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16.  Don't become argumentative in your interactions with your captors. Accept what your captors say without comment or disagreement. Do not be concerned if you happen to agree with the statements or positions expressed by the hostage takers. Respond appropriately.
17.  Treat your captors like "royalty." Avoid confrontations. Do what is asked of you if you can. Do not become antagonistic or try to best your captors. Let them believe that they are in charge and are ruling the roost.
18.  Keep your own sense of personal dignity. Stay out of corners and do not denigrate yourself in any way. While you will not want to challenge your captors, it is much harder for them to kill or to injure someone who has maintained their own self-respect and who represents it appropriately.
19.  Be patient. There are well trained people on the outside working to resolve the current situation. And, they will resolve it.
20.  During a rescue attempt, lie low. When the police come in, make no sudden moves. This is not the time to jump up and assert that you are one of the good guys. The police will sort you out in due time and will find out your identity. Do not take offense to if the officers' initial response to you is as one of the hostage takers. They may not know who you are immediately upon entry or resolution.
21.  When the situation ends, or when officers make entry, initially you may be handcuffed. Take no offense at this. It is purely a safety procedure until police can be sure who you are and who the bad-guys are. If you happen to notice your captors trying to act as though they were hostages in order to avoid arrest, point this out to the police at your first opportunity after your release.
22.  Keep other captives calm. Reassure them that help is coming. This is probably one of the most important things you can do. The calmer, the safer all will be.
23.  If you are fed by your captors, eat what is provided if you can. Refusing nourishment may be bad for you and seen as a sign of disrespect. In fact, that they are taking care of your need for food and perhaps for other needs, as mentioned above, is a good sign and reduces the likelihood of you being injured.
24.  While in captivity, try to establish a routine for yourself and keep track of time as well as you can. This will help you get through the long hours of waiting and of disconnect from the outside world. Keep mentally active during this time.
25.  Remember, because you are a hostage, you will be regarded as such by the police and treated accordingly. Try to be cooperative.(Bolz, 1979, Greenstone, 2005)

Final Thoughts

What you know and what you do with what you know may save your life. Maintaining situational awareness in your daily life as well as while being held hostage will add to your response repertoire. Avoiding being taken hostage in the first place is better than trying to work your way through a hostage taking. While often overlooked in daily life, paying attention to what is going on around you and anticipating dangerous situations will do more to keep you safe than almost anything else. A great example of this would be the martial arts. It is often assumed that if one trains proficiently that proper response in any situation is assured. Actually, one of the basic principles of the martial arts says differently: "The best defense is 'don't be there.'"(Greenstone, 2013). Stay safe.


Bolz, F. (1979). Hostage cop. New York: Rawson, Wade Publishers.

Cooper, H.H.A. (Spring, 1997). Negotiating with terrorists. The International Journal of Police Negotiations and Crisis Management. 1(1), 1-8.

Greenstone, J.L. (2005). The elements of police hostage and crisis negotiations: Critical incidents and how to respond to them. Binghamton, New York: The Haworth Press, Inc.

Greenstone, J.L. (2013). The magic of the black belt, the philosophy of the discipline and the essence of the principles: Martial Psychology. Unpublished Manuscript: Submitted for publication.

James L. Greenstone Picture
Dr. Greenstone is a Psychotherapist, Mediator, Arbitrator, Negotiator, Author, Professor, Police Officer and Police Behavioral Health Specialist. He is well known as a Police Hostage Negotiator and Trainer. Formerly, he served as the Director of Psychological Services for the Fort Worth, Texas Police Department and as the Operational Police Behavioral Health Specialist for the Hostage and Crisis Negotiation Team. Currently, Dr. Greenstone is the Director of Behavioral Health Services for the Tarrant County Precinct 4 Constable's Office. Dr. Greenstone is the author of The Elements of Police Hostage and Crisis Negotiations: Critical Incidents and How to Respond to Them, The Haworth Press, Inc., 2005 (,The Elements of Disaster Psychology: Managing Psychosocial Trauma was published in 2007 by Charles C. Thomas, Publishers ( The Elements of Crisis Intervention, 3 rd Edition was published in 2010. He is the Editor-in-Chief Emeritus of the Journal of Police Crisis Negotiations and governing Council of the Committee on Publication Ethics. Currently, he is a member of the Editorial Board of Military Medicine, International Journal of the Association of Military Surgeons of the United States, and is a Colonel in the Texas State Guard Medical Brigade. Additionally, he is a Diplomate of the Society for Police and Criminal Psychology. Dr. Greenstone may be reached at


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Copyright © 2013 James L. Greenstone
Copyright ©   2013  The Negotiator Magazine
The Negotiator Magazine  August 2013