Click Here To Listen To The NEGOTIATEx Podcast

What You'll Learn In Today's Episode

  • Active listening is a skill negotiators must master. Listening closely to understand the depth of a counterpart’s emotional involvement helps to build trust and relationship.
  • Think carefully before you speak. Do not aggravate your counterpart, try to maintain calm and explore how to get them to act in both their and your best interests.
  • Take detailed notes. Assess the current situation as it stands and analyze your notes as it progresses.

Watch Part Of This Episode On NEGOTIATEx TV

Executive Summary:

Welcome back to another episode of the NEGOTIATEx podcast! We are honored to have Gary Noesner, one of the masters of high stakes hostage negotiations with us today. Gary spent 30 years as a negotiator for the FBI, specializing in investigating hijackings with connections to the Middle East. After his retirement in 2003, Gary became a senior Vice President with Control Risks, assisting clients in investigating overseas kidnapping incidents. He has been invited to appear on many documentaries relating to terrorism, hostage negotiations and kidnapping. Part of his book “Stalling For Time: My Life As An FBI Hostage Negotiator” was adapted into“Waco, the critically acclaimed Paramount network TV series and rumor has it, Gary has another on the way!

Upon Aram’s invitation, Gary lectured at West Point in 2011, receiving a positive reception from the cadets, who found Gary’s negotiation stories highly relevant to their learning. On his part, Gary found it commendable that the country’s premiere military institute had prioritized devoting time and energy to inculcate strong communication skills in stressful situations to the next generation of military leaders.

The Intent Behind High Stakes Negotiations

Gary Noesner knew he wanted to be an FBI agent from the ripe old age of six. At the time of his induction into the organization, hostage negotiation was a new and emerging discipline. Never one to shy away from a challenge, he threw himself at the subject with the goal of making law enforcement safer for the enforcers. By his own admission, the FBI’s negotiation course was adapted from the NYPD’s training curriculum, who in turn had been forced to introduce it as a consequence of harsh public and legal criticism of their existing methods.

One of the seismic changes in the discipline that Gary helped to bring about was the incorporation of tools developed by the mental health counseling community. While active listening may be increasingly common in law enforcement training today, very few police departments had heard of it back in the 90’s. It was only around then that people had started to realize that most hostage negotiations were not simple quid-pro-quo bargaining arrangements. Instead, the vast majority of perpetrators found themselves in a hostage-taking situation as a side effect of their explosive anger and a distinct lack of self control. That’s where active listening comes into play; as a way for a negotiator to establish trust with the perpetrator and diffuse/de-escalate their emotional reaction.

Projecting genuineness and expressing concern for the lives of everyone involved in a hostage situation, including the perpetrator(s), is considerably more effective than using a confrontational tone. In Gary’s experience, aggravating the perpetrator only makes them more self destructive; thereby putting the lives of both victims and law enforcement agents at risk. Cooperation and building a relationship of trust is instrumental and also allows for more time to calm the perpetrator’s emotions to act rationally in their best interest.

In his book, Gary outlines his method of developing negotiations as a critical skill for agents of the FBI. Law enforcement officers are action oriented people and they have a tendency to lose their cool when put under stress. Negotiation skills help to de-escalate situations which might otherwise turn into a wrestling match of egos where innocent people are put at risk. Thinking carefully about the words one uses at the scene, the actions to take and the tone of voice to use are all indispensable. But what truly helps scene commanders and those higher up in the bureaucracy is effective note-taking by the agents on the field.

Here, Gary recommends being concise and effective in the “position papers” that are provided to the on-scene commander as the negotiator’s assessment of the situation at hand. For instance, a field general in the FBI might be great at mobilizing their teams and being the final decision maker, but they need accurate intel and assessment from agents more experienced than them at tackling hostage situations. When debriefing a commander, it’s imperative for the negotiator to not provide a simplistic positive or negative assessment.

Additionally, limiting the position paper to only one page helps the flow of information stay accurate and not turn into a game of telephone as it moves up the chain of command. Bureaucracies are by nature not great at incorporating the stances of the people on the ground, so there is a need to avert the risk of making well-intended bad decisions from the bottom up.

