Friday, February 2, 2018

How Feeling Bad Changes the Brain turns out that our emotional state has an effect on how much empathy we feel. Our emotions literally change the way our brain responds to others, even when they are in pain. In particular, it is when we feel bad that it can have a consequence on our social world.

...In fact, our emotions are so powerful that when we are in a positive mood, it can dampen how much pain we feel when injured. It provides us with an analgesic-like effect. When it comes to negative emotions, the opposite occurs: our feeling towards that pain is exaggerated.

Wondering how this applies to crisis and hostage negotiation? Hopefully not. Also, thinking this article is about the subjects we deal with- wrong. This explains how our emotions can impact how we approach things. Read more on the concept of 'control' [HERE]. 

...Worse, a recent study, published in December 2017, has shown that when we feel bad it affects our in-built capacity to respond to others in pain. It literally dampens our empathy.

Read more from the BBC [HERE]. 

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

8 Things You Need To Know About Terrorist Decision Making

The following is from the influential UK-based CREST website and well-known terrorism researcher, Paul Gill. 

Paul Gill gives a breakdown on eight things terrorists consider when making a planning an attack, from an analyse of over 80 terrorist autobiographies

Terrorists from a wide array of ideological influences and organisational structures consider security and risk on a continuous and rational basis. Of course, the rationality of terrorism has been long observed. Traditionally, authors considered the rational adoption of terrorism as a strategy or a tactic. More recently, and perhaps more interestingly, they have examined the kinds of rational decisions and behaviours that underpin the planning and commissioning of a terrorist attack.
Our recent research for a CREST-funded project on terrorist planning and decision making in the context of risk, led to us analyse over 80 terrorist autobiographies. Here are eight lessons from our study.

4. Internal feelings

Subjective factors play a large role in terrorist cost-benefit analyses. Many accounts of the planning phase note internal feelings of ‘tension’, ‘stress’, ‘frayed nerves’, ‘doubt’, ‘frustration’, ‘paranoia’, ‘fear’, ‘inborn sense of danger’, ‘premonition of disaster’, ‘highly sensitised’, ‘hyper-aware’, ‘anxious’, and ‘scared’. Such feelings were also common during the commission of an attack. Attackers note physiological reactions like ‘hand shaking’, ‘heart thumped like a drum’, and an ‘inability to sleep.’
Read more [HERE].

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Why Mental Delusions Are Hard To Break

Understanding the psychology and the perspective of the subjects that you engage is is critical to being successful as a crisis negotiation (That's empathy!). The following article is from the great PsyBlog.

Well-known mental delusions include Capgras syndrome, in which a person thinks all their loved ones have been replaced by impostors.

The reason people find it difficult to break free of mental delusions or hallucinations is down to faulty ‘reality testing’, one psychologist argues.
Well-known mental delusions include Capgras syndrome, in which a person thinks all their loved ones have been replaced by impostors.
Hallucinations and delusions can also be caused by serious mental health problems like schizophrenia.
Part of the brain normally checks strange ideas against reality.
However, said Professor Philip Gerrans, the study’s author, this doesn’t always happen:
“Normally this ‘reality testing’ in the brain monitors a ‘story telling’ system which generates a narrative of people’s experience.
A simple example of normal reality testing is the person who gets a headache, immediately thinks they might have a brain tumor, then dismisses that thought and moves on.

Read the full article [HERE]. 

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Lubbock PD negotiators compete in crisis negotiation competition in San Marcos

... Young said another component is the personal nature of what the negotiator team does.
“We’re there to try and help people as much as they’ll allow us to help them,” he said. “I think the citizens benefit from knowing that the police department is not here just to put people in jail or to kick in doors, but we’re actually here to try and help people on, sometimes, their worst day.”
Read more [HERE]. 

Saturday, January 20, 2018

NYT: At Least 5 Killed in Afghan Hotel Attack That Trapped Hundreds of Guests

KABUL, Afghanistan — Five people were found dead in Kabul’s largest hotel on Sunday morning, as authorities hunted the surviving attackers of an armed group that stormed the hotel hours earlier, trapping hundreds of guests during fighting that raged all night.

As the fighting took place, Mr. Rauf and hundreds of other guests spent the night hiding in rooms, wondering whether they would live or die. They were still there at dawn Sunday as sporadic gunfire continued, and most were still alive.

“Why can’t the police rescue us?”

More from the New York Times [HERE]. 

