to leaders can help them build relationships and support their team members, leading to greater success in achieving company goals.
When asked to share one of his negotiation failures, Scott recalls an incident where he was trying to convince a man who had a gun to his head. After working for hours to convince him, he ultimately shot himself. Till today, Scott reflects on what he could have done differently and stresses the importance of always being prepared and sharpening his negotiation skills to be able to adapt quickly to any situation.
He also emphasizes the need to surround oneself with people who can teach and make us better negotiators.
According to Scott, a successful negotiation means that people are getting a better outcome for themselves, even if it’s just saving a hundred or a thousand dollars. He enjoys helping people get what they want and believes that negotiation leads to a better life and happiness.
Then he shares a recent news clip where a police officer who was in his negotiations class helped resolve a dangerous situation and got the offender handcuffed safely. He feels happy knowing that he is sharing his skills with the next generation to make the lives of people around them better.
Lastly, Scott shares a bit about his work, Negotiations Collective, which offers virtual negotiation classes, conflict resolution classes, and police negotiation classes. The team is composed of individuals with different backgrounds in negotiation, and they aim to share the best techniques and strategies to help people achieve their goals.
Scott also mentions his recent retirement from full-time law enforcement and his excitement for this new transition in his career.
Hilariously, Aram mentions the fact that Scott is currently on the beach in Miami while his family is in Illinois and asks if he had to negotiate for that.
In response to Aram’s question, Scott highlights that sometimes you have to make concessions in negotiations and manage emotions, such as not posting pictures of the beach on social media. He also mentions the importance of taking some time for himself to enjoy the beach and relax before going back home to serve his family.
Scott, Aram, and Nolan discuss a lot more on this episode of the NEGOTIATEx Podcast. Write to us at email@example.com and share your thoughts on this very informational podcast episode.
Thank you for listening!
Nolan Martin : Hey everyone! Thanks for joining us on the NEGOTIATEx podcast. We are continuing our conversation with Scott Tillman, a professional negotiator and former police negotiator. If you haven't already checked out Part A of this show, be sure to do that first. Let's jump into the conversation with Scott.
And one of the things I kind of wanted to dig into a little bit more was, you know, if you're dealing with these difficult people, putting these skills into practice with bad people, mentally ill people, or people just reacting to a tremendous amount of stress, how do you coach others to navigate the gap between the training and real life? I know we touched a little bit on it already, but hoping to go a little bit deeper there.
Scott Tillema : They have to do it all the time that it can't be something that they know. It has to be who they are. And that's where we want to go. That at first, we're going back to, okay, what's the skill of mirroring? Oh, I know what that is. That's repeating back the last two or three words versus Okay, I'm talking to, and now I'm gonna try it too. I'm just unconsciously doing these things when I'm living my life, that naturally, I'm going to see if I can get a discount.
Naturally, I'm gonna see, "Hey, can I get this upgrade? I'm gonna be asking questions all the time, and it just becomes very natural. And so much of this needs to be authentic and genuine that.
Aram Donigian : yeah…
ST : I push people to do this all the time. And they say, "Well, how can I practice this?" Maybe you're on a negotiation team that doesn't get a lot of work, or maybe this is new to you. I said, "You can do this all the time." How about the idea? Let's never waste a cold call. Today, you are gonna get garbage calls. Maybe it's the guy who's trying to scam you. Maybe it's the guy who kidnapped your grandchildren, and you need to send money now. Or maybe it's the local insurance agent who's calling you to switch your insurance today. Do not waste these opportunities to use the eight skills of active listening.
Have your checklist right in front of you. Don't finish that phone call. Make sure you keep them on the phone until you get through all your skills of active listening. Really work to understand, and sir, what's your name again? Okay. And now, we have this connection. Sometimes they're going to be easy because they're trying to get you to go.
Sometimes they realize, "Hey, this guy's wasting my time." And it's gonna be a little bit more challenged, because they're just trying to get to the goal. But this happens all the time. They'll come to you next time the phone rings. Use this opportunity. There are so many chances for us to practice these skills in all of our conversations all day, every day. Get to work, use them. Don't waste those opportunities.
AD : Did I see on your profile, do you volunteer on a crisis hotline too? And does that help reinforce these skills?
ST : Yeah, that's what a great opportunity. Um, the crisis text line, I was a volunteer with them for a while. I'm not currently doing that, but when I teach negotiators, they say, "How can I have an opportunity to practice crisis negotiation?" I tell them to sign up for crisis text lines. 741741 is what you need to Google. If you're not familiar with this and what this is, it's a service where anybody can text. You text "hello" to 741741.
