The Negotiator Magazine

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            In situations such as hostage negotiation, where the success of negotiation is easily definable, the negotiations are inevitably affected.  The ability to measure the success of negotiations impacts the negotiator in two ways:  (1)  Extreme opening offers and anchoring are made ineffective and may create distrust; and (2)  Only minimal value can be created.
            (1)  Extreme Opening Offers and Anchoring are Ineffective and
            Create Distrust
            Any tactic that would alienate or anger a hostage taker is not a viable option for a hostage negotiator.  Likewise, in every situation, the hostage negotiator always has the same goal – save and protect as many people as possible.  There are many ways to get there, but there are also many concessions that are simply nonnegotiable.  Consequently, it will prove to be ineffective if the hostage negotiator begins his discussion with the hostage taker by promising items he cannot deliver – it will create distrust and may prevent any further communications. 
            The hostage taker is armed with knowledge that typical opponents do not have – he knows exactly when the negotiation is over and when or if the hostage negotiator has succeeded.  The negotiation ends when the hostages are released and the hostage taker surrenders or is in custody.  The hostage negotiator should be wary when making extreme openings.  If he tells the hostage taker, “If you don’t come out in two minutes we will break down the door,” and two minutes passes and the door is still standing – then the extreme opening was rendered useless.  Likewise, if the hostage negotiator asks for too little – that would be considered a serious tactical error.  
            The more likely situation is that the hostage taker will be the one making extreme opening offers.  For that reason, he should gradually be moved from the idea that his demands will be met.   Until the point at which the hostage taker surrenders, the negotiator’s “success” is easily discernable and requires that the negotiator remain credible and trustworthy.

            (2)  Only Minimal Value Can Be Created In Hostage Negotiations
            “Any time value is created, you need to answer the question of who will claim that value.”   In a hostage negotiation, the creation of external values is of little use to anyone but the hostage taker.  The hostage negotiator has no use for tangible items if the hostage taker refuses to release the hostages.  The hostage negotiator’s value is unchangeable and quantifiable – the hostages.


Lanceley, supra at 57.

Id. at 58.

Preparation, Harvard Business Essentials 34 (Harvard Business School Press 2003).

 

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May 2007