Saving Lives Peacefully Through Dialogue

There are numerous stakeholders involved, a fact that Gary refers to as a “crisis within a crisis”. While trained negotiators know how to handle a wide array of crisis situations involving a host of different kinds of actors, the involvement of multiple government agencies often complicates the proceedings. As an example when a perpetrator is from the middle east and labeled as a terrorist, the scrutiny on the agents on the ground drastically increases. When multiple hierarchies of different government agencies are brought in, questions about their competence and philosophies arise. Now, not only do the field agents have to cooperate with other actors who may have a different mindset, they also have to report to their superiors. This is where Gary has faced the biggest challenge to finding peaceful resolutions in his negotiations career.

Gary also discusses how the primary intent of negotiators is to buy as much time as they can so tactical teams can be well prepared. Gary is a firm believer that hostage negotiations never “fail”. The public and the agencies have to reconstruct their perspective on what constitutes a failure, because the negotiations team strives to give them the background of the perpetrators, the time to assemble resources and practice drills for the tactical team. By stalling for time, negotiators are creating space for decisions and preparations to be made.

Nolan, Aram and Gary give us a lot more insight into the high stakes world of hostage negotiations on this episode of the NEGOTIATEx podcast. Email us at team@negotiatex.com to let us know, what would you like us to talk about next?

Thank you for listening.


Nolan Martin : Hey everyone. Welcome to the NEGOTIATEx podcast. I am your co-host and co-founder Nolan Martin. With me today is Aram, my cohost and co-founder. But more importantly, not that you aren’t important Aram, but more importantly, we have Gary Noesner joining us today, so I'll turn it right over to you, Aram, to introduce today's guest.

Aram Donigian : Thanks Nolan. Today folks, we have Gary Noesner, the retired chief of the FBI's crisis negotiation unit. During a 30 year career in which, significant focus was directed toward investigating middle east hijackings in which American citizens were victimized, Gary spent 23 of those years as a hostage negotiator. He was heavily involved in numerous crisis incidents covering prison riots, rightwing militia standoffs, religious zealot sieges, terrorist, embassy, takeovers, airplane hijackings, and over 120 overseas kidnapping cases involving American citizen. Following his retirement from the FBI, he became a senior vice president with Control Risks, an international risk consultancy assisting clients in managing overseas kidnap incidents. In 2010, Gary wrote and published “Stalling For Time. My Life As An FBI Hostage Negotiator”, which discusses his FBI negotiation career. The 2018 Paramount network TV event, “Waco” is based in part on his book. Gary has appeared in numerous television documentaries and has been interviewed in Time, Forbes, the New Yorker, the Washington Post, New York Times, and many other media outlets. Now in 2011, dating ourselves Gary, was a guest of mine at west point. He made a tremendous impression on the cadets there, both with his stories and his ability to bring relevance to the topic of negotiation. And Gary, I wanted, as I get ready to introduce you, I wanted to share this picture with everyone of the two of us 11 years ago. I'm not sure who's aged more. Um, but boy, those were two good looking guys back then.

Gary Noesner : Yeah, there was certainly younger guys that's for sure.

AD : So Gary, listen, welcome to the podcast.

GN : Well, thank you both Nolan Aram and coming up to west point was a great honor for me. I certainly hold the academies and those who served the country in high regard, my son mentioned in my book you might have seen, was a Navy seal and you know, so all that stuff is close to my heart. So was really, I was quite pleased to see that the military academy was devoting time and energy to teaching these communication skills to our future military leaders. You know there's a similarity in law enforcement. We spend an awful lot of time on firearms training, for example, and it's necessary, it's appropriate. I don't criticize it. But in comparison to communication skills that you would use virtually nonstop in your career, we tend to spend relatively little time. It's really a key for a law enforcement officer to learn how to deal with the public and gain their cooperation and avoid conflict. And these are important skills, not everybody's good at it. Most people can improve their capabilities, but it takes a bit of work and dedication. I'm sure I'm was far better at it much later in my career than I was early in my career.

AD : I can say the same thing.

GN : And I’ll also throw in on the humorous level, none of this stuff works at home, so don't even try it there.

NM : Yeah.

AD : Well shoot, there goes one of our last questions. We're gonna talk…

GN : We can take a run at it, but you know, I'm not gonna overpromise here.