An eyewitness has told the BBC of the terrifying moment gunmen burst into Kabul's Intercontinental Hotel restaurant on Saturday.

The man, who is not being named for security reasons, said he was spared after saying he was an Afghan. 

"Where are the foreigners?" they shouted.

Fourteen foreigners are confirmed to have died, along with four Afghans.

"They were wearing very stylish clothes," he said. "They came to me and asked for food. I served them the food and they thanked me and took their seats. Then they took out their weapons and started shooting the people."

Read more from the [HERE].

Friday, January 19, 2018

Book Review: Held Hostage

(Review By Scott Tillema) I’ve found an exciting read for negotiators who enjoy learning from an experienced practitioner! Dennis Flynn, formerly of the Las Vegas PD, shares a collection of stories from his time as a police negotiator in his new book, Held Hostage.

What I love: Dennis isn’t the usual war-story teller, he provides true instruction for those of us looking to learn about what happened, and more importantly, why. Also, he shares interesting experiences that many of us don’t have, and probably never will!

For example, chapter 4 engages readers about a jumper from the Stratosphere, a 109 floor hotel. Instead of a full SWAT call-out, only negotiators were deployed. That will get you thinking about the limits to your BATNA awfully quickly. Dennis shares the details of that negotiation, all the way down to what he was wearing and why.

He talks about forming a bond with the man in crisis. A bond. That’s the key word in crisis negotiation, and without it, we have no influence, which is a huge problem when you have no other real options. It’s no surprise a veteran negotiator in a major US police department can clearly identify this as his goal and discusses in depth how he works toward it.

The section concludes with a dedicated “lessons learned” section. With every tip, I think of how any of us could apply these suggestions to our own work. Its clear, important and actionable. Another piece I love here is the admission his team was naive to safety practices of high angle rescue. How many of us professionals willingly admit we don’t know everything? That’s refreshing and real for the reader because we’ve ALL been in a situation where we say - well here’s a new one!

This is only one of 10 different incidents presented to the reader in “Held Hostage”. The author includes photos from each of these situations to help readers visualize each story, and they also underscore how real these incidents are. It's an easy book to pick up when you have only a few minutes! For both the interested observer, and the trained professional, you’ll enjoy this book!

Check out the book [HERE]

Check out reviewer Scott Tillema's article on Principles of Negotiation [HERE] and his TEDx Talk [HERE]. 

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

I Was a Crisis Negotiator for 23 Years. Here’s What It’s Like to Talk Down an Armed Hostage Taker.

I found this article posted on the on California Association of Hostage Negotiators (CAHN) Facebook page. I highly recommend checking and liking their page.

Gary Noesner, the former chief of the FBI’s Crisis Negotiation Unit, on the virtues of self-control and active listening.

The most damaging thing for a hostage negotiator is losing self-control. If you can’t control your own emotions, how can you begin to influence someone else’s? If you get angry at what the person has said or done, if you overreact when they don’t follow through on what they said, if you overreact to a verbal attack, that’s self-defeating and self-destructive.
The first task of a negotiator is to bring down the emotions. We use a diagram in training that looks like a child’s teeter-totter. On one side you have “emotions,” and on the other side you have “rational thinking.” When emotions go up, rational thinking goes down.

...Rather than just say, “We can talk about all this later, put your gun down,” you say, “Tell me what happened. I can see you’re upset.” You’re not agreeing with him, you’re just saying: I understand how you feel.
Read more from [HERE]. 
Visit the CAHN Facebook page [HERE]. 

Monday, January 15, 2018

Hero police officer spends 4 hours talking young man out of suicide

IDAHO FALLS — A humble police officer acted as a father figure while persuading an armed young man not to take his own life Friday.

Idaho Falls Police Officer Bart Whiting spent four hours talking with the man, which ultimately resulted in a peaceful outcome.

“It was a very tense situation that could have ended very poorly,” Idaho Falls Police spokeswoman Holly Cook told

Read more and watch the video [HERE]. 

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Suspect in 30-hour standoff demanded ‘thousands’ in cash from 10-year-old boy’s mother

A 30-hour standoff that involved a 10-year-old boy being held against his will at an apartment complex in Liberty Twp. began with the door being opened for the suspect.
Donald Tobias Gazaway, 31, was let into the apartment late Friday night by residents of the apartment in the 700 block of East Hamilton Place, according to Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones.
...During the standoff, Gazaway raised the garage door up and down and turned the car lights on and off.
“And occasionally he shot at us,” Sheriff said.
About 20 shots were reported fired during the incident.
Read more [HERE]. 

