Crisis Negotiation: From Suicide to Terrorism Intervention

Crisis Negotiator Blog by Jeff Thompson

This chapter uses an account of a real-life crisis negotiation to explore what is know about these high-stakes, emotion-fueled interactions. We begin by reviewing literature relevant to four different interaction periods within the case: first impressions and the verbal and nonverbal factors that effect initial exchanges; rapport development and the communicative skills that facilitate information gathering; sensemaking and the frameworks that help negotiators understand the motivations of their interlocutor; and, influence strategies and their impact on moving a perpetrator from antagonism to cooperation. 

After reviewing these phases, we consider the impact of contextual factors, such as perpetrator’s background and type of incident, on the way in which the phases occur. We then conclude by identifying areas ripe for future research. We discuss the need to better understanding influence across cultures, the sensemaking of negotiators over time, and the experiences of victims. 

Snippet: The instant impression (e.g., first 30 seconds) and opening gambit (e.g., 5-10 minutes) of a negotiator is critical to how a crisis incident becomes framed and how it then unfolds. This period of the interaction is typically characterized by extreme emotions and mistrust, with perpetrators struggling for dominance and protecting their face rather than exchanging information or bargaining (Donohue, Kaufman, Smith, & Ramesh, 1991). 

Sometimes, negotiations do not get past this stage. Indeed, a much cited anecdote in the literature is of the negotiation that lasted hours because the negotiator did not offer the perpetrator an opportunity to come out; the negotiation continued because the perpetrator, who has no expectation or ‘script’ about how the interaction should unfold, did not realize that surrendering was an option (McMains & Mullins, 2001).

Authors: Simon Wells, Paul J. Taylor Lancaster University, UK and Ellen Giebels University of Twente, The Netherlands

Read the full paper [HERE]. 

                        author

Jeff Thompson

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… MORE >

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