AD : Well, Gary, before we get started, I just thank you for that. And thank you for your service to, you know, you coming up to west point was the start of a long term relief. Now that the west point negotiation project has been able to maintain what the FBI is, hostage negotiation unit there, and it's, you know, with training and, and guests and everything. So you were a big part of that and cadets continued to be impacted because of your work. So thanks. Thank you too.

NM : Gary, I wish you were there a year sooner so that I could have met you and gotten an opportunity to go to the FBI crisis negotiation unit before I had graduated, but that's all right. I guess we can't have that.

GN : We’ll have to make up for that now. Yeah.

NM : So perfect. Well, as we kick this podcast off Gary, the first question we kinda like to ask our guests is where did you start to become a negotiator both personally, professionally in your life and what was the key aspects to your development as a negotiator early on?

How Did Gary Noesner Become A Negotiator? [5:51]

GN : Yeah, pretty broad question. You know, there was no negotiations in law enforcement. When I joined the FBI, I wanted to be an FBI agent since I was probably six years old from watching a television show. And it just something about the job that intrigued me. I wanted to do something challenging, interesting, prestigious. I wanted to make a difference. I didn't want an ordinary less challenging career, you know, different strokes for different folks, but this is kind of what drew me. And then when I got in the FBI, there was this new and emerging discipline called hostage negotiations. And I have to give credit to the NYPD that created this program. And they created it for reasons that we, we find pretty common in law enforcement. We don't make changes because somebody has a brilliant idea and we think we should look at it.

We make changes because we get criticized for performance, either in the court of public opinion or in the court of law. And that's always been the motivating change. It's probably to some extent true with the military as well. So New York came up with this concept and the FBI recognized it very quickly as a really good idea. And because we are a nationally based organization and international to some extent, then much more so than today. We were able to really devote a lot of time and effort and energy to researching this in a, at a deeper level, to expanding the curriculum, to have a better understanding of human behavior and crisis, and slowly it evolved into this crisis negotiation program. And, you know, I got involved in, among first generation. My training was in 1980 and it started probably in the, in the FBI, 76, 77, something like that.

So I would say I'm second generation, but one of the big sea changes that occurred when I became a full-time negotiator in 1990 was, and I was heavily involved in this, is the realization that most of what law enforcement are doing, we're not really pure hostage situations that entail quid-pro-quo bargaining, like in a kidnap or hijacking or something, but rather emotionally driven situations with no clear goal, with a perpetrator, holding a wife, a girlfriend, an employer that they're feuding with, a neighbor they're having a problem with, whatever it might be. And people get involved in these situations based on their lack of self-control and a manifestation of an explosive anger. And so they're not really there to bargain. I'll give you a ham sandwich if you'll let your wife go. I mean, it doesn't work that way.

So we, we had to really copy quite heavily from the mental health community, the counseling community, and use what we call active listening skills. And they're widely understood and embraced throughout the counseling community and increasingly in law enforcement. When I introduced this into our curriculum, think for the first time in a major way in 1990, I'd go around the country and probably at the various negotiation conferences; no cop knew what I was talking about. Now it's the bread and butter of negotiation. If you don't know active listening skills, you're simply not a negotiator because that's how we create a relationship of trust. We're not looking for a long term friendship. We're looking to diffuse, deescalate, to project sincerity and genuineness. I'm here to help you, I don't wanna see you get hurt, and I don't wanna see anybody in there get hurt.

And we've learned when we do that, rather than using that confrontational law enforcement command voice, “you better do this, or we're gonna come out and get you”, you know, the old Sergeant Friday kind of thing, we accrue much better results. Because people will become self-destructive and do things against their own best interests. And we have to be careful that we steer them away from that. And it takes a little bit of time. You know, that's why I name my book Stalling For Time, because time is a key element. We're not purposely trying to elongate the situation, but we know that the passage of time tends to lower the emotional content and brings people to a point where they're a little bit more reasonable. What suggestion you made three hours ago, which was rejected might now seem more reasonable after the person's tired and hungry and frustrated and has maybe burned off some of their adrenaline or whatever it is.

So that's the basic concept. Then we realize that those skill sets and by the way, 90% of what law enforcement does is in this emotional spectrum, expressive incidents. But we found that also works in more traditional hostage situations because, you know, my view is everything in life is about relationship, everything. I guess if you live in a lighthouse out in the Coast of Maine or something like that, you don't have to worry about it, even they have to communicate with somebody, but most of us at home, work, recreationally, we as human beings are tribal animals and we rely on cooperation and that all stems from creating a good positive relationship. And when that's missing there's problems and when it exists, we overcome problems. So that's the key feature. And if we can find ways to help negotiators in a short, compressed period of time, typically to build those relationships of trust, then we stand a very high likelihood of achieving success.

