Negotiation Experience is Not Expertise

Crisis Negotiator Blog by Jeff Thompson

10,000 hours. That is the amount frequently cited as the number of hours it requires to be an expert in something.
Is there a difference between an being experienced negotiator and an expert? Check out this article to find out.

Consider the following scenario- Crisis Hostage Negotiator A attends a ten day training course, then each year he/she goes to a conference, as well as 4 quarterly trainings. He or she pays attention off and on throughout the process and clearly has an understanding of how to be a negotiator. That said, he/she also spent time throughout the trainings playing on their mobile phone as well as staring at the varying patterns of the wallpaper (come on- admit you have done that at least once!).

Crisis Hostage Negotiator B attends all the same training and conferences yet he/she takes notes, asks questions, reviews the work throughout the year, and considers how the skills being shared can be applied to their particular style.

Can both say they are experienced? Can both say they are experts?

Have a look below at an article I wrote on both terms and let me know what you think. Also consider how the three tips can apply to the work you do.

Experience Is Not Expertise

10,000 hours. That is the amount frequently cited as the number of hours it requires to be an expert in something. Malcolm Gladwell is arguably the most famous person for bringing this comment to the mainstream in his book The Outliers, however many people have referred to it in their books as well. Joseph T. Hallinan mentions it in his book Why We Make Mistakes.

Hallinan mentions it from the perspective of explaining the difference between experience and expertise. Just because you have done something many times does not make you an expert at it. Looking at this from the lens of trying to be more effective at using nonverbal communication as well as understanding the way others use it, our practice must be with an intention to be better.
Hallinan mentions the importance of proper practice (page 173):
“…practice needs to be directed toward improving the memory of the performance. When performed correctly, prolonged, deliberate practice produces a large body of specialized knowledge–a library if you will–in the mind of the person doing the practice.”

If you want to be better at using nonverbal communication, including yourbody language, it will take practice. I am not suggesting you need to become an expert and dedicate 10,000 hours, but rather dedicating some time to practice will make a difference.

Much like being good at anything however, it does take time. For example, learning the Facial Action Coding System to learn the various facial movements and their corresponding emotions they can emit takes approximately over 200 hours to complete with an exam at the end.

A first step is making sure what you are practicing in regards to tips and suggestions in nonverbal communication is grounded in research. There are plenty of books and people out there claiming to be an expert- it is your job and part of your practice to make sure they actually are.
The above fits in nicely as Hallinan later adds, “simplify where you can, and build in constraints to block errors (189).” Again, from a nonverbal communication perspective:

1) Simplify things: using my METTA acronym (movement, environment, touch, tone, and appearance- see more here) or creating one of your own will help ensure you are aware of all the nonverbal elements.

Full article here.


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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