The Negotiator Magazine

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It's not over until it's over

My advice to negotiators is to listen, care, do things as you were trained to do them and have faith in the process. If you do, you can walk away from the incident with a clear conscience knowing that you did everything you could have done. There is nothing more you can do.

Retired New York Yankees catcher Yogi Berra once said of baseball games, "It's not over until it's over." The same can be said of negotiations. As a negotiation is successfully progressing, negotiators sometimes become careless because they think that the pressure is off and the situation is over; a dangerous development. The incident is not over until the subject is in handcuffs and someone is taking him away. You, as a salesperson, may be certain that you have the potential client sold but at the last minute they back out of the deal for whatever reason. It's not over until you have the client's signature and his check clears the bank. In other words, it's not over until it's over!


In conclusion, I believe that there are many more parallels between what law enforcement negotiators and business people do; far more than can be covered in a short article. The most significant parallel is that law enforcement negotiators and salespeople are both selling hope. The negotiator and salesperson are both selling the hope that the subject's or client's future will be better. In this writer's view, there is no more worthwhile product.

Frederick J. Lanceley, MSAJ, retired from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He was the FBI's senior negotiator and principal director of their internationally acclaimed crisis negotiation course. He has been involved in several hundred hostage, barricade, suicide, aircraft hijacking and kidnapping cases. Mr. Lanceley has trained officers from every major law enforcement agency in the United States and over 50 foreign countries.

He is the author of the best-selling book entitled On-Scene Guide for Crisis Negotiators, now in its second edition.

Mr. Lanceley is currently the Director of Crisis Negotiation Associates, Inc. You may contact Mr. Lanceley by e-mail at or visit his web site at

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December 2004