AD : So Gary, in your book, you talk about kind of the FBI, his path to developing negotiation as a critical skill for, for the agents and the organization. You also just mentioned, you know, some of these public perception and, and opinion events that kind of drove. Can you share a little bit about those incidents you talk about in the book that were the impetus for creating the crisis negotiation you unit that you eventually would lead?

Developing the Crisis Negotiation Unit At The FBI [11:24]

GN : Well, New York had a, what really prompted them to start looking into this was a famous robbery at a sporting goods store and a police officer was killed. And it was a mess. Different police officials were trying to negotiate and it was disorganized and they decided to create the emergency services unit. And it became quite as successful entity and negotiation team. And with the FBI, it was the dog day afternoon bank robbery, which was also in conjunction with NYPD. And we had a case in Jacksonville, Florida, a small airplane where the FBI conducted pretty poor negotiations and shot out the tires. And the Hijacker ended up killing the two victims and himself, and you know, we begin to say, Hey, we, we have to develop something better than just demanding people's surrender and being confrontational, you know?

And there was a court case and like most things, as I mentioned earlier, when there's scrutiny of what you've done and questions asked about why you did it this way, it becomes hard to defend. You know in law enforcement, we have long embraced this philosophy that oftentimes we don't listen to, to tell you the truth. And that is we use no more force than is absolutely necessary. And of course these topics are very, very upfront these days with the use of police force and so forth. And I think we have to think when we take an action, we have to say, is this necessary now? Do we have to take this escalated physical action now? Or is it more prudent to engage a little further and to try to defuse? There was a police department that I trained many years ago in Florida that made a very bizarre decision that they decided they were gonna train every single person on these midsize police department in negotiation skills.

The next year, their SWAT callouts reduced 75%! 75%! Now, what does that tell you? Instead of officers coming up surrounding the house and presenting a threat to this person, which I'm not saying that's not necessary sometimes. We have to keep the situation from spreading further endangering other lives. But instead you get, instead of Captain Soandso saying, you better come out. Now you got, Hey, I'm Gary with the police department. And what can you tell me what's going on in there? We're concerned about you. You know, you really stand a chance of resolving it peacefully and what is most important and what some of my, the law enforcement officers continue to this day to forget. We negotiate not because of the victims and not because of the perpetrator. We negotiate to keep police officers alive. That's the only reason we do it.

It's a damn good reason. No matter what happened in this house, we're not God, we didn't create this escalated domestic situation. We haven't shot somebody or threatening to kill somebody, but while we're here, we're gonna do our best to resolve it peacefully. But to do that, needlessly to throw officers in harm's way is not the smartest way to do it. I think we have to be able to articulate to a court of law and a court of public opinion: All right, you went in this house and you ended up shooting and killing this guy. Why? What compelled you to do so? What are the facts and circumstances? What did he say? What did he do? How did you gauge that the threat had increased? Because you've been there six hours, what was different from hour four to hour six when you went in, you know, and if you can't, and, and I've been, I seen many times where I've told chiefs and sheriffs and special agents in charge, we can't make that argument.

We ought to think very carefully about what we do. You know, sometimes we call it the action. Not sometimes we often call it the action imperative. Law enforcement's paramilitary, we're action oriented people, see a problem, fix problem, move on to the next problem. So when some less than satisfactory citizen is misbehaving, it pisses us off sometimes. Maybe you didn't understand, I told you to come out, and I don't have time for this crap and you better come out or we're gonna come in and get you! It becomes sort of a wrestling match of egos. And the bottom line is, Hey, we've got innocent lines in there. Whats the rush? What's the cost? I mean, you look at the, you know, some of the big tragedies, like Waco, where I was involved, you know, when you know that that has a perpetual black mark on the FBI, because there are some that question, whether the FBI should have gone in at the end or not.