There's gonna be a number of screening questions, and then they're gonna connect you with a crisis counselor who's trained in how to bring people from a crisis moment to a nice, cool call. And anybody well, almost anybody can sign up to be a crisis counselor.
Now, you're gonna need some references. They're gonna background check you. And I'll sometimes ask these negotiators in these classes, "How many of you have been trained to negotiate by text message?" And very few hands go up. It just doesn't happen. And I say, is it possible or likely that we're gonna be engaging in a negotiation by text? Everybody agrees, yep, this could happen.
Obviously, this could happen. I said, "What's your answer when you're on a deposition because somebody gets hurt or killed? Officer, how much training or what training have you had in negotiating by text? Is your answer gonna be zero? And how comfortable are you gonna be? I mean, write the check right now. That's not gonna be acceptable. So, if you can sign up to be a crisis counselor, and you can, now you get 30 hours of training on how to communicate with people in crisis.
And you know, I had that ego moment a little bit to say, "You know what, I probably don't need this training. I've got this, considering my background. And I'll tell you what, it's a humbling experience because I didn't have this, you know, there were things I were, was doing out of sequence and they're teaching you how to do ladder up suicide assessment and we're learning a whole new set of skills that I wasn't necessarily familiar with and I certainly hadn't mastered yet.
And the additional challenge is, unlike a phone conversation where we can summarize what was said over the course of two hours, they've got every word, every comma, every period here in writing. So you need to be good. So why not go and volunteer to be a crisis counselor? And if maybe working on the crisis text line isn't your jam, get on a suicide hotline. There is always a need for people who are skilled in this to help others in the world.
Because back in 2016, I let off that Ted talk with, We live in a world filled with people in crisis. Now, my hope was in 2023 that we are in a world where everybody was peaceful chilling out at the beach. It's wonderful. No, not the case. I mean, it still continues to be relevant because, even more so today than a few years ago, the whole world is in crisis.
AD : Yeah, talking about the training piece of kind of preparation. Preparation is a huge thing that we often ask about; it's important to the work we do, we hear from others in the negotiation field of its critical importance. I wonder if you might share your thoughts on how you get prepared for a negotiation, whether it's a crisis negotiation, or business or something else.
ST : Yeah, to the time that you have to prepare, to develop information on who are you dealing with personally and what the situation is, that's so, so important. And that information is out there. And when we come into a negotiation, we work as a team. I think anybody who feels the need to be the solo negotiator I think they have a misunderstanding of how this works or they're prioritizing ego over outcome.
We've got intel officers who can just start getting information about you, about your background, your family. The more I can learn about you, the stronger I'm gonna be. And that could be everything from your pets to what you're tweeting about to what's on your social media to interviewing your friends, neighbors. What's something that's gonna set this person off? What's something that we should avoid? What's something they really like? It's not gonna take much work for you to dig on me to learn.
Hey, Scott really likes Taco Bell. You come into a negotiation with me with a few tacos and chips and salsa on the table. Hey, we're best friends. You're probably gonna get to where you want to go. Cool. But it doesn't take much to be likeable and know what's going to work. And it doesn't have to be a fair fight. You don't need to come in with, you know, saying, well, I don't know about you. You don't know about me, so let's hope for the best.
Let the best person win. No, not the case. So are we practicing? Are we getting feedback on our delivery? Are we going through talking points? Are we red-teaming the situation? They say, "Okay, now you guys heard everything I'm doing. Now blast me apart. How are they gonna see it? What's their perspective? What if I'm wrong? What an important question to ask! What if I'm wrong on this? And there have been negotiations where I took a strategy that didn't get to see the outcome we wanted.
So, think about how can we have multiple strategies. And the idea of I'm not just trained in one negotiation technique. You know, I've had people ask, okay, you studied at Harvard, but you also worked with Shriner. They're very differ in their negotiation approaches. How do you reconcile that?
Because I want to have 10 different ways to negotiate because, you know, sometimes we need to come in and we need to make demands. Sometimes we need to build a relationship. So let's think about the different opportunities that we have to use the skills to get to the outcome that we need.
NM : Absolutely. And kind of one thing I wanted to emphasize there that you kind of talked about, Scott, is a lot of people think that crisis negotiations, they obviously can happen just like that in just an instinct. You can find yourself on the way to dealing with one of these negotiations, but all of these skills and the preparations and the training ahead of time allowed you to be able to adapt quickly and to be able to execute a quick negotiations.
