On October 5, 2015, the Fordham Law School Dispute Resolution Society hosted its annual symposium, entitled “Negotiating with the Dangerous.” Keynote speaker Professor Andrea Schneider of Marquette University Law School brushed with broad strokes in her discussion of inherently dangerous negotiations, dangerous elements to otherwise safe negotiations, and dangerous externalities to negotiations not considered dangerous by the parties themselves. She offered helpful strategies for handling dangerous parties, stressing the importance of building trust early on during the negotiation process, being patient, compassionate and curious, listening, and always checking your assumptions. She emphasized the usefulness of incorporating the concept of a toolbox to achieve a successful negotiation. What is in Professor Schneider’s negotiation tool box besides assertiveness, empathy, flexibility, social intuition and ethicality? A bottle of water and a pen to take notes.
Following the inspiring keynote address, Professor Karen Greenberg, Director of the Center for National Security at Fordham Law, moderated a panel discussion offering different perspectives on when and how to negotiate in dangerous situations. Participants included Professor Michael Fowler of the University of Louisville, Professor Anthony Wanis-St. John of American University School of International Service and Lt. Jack Cambria, former commander of the Hostage Negotiation Team of the New York City Police Department.
Some of my take-aways from the panel discussion were:
- The importance of showing empathy during a crisis. Once common ground can be established between negotiating parties, it allows them to empathize with each other.
- What most people respond to is respect. Pay attention to your “face” and “tone” because you could say one thing but give the wrong impression.
- Secrecy can help negotiations progress, although too much secrecy can erode the necessary public support to reach an agreement.
- It is good to share personal experiences with hostage takers to foster trust.
- Learn how to lower expectations by reframing.
- Some of the benefits of negotiating with hostage takers– even if negotiations do not resolve the situation completely, they can often save at least a few lives off the bat, provide valuable intelligence for tactical forces on the situation inside, and help frame any concessions made to the hostage takers.