The Negotiator Magazine

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Suggested negotiator introduction

How one opens a negotiation can be very important. It may set the tone for hours, if not the duration of the incident. The introduction used by many negotiators in the United States is as follows: "My name is . (No rank or title.) I am a negotiator with the _____________Police Department. I would like to help."

In the United States, the public is familiar with what negotiators do. After a shooting, negotiators finally managed to reach the subject by telephone. After the negotiator introduction, the subject said, "You're a negotiator? Where have you guys been? I have been waiting for you. I want to get out of here. I give up!"

Negotiators in the United States are taught that early on and, if appropriate, not to forget to ask the subject to come out. There have been instances in the United States when after negotiating for ten hours the subject finally surrendered. When asked why he did not come out sooner, the subject replied, "Nobody asked."

Forgetting to ask for surrender is like forgetting to ask if a potential client is ready to buy at the start of a negotiation. You never know. Perhaps the client's father or son already has your product or has invested with you and all he wants from you is the paperwork to sign his name. If you press on with a sales pitch when the client is willing to buy or invest immediately, you risk losing everything. If the subject or client declines to surrender or buy at the outset, the negotiator falls back to the negotiation process.

Pushing the deal

"Pushing the deal" for law enforcement negotiators is analogous to pushing for a close on a sale before the client is ready to close. Negotiators offer the "deal" at the outset but if the deal is declined, negotiators back off and begin the negotiation process. "Pushing the deal" too hard early-on builds distrust and people "dig in" against you.

Fear

For law enforcement negotiators, it is very important to be reassuring because the people with whom we negotiate are almost always frightened. The public thinks they know about police work from watching television and the movies. To my chagrin when working outside the United States, it appears that the United States exports only the least desirable elements of its culture especially in the form of movies and television. Many police officers outside the United States watch American police television shows and from those shows receive some very erroneous impressions. More than once, foreign police officers, generally after a couple of beers, will ask in hushed, personal tones, "Fred, how many people have you killed?" (When United States police officers are told this story, they laugh at this point.)

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December 2004