Sometimes I think in a corporate context, a lot of people say, oh, well, I can just kind of piece this together and go into this negotiation probably half-prepared. Because a lot of times we talk about, or they learn from crisis negotiators, so they just think that it's something that they can do.
When we don't necessarily just need to ingrain that. It takes a lot to build that baseline before you can get to just being able to quickly execute a negotiation like that. So, thank you for sharing all that. I think that there is, there is a lot there to unpack. So, what do you see as the broader applications of crisis negotiation skills to effective leadership, regardless of sector, industry, or context?
ST : Right. Great leaders need to be able to influence those that they work with. And you know, I look back in my life at some of the people who I found to be great leaders, and one of them, he was hired into our police department from the outside in a leadership position. And I kept waiting for him to start leading, you know, to get up on that stage and start, "All right, you do this and you do that." And, that's kind of at the time, and maybe this is 15 years ago, 10 years ago, we're waiting for this moment of leadership. And that was how I saw it.
And bit by bit, he was having these conversations with us. He would meet with us. I was a detective at the time, Hey, what are you working on? Tell me about this case right here.
What's the strategy? And we're making these connections one-to-one, and people need to feel that you care about them. That this leader has my best interest in mind and our best interests in mind, because it's easy to see if it's just about them that or when they don't care about us. And if people feel they don't care, they're gonna check out.
So, how can you lead and get the influence if we're not building relationships? And so central to my belief in effective crisis negotiation is the same core of effective leadership. You have to have that bond and have to have that connection. People need to believe in you and that relationship to buy into whatever goal we're trying to meet here. And if that's making money in a company or selling more things, or closing more deals, how do I believe in the company? It's not that I believe in the company; it's that I believe in you, my boss, my leader.
And there's so much wasted opportunity that people get moved up into leadership roles because they're technically good at what they do down here in a lot of cases, but they haven't been given the skills and the preparation to be a great leader. So, what are we doing to teach them? And I think that if we can teach them these skills of crisis negotiation around connection, bonding, understanding, timing, delivering respect, all of a sudden they are meeting people where they're at and they're developing a foundation for a relationship that is gonna support this person.
And now you realize I don't have to do all the work. I've got these people on my team who I am supporting, and they're on fire to do great things for whatever it is our company's doing.
AD : We've been talking for a little while, Scott, so I hope you trust us enough with the next question. You are a career negotiator, both a teacher and practitioner. Do you have an example? This is vulnerable, but you've mentioned a couple vulnerable things, already with, you know, what might I have wrong? The statement of, you know, you're in control in there. So, I feel like you're okay with this.
Can you share a failed negotiation experience and what you learned from it.
ST : In all of the outcomes, we might not get what we want, but if we can learn something from it, that's great. And that's kind of cliche, but let me get down to answering your question. We were at a home of a couple, and he was probably going to get arrested for domestic battery. There was some kind of domestic going on there. And he had made it down into the basement, and he had pulled out a gun and he had put the gun to his head, and held it there.
So, now we got a more immediate problem than arresting the guy. We need to get the gun down. And it's not necessarily safe to be doing forward negotiations, these face-to-face negotiations, but the tactical team got a position in the basement and they wanted to hold it.
So, we brought up a negotiator forward. So instead of talking on the phone, now we're face-to-face, and not literally face-to-face, but I can see them. You can see me. And I was one of the negotiators on our team to have this conversation with him. And, I remember working hard to convince him to go to the hospital with me, and looking back at it, either I didn't ask good enough questions or I had this information and I forgotten it, or I missed it. He had just been released from the hospital nine days earlier, and anybody who's ever been a patient at the hospital realizes this is not a place you wanna be. I mean even as a visitor, you're there for an hour or something like all right, I'm going home. I'm out of here. It's not just where you want to be.
And here I am working for hours trying to convince him to go to Hey, we'll pay your bills. Maybe instead of transporting you in an ambulance, we could take you in a car. I mean, every different way to convince him to do this. And I think that this is driving home the first principle of "let's understand what's happening."
AD : Right…
ST : After 18 hours and a number of negotiators, we tried a number of different strategies with him, but ultimately he pulled the trigger and he shot himself. And, I mean, this is a failed negotiation.
AD : Yeah.
ST : It goes back to yes, we can only control so much anybody who thinks that we can control all the outcomes of everything. They, don't have a clear understanding of what's going on. But is there something I could have said?
Could I have said it at a different time, in a different tone, something that I missed? Should I have asked more questions? There's a lot that you reflect on to say, "Had I been better or different? Could this outcome have been more positive? And he survived, thankfully, but not the outcome that any of us needed or wanted.
