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’).

Friday, November 10, 2017

‘An error is feedback’: the experience of communication error management in crisis negotiations

So as human beings, we are not perfect. That includes crisis hostage negotiators. So how do we handles errors during negotiations and how can we learn from them and more importantly figure out ways to avoid them in the future? 

Miriam S. D. Oostingaa, Ellen Giebels and Paul J. Taylor explore this in their recent research paper. I encourage you to read the entire paper at the link below while I also pulled some snippets from it:

Ways to improve At the end of the interview, we asked negotiators to reflect on how errors could be best addressed within negotiation teams. The interviewees offered four solutions. 
The first had to do with practicing and training. All interviewees agreed that this should be done more often. They suggested that negotiators should observe each other and reflect on what happens, so that everyone can learn from each other’s errors. 
Research (Heimbeck, Frese, Sonnentag, & Keith, 2003) shows that this approach towards errors within training sessions indeed has a positive effect on – adaptive transfer – performance. 
Second, they mentioned ensuring that the negotiator’s role and their associated equipment was set up in an optimal way to, for example, ensure that they had sufficient time and resources to effectively debrief on errors (cf. Spence & Millott, 2016). 
Third, they suggested a yearly check-up with a psychologist, to ensure that any emotional sequela of prior service is identified and managed.
Fourth, the interviewees acknowledged that the available knowledge in science should be used in a better way, for example, by discussing the newest scientific insights in training days. 

And here’s a reference on sensemaking, an important concept all negotiators should be familiar with:

To be effective, the negotiator must make sense of what is going on and engage with the perpetrator’s needs perception of what is occurring (Wells, Taylor, & Giebels, 2013). 
According to Weick, Sutcliffe, and Obstfeld (2005, p. 409), this sensemaking can be defined as: …the ongoing retrospective development of plausible images that rationalizes what people are doing. It is a diligent process used to unwrap what is going on and determine what motivates the other person and, critically, what can motivate them to take a more cooperative position (Donohue & Taylor, 2003). 
Nonetheless, negotiators face unexpected twists and turns all the time (Weick, 1988) and an error in sensemaking may easily lead to an error in communication.
Read the full paper [HERE]. 

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Sensemaking - Why You Need To Know It

Interpersonal Sensemaking: The forgotten Skill?
From the Influential Paul J. Taylor

Something has always bugged me about the way interaction skills are taught. Be it interviews, negotiations, or sales pitches, the emphasis is invariably the same. It’s tactics. Use open-ended questions. Avoid being judgmental. Get them a coffee (but have a tea with you too in case they prefer it, then drink the one they don’t take). Plan. Plan some more. Etc. Etc.

This focus isn’t wrong. Each one of those tactics is good advice. But I can’t help thinking that we’re neglecting to learn a second skill. That skill is interpersonal sensemaking. Making sense of the other person’s behaviour and its underpinning motivation is critical. How else does one determine the best thing to say? The best tactic to use?

Is it really an issue? After all, people are sensible. They’re going to try and say the right thing. Some are even practiced in active listening, a technique where the listener re-states what the speaker has said in his or her own words to confirm a common understanding. There’s no doubt that active listening is a step along the path of good sensemaking.

The case for giving more prominence to sensemaking is two-fold. The first is a simple observation. Can we assume that people intuitively know how to make sense of another any more than they intuitively know what tactic to use? The second is a more subtle point. The teaching of tactics often gives students the impression that good tactics work in all situations, regardless of timing or context.

...So, here’s my contention. Let’s stop thinking that certain tactics are good and certain tactics are bad. Let’s instead start thinking about people as sensemakers: people who are able to quickly make sense of what the other person is doing, and use tactics in a way that gains cooperation. That’s going to be quite a skill to master. Perhaps research can offer some insights into how to do this?

To make sense of somebody means we need to understand the different ways in which people communicate, and the motivations that underlie those ways.

Read the full article [HERE].

More on his Lab [HERE].

Get 'lost' reading his articles [HERE]... thank me later!

Saturday, November 4, 2017

My life as a hostage of al-Qaeda

It is a clear cold night in the Sahara desert and Stephen McGown lies on his back gazing up at the stars. Pulling his blanket under his chin he traces out the constellations he learned as a boy in South Africa.
“What a holiday of a lifetime this would be,” he thinks, “if I wasn't a hostage of al-Qaeda.”
It is early 2017 and the London banker’s fifth year in captivity. He is the only one in the camp who prefers to sleep outside even in winter.

Read more from the BBC [HERE].


Thursday, November 2, 2017

How To Win With A Narcissist: 5 Secrets Backed By Research

(From Dr. Craig Malkin is a psychologist at Harvard Medical School and his new book Rethinking Narcissism: The Bad — and Surprising Good — About Feeling Special offers some hope.
A lot of what you know about narcissists is wrong and there are proven ways to not only deal with them but to help them get better. (Not that narcissists need to get better — hey, they’re “perfect”, right?)
...Extreme narcissism is a disorder, and to help those who have it we need to remember it’s a disorder. When people suffer from depression, anxiety or borderline personality disorder we tend to feel sympathy but with narcissism we often moralize and say they’re “bad.” That’s like feeling sorry for people with tuberculosis but saying those with meningitis are a bunch of jerks who had it coming.
Read more from Eric Barker's great site [HERE].