Friday, December 1, 2017

ICNA 2018 Conference

Have a look at the information below for the upcoming 2018 annual conference. Get more information at

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Table of Ten: Communication Predictors and Social Influence in Crisis Negotiations

Ellen Giebels – Paul Taylor

(From the paper)- To unpack the tactics presented in the image, it is useful to distinguish between tactics that are primarily connected with the sender and his or her relationship with the other party (relational tactics), and tactics that are primarily connected with the content of the message and the information conveyed to the other party (content tactics).

Importantly, this distinction brings to light a fundamental tension that exists in crisis negotiations. 

On the one hand, police negotiators must work hard to reduce the emotionality of the crisis, which they achieve through empathic, uncritical messages that are supportive of the perpetrator’s concerns about issues such as personal safety and self worth. 

On the other hand, however, there is a need for police negotiators to acknowledge the inappropriate actions of the perpetrator and work towards a realistic, substantive resolution. This side of negotiation is inherently less empathic and more focused on content, with negotiators often unable to conciliate to the perpetrator’s demands and compelled to disagree over the form of a resolution. As Taylor and Donohue (2006) note, police negotiators are required to handle the complexity of expanding the “emotional pie” as well as expanding the traditional “substantive pie.” The tactics outlined in Table 1 help negotiators achieve both of these objectives.

The Table of Ten has reportedly helped police negotiators in their efforts to diversify their use of influence tactics, and facilitated their efforts to switch between different tactics to suit the goal and conditions at hand. This may be especially true during periods of interaction when negotiators are seeking to make sense of the situation and break through undesirable interaction patterns

The Table of Ten provides a way of monitoring negotiators use of the available repertoire of influence tactics.
If they have inadvertently focused their messages around content-focused persuasion, then this becomes clear in the monitoring process and the negotiators can consider whether or not it is worth switching to some of the relational focus influence tactics, such as Being equal and Being kind. Moreover, by keeping a log of a perpetrator’s responses to different influence tactics (either mentally or physically using a chart), negotiators are able to develop a useful portrait of the perpetrator’s responses to different attempts at influence.

...By associating research findings with different tactics in the framework, police negotiators are able to bring to their strategies a clear understanding of the complex cue-response relationships that have been identified in the influence literature. 
For example, one important message from our research is that use of Rational persuasion and Intimidation is likely to be more effective in negotiations with perpetrators from low-context, rather than high-context, cultures.

Thus, when negotiating with a perpetrator from a high-context culture, police negotiators might consider making less use of rational persuasion and more use of affective influence tactics, such as Emotional appeals. Our research to date suggests that this approach is likely to receive a more positive response from the high-context perpetrator.

Read the full paper [HERE]. 

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

"Extreme Listening"

(Adapted from This is a shortened version of an article written by someone who took a course by Simon Wells. In case you are asking who Simon Wells is: He has spent the past 13 years as a crisis negotiator in the UK and overseas, including on behalf of the UK government with terrorist groups. He has 30 years' experience with the Metropolitan Police including 20 years specialising in using behavioural science to benefit law enforcement, the military and special forces units across the world.

Wells breaks his techniques into three distinct stages: 
  1. Understanding the subject
  2. Communications and
  3. Closing. 
Every step emphasizes listening over talking.
The first step is understanding the subject – what can you tell about your subject by observing him or her? How they dress, their natural language and vocabulary, their body language, their cultural background or other evident affiliations – what one might call sizing your subject up. We do this often in our industry of course, but great communicators have the ability to do it like a hostage negotiator, intuitively, and in real time. It’s a quality that the ivory towers of marketing and advertising often don’t value enough, perhaps because unlike big data, it’s tough to quantify.
The second stage, communicating, is again listening focused: understanding, encouraging and empathizing. “The more they talk, the more you learn,” he said.
Finally, in the closing stage, it’s all about the subject leaving the dialogue feeling heard, and feeling some sense of control – up to and including the understanding that it’s the subject who ended the conversation, not you.

Hearing. Understanding. Empathizing. Control. For a man who talks with terrorists, they lead to learning and communication. 