And you know, you've gotta think about those things. You don't do it just because, well, we've been here 51 days and we're tired and we're angry that doesn't cut it. You know, you better be able to articulate for these 17 reasons. He said this, he did that. We've gotta make a case and I always told negotiators when the boss at the scene says to you, you're the chief negotiator, how's it going? the wrong answer is, “oh, it's going good” or “not so good”. No, no this is time to pull out your notes. And from the team for these reasons, this is how we feel support. And we created at Waco, which is widely used now in law enforcement, a thing called position papers, where we put on paper for the on-scene commander, here's our assessment of the situation. Here's our, our recommendations on what we do about it.

And it forces the negotiation team to put their thoughts on paper. And then it allows the on-scene commander and anybody back in say, Washington, that has to review that paperwork to fully understand what the negotiation team is assessing and analyzing. And it makes the boss stop and think because a lot of bosses are really good at being bosses in a general sense, but are they good at this? I mean you could pull out from the army, you could get the head finance officer for the entire army and you put him in Ukraine and say, now move the troops and fight the battle. Well, it's not his element. It's not his expertise, no fault of his own. He's not been prepared for that or trained for that or experienced in that. So that happens with us sometimes because someone's a field general in the FBI, there is an assumption or in police departments that they know how to do all these things. And in reality, they normally don't, that's why they have to look to somebody like me and say, share with me your experience and knowledge. They're still the ultimate decision maker, but they're really foolish if they don't pay attention to those people, under their control that have real expertise in these things.

AD : It's great. And Gary, your comment there on the position paper and being able to give a well-articulated and thought out assessment that can then inform up. It's really interesting. So just, just this week, working with students where I teach, we talk about being able to articulate what is occurring in success beyond just saying, oh, it's going good, right? That's not enough. And I created years of go, Nolan may remember this, at west point, I created this character called Major Hard Ask, who would ask the hard questions. And of course, there's a fun little play on the sound of that too. So now I use it as Professor Hard Ask who still comes in and asks the sort of questions that you're talking about on that position paper.

GN : And as a leader, you have to listen to these people. I mean you can't get into an analysis paralysis, but you do have to create an atmosphere that encourages people to provide an alternate opinion. So the other thing about those position papers I would throw in, they're one page, the whole thing's on one page, cuz you know, why, what, well, I'll tell you how it evolved out at Waco as a negotiation team leader, I would go in and report to the on-scene commander. Here's what we're thinking. Here's what we're doing. Here's what we recommend. He would call up the phone and talk to the deputy assistant director who would then brief the assistant director who would then brief the deputy director who would brief the director who would brief the white house. And by the time up, it got up there, you know, the parlor game, it was completely distorted and inaccurate.

So I said, the only way we can really deal with that effectively is send them a short, at that level, they don't have time to read a book. You know, you send them a short, concise, here's the situation. One paragraph, here's our assessment of it. One paragraph final paragraph, here's our recommendation. Then he can just fax that up to headquarters and somebody say, okay, now I know how the negotiators look at this. And it also is a bit of a control over an untrained commander too. Cause in Waco the commander said, you know, “you're painting me in a corner with that paper”. And of course it, “oh boss, I would never mean to do that”. But of course it's exactly what I was trying to do because out there we, we suffered from some bad decision making. I mean, well intended, but nonetheless bad and information is everything.

You know, who's getting the critical information they need to make the decisions? And, within any organization, you know, I travel around the world, teach negotiations and police officers basically say, “we're gonna do whatever you say”. You know, they, they almost depend too much on you, but in the FBI, it's like, well, “you're three ranks down from this guy. So what could you possibly know”? Maybe if you'd look at the things I've done, you might see that I have something to help you with here, but it's just the nature of bureaucracies. If you're a Lieutenant, you're gonna have a hard time briefing the general, just the way it is. And you're Lieutenant may be the smartest guy on the particular issue, the most knowledgeable and experienced. So bureaucracies have to find ways I think, to tap into that skillset and to make sure we're leveraging it for the common good.

Managing Internal Stakeholder Struggles [20:31]

NM : And I think that this is all so important, Gary, because you're really talk about the internal stakeholder struggle. And I know that you highlight in your book that at negotiators, sometimes, especially in the FBI specifically, it's not necessarily dealing with the perpetrator. That's the hardest part it's dealing with your commanders above you. So is there any other tips to, on how you manage your internal stakeholders in a negotiation?

