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Hostage & Crisis Negotiators: Nonverbal Communication Basics

by Jeff Thompson
August 2013

Enjoy Mediation Blog by Jeff Thompson

Jeff Thompson

Learn the skills used by these expert negotiators and how it can help you.

Law enforcement crisis and hostage negotiators are world-renowned for their ability to apply expert conflict resolution and communication skills in situations that are tense, (potentially) volatile, and where lives can be at risk.

Learning the skills that these professionals apply to their distinct negotiation setting is not only interesting but it can also help you. Although their work is very different from yours most likely, the tools they use to effectively communicate and resolve a situation is still applicable to you and your work.

Nonverbal communication plays an important role during hostage and crisis situations involving law enforcement personnel. Nonverbal communication is not limited to solely “body language” but rather includes a variety of other elements. To raise awareness of the numerous nonverbal communication elements that are possibly present during an interaction, I created the METTA acronym (movement,environment, touch, tone, and appearance) during my doctoral research on nonverbal communication and mediators.

Below, I have applied the METTA acronym to the hostage and crisis negotiation setting offering an introductory look at how nonverbal communication can impact the negotiations while also offering insight to the skills used by these professionals.

Movement. Congruent body movement that is matching the words being spoken helps display genuine empathy while also contributes to developing rapport and building trust. Even when communication signals are limited such as just talking via phone, it still plays an important role. Think about the next time you are on the phone and notice how often you nod your head, use hand gestures, and use paralanguage such as “mmm” to express agreement or understanding.

Read the rest of the article at PsychologyToday.com [HERE].

Biography


Jeff Thompson, Ph.D., is a professor at Lipscomb University, researcher, mediator, and trainer. He is also involved in crisis and hostage negotiation as well as a law enforcement detective. His research includes law enforcement crisis and hostage negotiation in terrorist incidents. He received his doctorate from Griffith University Law School having researched the impact nonverbal communication has in conflict situations with respect to developing rapport, building trust, and displaying professionalism.

Dr. Thompson has presented and trained on the topic of conflict, mediation, (crisis and hostage) negotiation, communication and nonverbal communication internationally for a variety of audiences including police personnel, government officials, judges, attorneys, physicians, sales people, business professionals, and both graduate and undergraduate students. He has also been published in numerous professional and academic publications.

He is the co-chair of ACR's national Crisis Negotiation Section, and he is an ad-hoc reviewer for multiple academic journals. He received his MS in Negotiation and Dispute Resolution from the Werner Institute, Creighton University School of Law.

(All posts by Jeff Thompson represent his personal reflections and opinions and not that of any organization.)



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