Monday, November 20, 2017

Crisis Negotiation: From Suicide to Terrorism Intervention

How's the following snippet for getting your attention?
At 2:30am on a Saturday morning you accompany the police to a small housing estate in North London where a man is standing on his third-floor balcony. He has a nylon rope around his neck that is attached securely to a washing line hook. He is leaning on the metal fence that separates the balcony from the drop below such that, if he falls or jumps, it is likely that he will decapitate. The man sees you approaching and acknowledges this by asking, “what the f--- do you want?” By this stage of the Handbook you will have read a great deal about negotiation. So, putting what you have read into practice, what would you say or do?
As crisis negotiators, we have to know what works and then be able to apply it to each our unique styles. In Crisis Negotiation: From Suicide to Terrorism Intervention, Wells, Taylor, and Giebels (names you should all know by now) share valuable insight that every negotiator should be familiar with. 

I have pulled some things out for you but I encourage you to read the full paper [HERE]. 

I have a research study that will be published early next year. One thing I explore in it is the opening moments of the negotiation and how the negotiator introduces him/herself. Here's what Wells, et al. have to say:
We examine the story of the two police officers at four time periods during the incident. This allows us to capture different aspects of the dynamics that shape an unfolding crisis. Figure 1 presents these periods along a timeline. Immediately apparent from this timeline is the importance of the first few minutes of interaction to crisis negotiation. 
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).
Here's an example of the introduction. Take particular note of the last statement:
“My name is Dick and I work with the Police to help people who may be considering killing themselves. I can see that you are three floors up, on the wrong side of the balcony, and that you have a noose around your neck. It appears to me that something has happened to you that has made you feel desperate for someone to hear what you have to say...” 
And, importantly, the implications when negotiating with a terrorist:
A number of features of this opening encounter have their origins in research. For example, by communicating about what can be seen rather than inferring the likely feelings of the perpetrator, Dick is careful to avoid making assumptions or suggesting a degree of familiarity that may cause conflict (Arkowitz, Westra, & Miller, 2008). 
This is consistent with a wider observation in terrorism research, which is that engagement with those promoting violence is more successful when focused on the act rather than on the underpinning ideology or motivation (Prentice, Rayson, Taylor, & Giebels, 2012). 
For those interested in reading the research behind the Prentice citation, here is the title and the link: Title: The language of Islamic extremism: towards an automated identification of beliefs, motivations and justifications

Ever wonder how does London's Metropolitan Police teach active listening skills? Wonder no more:
The Metropolitan Police Service’s crisis negotiation course teaches this skill in three parts: Focused listening, responsive listening, and communication encouragers. 
A focused listener pays close attention to the nature and content of what the perpetrator is saying in order to be able to accurately reflect back what it is they are trying to communicate. 
A responsive listener ensures that the perpetrator is able to say what she or he wishes without being interrupted or forced into changing content as a result of the listener’s behavior. 
A listener using minimal encouragers will communicate positive backfeeds such as “uh-huh,” “ok,” and “go on” in order to demonstrate to the speaker that she or he is paying attention (Rogers, 1951).
I highly suggest, again, you read the full paper. It includes the Table of Ten, which is described in another post.  

Monday, November 13, 2017

Interview: Simon Wells, Terrorist Negotiator, HM Government

Here's a snippet from a Q & A with Simon Wells. Read the full article [HERE]. 

Simon Wells has spent the past 13 years as a crisis negotiator in the UK and overseas, including on behalf of the UK government with terrorist groups. He has 30 years' experience with the Metropolitan Police including 20 years specialising in using behavioural science to benefit law enforcement, the military and special forces units across the world.

4) One of your books focus on negotiating with antagonistic people - which often comes up in the workplace. What do most people do wrong?
This may sound like I am repeating myself but people fail to listen, observe and actively engage. Furthermore, we spend too little time considering the other person’s position. Even those we label as terrorists (which is a verb not a noun) have a message and by failing to listen (whilst not necessarily agreeing with what they are saying) we create antagonism.
The other issue is the time we spend planning and preparing for encounters, considering how we approach meetings, and separating facts from rumour, or innuendo. Just by spending more time doing this we can create a more positive first impression and opening dialogue which should lead to less antagonism.
5) What are a few easy ways people can improve their listening skills?
Sounds simple, but practise. Most people think they are good listeners, I would say that at times we can be, but it is more a non-conscious reaction, by practicing on actually listening to people’s words we can better understand them.  A simple exercise is just to ask someone ‘how is your day going?’ then actually do nothing and listen as opposed to ask questions.  Just nod and use minimal encouragers (‘uh ha’, ‘go on’, ‘and then’).