GN : Well, it's very difficult. We call it the crisis within a crisis. While each situation is different, and I think this came up in one of earlier comments or questions, there's a general pattern. I mean, we know how to deal with emotionally distraught people, with depressed people in a general way. We walk into the situation knowing nothing. But once we find out what we're dealing with, we have a general strategy that we're probably gonna follow fairly closely. If it's a disgruntled veteran, if it's a mentally disturbed individual or if it's somebody with very substantive stump demands, you know? So we have kind of different strategies for that, but we've gotta be able to get this understanding. I'll give you a clear example: during the St. Martinsville prison riot, I was back up at Quantico at this particular time.

And one of my negotiators called me up the head negotiator who worked for me down there. And he said, “Hey, one of the bosses wants to go tactical and conduct a rescue”. And I said, “what the hell changed since I talked to you two hours ago?”, he said, “well, the hostages said if we come in they'll kill somebody”. So he says, they're gonna kill somebody. And that's where we, I invented on the spot this thing we call, there's different kind of threats, that's a defensive threat. When somebody says to you, “if you come in here, I'll kill a hostage”. What are they really saying? What they're really saying is “I'm scared of you coming in here, please don't come in here” and they're not gonna take the action. As long as you don't precipitate the violence, that's all that is. But to an untrained ear, a decision maker who doesn't have the exposure to these incidents and case studies and philosophies, they're gonna kill hostages. That’s all he hears

It's tough. You have to think. It's like if you had a hijacking and the hijackers take a customer, a passenger to the doorway and shoot 'em, the old school of thought was once they shoot one, we gotta go in. Well, maybe we should maybe we shouldn't. I'm not devaluing the life of that hostage, but is that gonna help or hurt the safety of the other hostages? At that time you have to weigh a number of circumstances. Do we have the resources there? Do we have a plan? What's the probability of success? Are there acceptable casualties, which maybe in law enforcement, there are none… I mean, in military, but not in law enforcement. So there's a number of factors and it requires nimble creative thinking. And I find that we don't always have that.

And you know, where this really comes into play and I'm sure you've seen it in this context. Two situations, absolutely identical, but one now is a middle east guy. And somebody says he's a terrorist. Everything changes, everything changes. There are no other substantive differences in terms of what he's done, what he wants, but just that word alone. Now we have multiple layers of different agencies. And what, what philosophies do they come in with? How well trained are they? They've gotta interface with our people and not only there at the scene, but back at their headquarters and the communications that happened there. Going back to your point, Aram, it becomes tremendously complicated. I tell my negotiators at Waco. I said, “what you're doing is easy. You're dealing with David Kresh. We know what David Kresh is about. He's a manipulative narcissist.” I gotta deal with some FBI bosses who frankly are an enormous challenge and probably my biggest impediment to getting this thing resolved peacefully. I hate to say that about my outfit, but that's the way it is.

AD : So Gary, let me just be, we're gonna go, we'd love to dig into the model in just a moment, but I did wanna ask you one more question. I mean, you have such great insights into organizational change and, and how an organization, kind of started to grow with these skills and some of the growing pains that occurred. And that comes up in stalling for time. And I think that's something that organizations, regardless of industry military, certainly, and business and government, as you talked about, kind of bureaucracies can learn from… just can you talk a little bit more to just what those growing pains were? It wasn't immediate adoption, right? I mean, it wasn't just, oh, a suddenly we wake out up and now we're expert negotiators and it's a corporate capability. It's something, everybody FBI gets. It was a process you've talked about kind of getting senior leaders on board. You certainly spend a lot of time training. Are there other components to making negotiations something that kinda lives within the organization?

Negotiation Training As A Component Of Organizational Change [25:30]

GN : Well, in both the FBI and New York, LAPD and other major police departments, tactical capabilities preceded by some years, the concepts of negotiations, you know, and the thinking was we have to have this specially trained group of people to handle high risk situations. And I don't argue against that whatsoever. I think that's absolutely appropriate, but you need that other piece to go with it. And if you don't have that, then you failed and you have to coordinate. I'll give you a simple example that happens all the time. We're in a tenement building and a guy's holding some hostages and the negotiators make an agreement. If we put some food in a box, outside the door, he'll let a child go easy decision to make cost us almost nothing. If that's not well coordinated, the SWAT guys who get the box of food, number one there's cases where they've ate it. But number two is we don't like putting it that close to the door. So we're gonna put it down the hallway, make that son of a ***** come out and get it. Well. What do you think that son of a ***** is gonna say when he comes out and says “that box is not where you said it was gonna be, you're trying to set me up”. A simple little thing like that- the whole relationship, the whole cooperative engagement that you've invested time in is now to some extent flushed down the toilet. Now he thinks you're merely part of a plan to draw him out so he can be killed. And it's little things like that, that unify for the program. That's what I always used to say, I'm sending one of my negotiators to brief the tactical team. That's gonna do this, make sure they understand the ramifications of it.