So, this kind of goes back to an earlier question about preparation. What are you doing to prepare? And if you are in a field where you are not gonna have a lot of lead time to prepare for a particular negotiation, you need to always be getting your skills sharp so we can get into a negotiation in two minutes.
And I am up ready to go because you don't always have that lieutenant. Hey, the phone's gonna ring, and this is an opportunity. You don't get to say, "All right, I'll get back to you in a week, and we can discuss this.
Hey, this is your opportunity. Are you ready to go? So are we always practicing? Are we always preparing, building knowledge, then building skills and making sure that our abilities are there, and challenging ourselves to surround ourselves with people who are going to continue to teach us and make us better.
AD : Thanks for sharing that story; that's very, very real and authentic. And, sorry for the way that turned out. If I can ask the flip question now and just say, "Can you give us an example of a negotiation that you kind of consider a tremendous success, and why was it so successful in your opinion?"
ST : You know, there’s a lot of examples of successful negotiations. But the common theme is that people are getting a better outcome for themselves. If we're advising in a business negotiation, it might not be much, but to some people, if I can save you a couple hundred dollars, that can go a long way, a couple thousand dollars.
This afternoon, I'm gonna be doing a workshop with a company that's gonna be engaging in price negotiations. And I know from what they do, if we can get a little bit better price on the product they have, this is gonna translate into millions and millions of dollars for them. So, think about these little things. The little things are the big things. People say, "Well, we'll teach this magic thing. Be a good listener. Maintain self-discipline, know your emotions, connect with their emotions, understand how people make decisions.
These little things, we're not quite sure what it's going to take to get that outcome that you want. So, I enjoy helping people get what they want, and I think that negotiation means that you're having a better life, that you are going to be happier. And maybe it's knowing that, hey, this person is coming out of the house and they are going to be released safe and sound that the hostage is gonna be free.
Maybe a person in crisis is gonna put the gun down or come off the bridge, or whatever it might be. Knowing that these are life-impacting outcomes is really rewarding. And let me share with you. Just yesterday, somebody shared a news clip with me. There was another mass shooting out in California, and it's tough to keep up with all of them, but, in this particular case, a man had killed a bunch of people, and police were negotiating with him.
And the concern was he may kill himself, the offender now. And the newspaper headline and the photo is the offender in handcuffs. And two police officers walking him out.
One of those police officers was in my negotiations class a week ago today. And I saw this, and I was like, "Now this is awesome.” Now, I don't know if anything we talked about was relevant, impactful, or helpful in any way, but here is somebody, who took eight hours of his life and was in this negotiations class because he knew these are skills I might be able to know.
And now he is front page news national, and this is the guy who got this offender, this dangerous, violent person, into handcuffs and resolved that safe and sound. Now that's awesome. I mean, now, at this point in my career, it's a lot less of me doing the work and me sharing with the next generation or the people who are still doing this work.
And for me, I mean, how much more satisfaction can you have to say, here's people who are going out and immediately applying this to make the lives of people around them better.
NM : What a great story!
AD : Tremendous impact!
NM : Yeah. Hey, so you just kind of touched on some of what the stuff that you're doing with Negotiations Collective. I was hoping maybe you can talk a little bit more about what you're doing there and how other people can benefit from your ray of services.
ST : Yeah, so I love doing the keynote speaking. A lot of what I'm doing now is working at conferences, presenting, also doing workshops and training courses. We do a lot of our courses virtually. We got a negotiation class that we offer, a conflict resolution class that we offer. And right now, I'm very casual. I'm in Miami Beach in the middle of January, which is great here for, working with a client in person, delivering a half-day workshop.
So, we do a number of different things, but I also continue to offer police negotiations classes because this is in my wheelhouse. And I'm very lucky to work with a great team. My partner, Joanna Shay, also working with Melissa and Leighton; you can check us out at negotiationscollective.com. We have a very cool collection of people that have very different backgrounds in negotiation.
Joanna comes from private sector. She's a negotiator in oil and gas for many years, doing millions and billions of dollars deals. Melissa worked for the FBI ran their Cleveland office, their negotiation team; Layton dean of business school up in Calgary, cool collection of people, and we're coming together to put our ideas together to say, "How can we share with people the best techniques, strategies to help them get what they need, what they want so they can get more out of life? And it's been so fun. and it's a nice balance.
Virtual is tough, of course, but it allows us to reach people that we otherwise couldn't reach. But I love traveling; I love seeing the country, seeing the world, and today it takes me right to the beach. So, no complaints with anything we have going on there.
