Hopefully most of us have never been in a hostage situation, even though we’ve likely seen them on the news.
But we’ve all likely been stuck in a conflict that seems to have no ready resolution. Each party wants to hold their ground. Neither party wants to compromise.
Perhaps our political climate makes Stalling for Time even more relevant now than when it was published ten years ago.
The author Gary Noesner was once the head of the FBI’s Crisis Negotiation Unit.
But he is also an excellent storyteller. In his book he recounts stories about his years negotiating through some of the crises we watched unfold on TV (remember David Koresh and Waco in 1993?) and many that didn’t make the news, thankfully.
But while his stories are engaging (I never wanted to stop reading), his philosophy underneath the stories is even more important. And one that we all could follow.
“Whenever possible we should follow Martin Luther King Jr.’s advice to ‘pursue peaceful ends through peaceful means.’ Force should always be viewed as the least desirable and last option.”
If we have to negotiate, and we all will from time to time, the values of listening, showing respect, and wanting the best possible outcomes for everybody are qualities we all need to practice.
Excerpts from Stalling for Time
Here are a few favorite passages.
“Fred taught us that the key to successful negotiation was to discern the subject’s motivation, goals, and emotional needs and to make use of that knowledge strategically. Once we understood the hostage taker’s real purpose, we had a better chance of convincing him that killing the hostages would not serve that purpose and would only make an already bad situation worse.”
~ * ~ * ~
“Few case studies so succinctly illustrate the value of the negotiation process: Contain. Open communications to deescalate tension. Stall for time. Lower expectations. Make him bargain for everything.”
~ * ~ * ~
“If I’ve gained any wisdom in my FBI career, it has come from recognizing the degree to which everyday life can mirror the dynamics of the destructive standoffs I faced in my FBI job. Each of us is called upon to negotiate stressful situations in business, social encounters, and family life time and again. From what I’ve observed, the happiest and most successful people tend to be those who are able to remain calm at these difficult times and put aside emotions such as pride or anger that stop them from finding common ground.
~ * ~ * ~
“We all need to be good listeners and learn to demonstrate our empathy and understanding of the problems, needs, and issues of others. Only then can we hope to influence their behavior in a positive way.”
~ * ~ * ~
“You might even say that all of life is a negotiation.”
* * *
Have you ever been involved in a difficult negotiation? Please share in the comments.
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