Now, I shouldn't be making that deal until I've already talked to them and found out what are you comfortable doing? That goes on my shows and, and my team should do that. But once we have that, then we've gotta make sure it gets implemented back at Waco. When after a couple weeks, when adults started to come out, versus the children had to come out earlier, we had to talk to the tactical folks, be careful the way you treat them. Number one, the people inside the compound are watching, but number two, everybody that comes out, we have them call back in and praise how well they were handled. So if you allow your frustrations to throw them down on the ground, too hard, to put the cuffs on unnecessarily tight, to rough, 'em up, that may help you feel better about your frustrations, but it's counterproductive to our goals. And for the most part, they were very good about doing that. But we can't assume people know that, you have to be really clear on that. And you know, it's the same thing in military. You're negotiating with some village in Iraq, and you've got a good relationship with the chief and then somebody else that's gotta implement. Part of that program has a whole different perspective on how it should go and it can ruin the entire relationship.

AD : Yeah, it's interesting. Cause we talk, we'll talk a lot about doing things that feel good as a negotiator, do something reactively. It makes me feel good, highly ineffective with what I'm trying to achieve.

GN : Yeah. No absolutely. And you know, negotiators have to watch it too. I've listened to some tapes from some situations I was involved in before, and I'll hear one of the negotiators manifest a little bit of peak, you know, and say, “huh?”, you know, you ain't this and you ain't that. No, no, no, that's not, that's not our job. And as human beings, we fall into that. And no, I'm sure I've made my share of mistakes through the years too, but we've gotta be very, very careful. Again and I think it goes back to a question you started to get into earlier; I think as an organization, we have to set out a clear philosophical goal. What are we trying to accomplish? When we respond to these situations? What is our goal? Keep ourselves alive, try to save innocent life, try to do it in a manner that the community respects us as a competent entity that is not just out to harm people.

All of these equities are involved. We want the case to stand up in court and you know, so forth and so on. We don't innocent parties to get harmed. So if that's our goal, then what's the best way to implement that. And you know, it's the parallel approach. We do prepare to use the tactical team. We are always prepared for an emergency assault or if the decision is made even a dedicated assault, but at the same time, on a parallel fashion working the negotiation angle and trying to up to the last minute, get it resolved through peaceful dialogue. Tactical action does not mean negotiation failure. And that's one thing that's always bother me to justify to the public, why we took tactical action. Police, chief sheriffs and special agents have sometimes said, well, negotiations failed. And it just burns my butt.

GN : Coz I say, negotiations never fail. Didn't we get you three days to assemble resources, get a floor plan, practice your drill, get a hostage release to tell us what's going on? Find out more background about this person? I don't think we failed at all. What failed was the perpetrator failed to make the right decision and prompted us in a compelling articulable way that we had to go in. Anything short of that just isn't gonna cut it, but it always has bothered me when we say, oh, negotiations fail. I'm a firm believer that negotiations never fail. If you look at what the real intent is, it's to slow it down by time. And you know, when someone's talking to me on the phone, they're not beating a hostage, they're not running around the house, looking out the windows to see where the snipers are setting up and potentially endanger them. So there's so many great benefits to what we call verbal containment and it's often underappreciated and underutilized,

NM : Great insight there, Gary really appreciate it. Hey everyone, I'm gonna have to put an to our conversation on today's episode. Be sure to join us next week. As we finish this conversation with Gary, nener be sure to rate, review and subscribe to the podcast. If you haven't done so already and we'll see you in the next episode,

Featured EpisodesWe host some of the smartest minds in business

Join The NEGOTIATEx Team.

It is our promise that we will deliver massive value to your inbox in the form of new content notifications, exclusive content and more. Join the team today.

    Contact Us