NM : <laugh>,
ST : That's a very new transition for me. I just retired from full-time law enforcement earlier this month, so I'm still in my transition phase, but I've been building this up for a couple years, and it's so much fun. I love doing it, and I hope that people, when they leave the time that we share together, they realize that I'm on fire for this.
And you know, whatever I can do to help benefit them, I'm all for it.
AD : Yeah. Well, first of all, congratulations and thank you for your years of service. and good luck as you continue to push the Negotiation Collective forward. You just admitted that you are on the beach in Miami. We know you're married with kids who are up in Illinois in the middle of the winter. [laughs] Did you have to negotiate for that? I'm curious how these negotiation skills show up in your personal life. And I'm guessing they must have recently.
ST : Yeah, and sometimes you need to make concessions in negotiation. We haven't talked about that. And when we are giving concessions, they have to be labeled. They have to be timed. So, because I went to this trend, I wanna now give you this, or, you know, we're treading things of unequal value, but also it's emotional management.
And don't go to the balcony and take pictures of the ocean and send them back home or put them on social media.
NM : <laugh>
ST : You think it's very basic. Like I see it as I'm spreading joy. I know there's a snowstorm in Chicago at this second. I'm trying to spread joy, and that can be perceived differently. So, you know, another good learning point that we can take the same situation, the same set of facts, and see it very differently. So, don't realize how people might, perceive that. But you know, in this case, I'm, keeping it very short. I got in yesterday, I'm going home today. So I always try to take a couple minutes for myself to enjoy some of this, to make sure that it's not all work. And it's not all stress.
And I can come home with a smile on my face because then I can serve my family a little bit better if I am a little bit more relaxed. Because I was at the beach, and I try not to explain it like that.
NM : <laugh>
AD : <laugh>,
ST : You know, doing things like this allows us to have the financial freedoms that we have. So, we can bring them on a trip when I'm not working.
NM : Yeah, that's great, Scott. And also wanna thank you for your service and everything like that. So as we get ready to wrap up, is there anything else you'd like to add as key considerations for our listeners on how to improve their negotiation abilities and skills?
ST : Well, I think just doing what they're doing right now, tuning into your podcast, the service that you guys are providing to not only the negotiation world but to the leadership world and to anybody else who might tune in, is so important because people need to invest in themselves. It's not just going to happen. So the fact that somebody took the time to tune in and listen to this is so important. And I would encourage people to keep going and take those next steps to say, "All right, you're building that knowledge, you're building that foundation; now get out there and build that skill, and your life can be better because of it." So, you know, thanks to you guys for what you're doing now and what you've done, you know, for our country and everything else in your lives.
You're leading remarkable lives, and it's cool to be a guest on here. And having listened to some of your previous episodes, I don't feel like I have a whole lot more to add. Yeah. on all these beautiful people and intelligent minds that you had coming on your show. But thanks for doing what you're doing. We need more of this, more of these conversations. And really, we need to be able to challenge each other. So, when anybody gets to the point to say, Hey, I got this. I am a great leader. I am a great negotiator, man. I listened to some of these other folks, and I'm blown away to say I got nothing compared to some of these people. I need to get back and keep doing what I'm doing to just keep pace.
NM : Absolutely. Well, thank you very much for your kind words there. And thanks for everything you said and all the guests that we've had on here, and all of our listeners that continue to tune in. So, really appreciate it. Wanna turn it over to Aram now for any closing thoughts?
AD : Oh, so many great takeaways, Scott. And you have joined, with your brilliance, the others that have come on. So thanks for that; I love the four-piece model, understanding timing, delivery, and respect, and the practice and commitment it takes to really get good at those things.
The willingness to take a time out I appreciate that challenge. Even as I've been doing this for a while, what is my mindset? What is my mindset insight towards the goal, towards the other person, towards the process we're committing to? And even towards the investment, again, better at these skills. What is my mindset? Thank you for that.
I think that's so critically important. And I'll just kind of wrap with something you said around leadership. Cause I know this is important to you. It's certainly important to us that great leaders recognize they need to influence others, and that takes some skills. So, thanks for sharing things that can make the leaders listening to this program, incrementally better.
ST : Well, thank you, guys, for having me on. It's a pleasure to chat with you, and hopefully, we can keep this conversation going and I certainly invite any of your listeners to reach out and connect with me personally. I want to be a resource to them. I'm on LinkedIn and love being active on that social media platform. So just reach out, come, and say hello. Happy to connect.
NM : Thanks Scott. So, that's it for us on today's podcast. If you haven't already, please rate, review, and subscribe to the podcast, and we'll catch you in the next episode.
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