STORES Magazine - May/June 2017 - LP55
I started considering hostage negotiation
because it's aligned with crisis response.
The thing about crisis response that I
was drawn to is that you've got to make
a decision. Paralysis or analysis is not
allowed in a crisis. Being involved on the
negotiation side turned out to be more
satisfying for me than the SWAT team
because of the level of engagement.
How might you apply some of
the negotiation methods you've
developed over the years to diffusing
an active shooter situation?
Do you recall the name of the movie?
"The Super Cops." It was based on a
true story of two young officers in New
York City who applied some wildly
creative methods to policing and arrested
a bunch of drug dealers. What stuck
with me was the way they helped the
community they served and in turn how
the community appreciated them.
My first job was as a beat cop in
Kansas City, Mo., but shortly after
I became interested in federal law
enforcement. I spoke to a guy who was
Secret Service and traveled all over the
world working for the Secret Service,
and I thought to myself, "There's an
interesting idea - travel around the
world and get paid to do it." As fate
would have it, the Secret Service wasn't
hiring, but the FBI was. Eventually I
joined the bureau and was sent to
The unit I was assigned to was a
terrorist task force. It was chock-full
of creative hardworking folks and the
challenge and pace were compelling.
How did you make the jump into
international kidnapping negotiator?
I'd always wanted to be a member of
the SWAT team. I did a stint in SWAT
when I was with the FBI in Pittsburgh,
but I injured my knee and knew that
eventually I'd blow it out completely if I
continued in that capacity. That's when
Active shooters have rehearsed in their
mind ahead of time how it's going to go
- right down to envisioning the news
coverage. They've anticipated people
begging for their lives, and possibly
shooting those people while they're
doing that. They've anticipated steeling
themselves to some sort of begging
and pleading, so that's not going to
matter to an active shooter. It's what we
refer to in negotiations as anticipated
dialogue. In any negotiation, the last
thing you want to do is engage in an
You need to start by catching them off
guard. Start by giving yourself a name.
It's harder for them to shoot someone
they know than it is for them to shoot
at a nameless person. If I was facing
an active shooter and I thought he was
going to shoot me, I'd say, "I'm Chris."
What are some other things that
might catch them off guard?
An active shooter is ultimately doing
this because there's a deep fear of
obscurity inside: This is an infamous
thing to do, a way to live in infamy. You
can look at an active shooter and say,
"You don't have to be afraid," because
that's the last thing that they're going
to expect to hear and it cuts deeply into
what's driving them to begin with.
Based on what I've read in your book, a
large part of the art of negotiation lies
in mastering the intricacies of "no" and
not "yes." How does that work?
I think the appeal of the book is that
there's nothing in it that's complicated
- you don't have to have a Ph.D. to
"The idea of trying to
get people to say
'yes' is overdone.
It's grounded in what
you do to get them
understand it or to understand how to
execute. It's very different than what
we've been taught. The idea of trying
to get people to say "yes" is overdone.
It's grounded in what you do to get
them to listen.
You've got to say something that
catches them off guard. Then, whatever
words you say after you've got their
attention carry more weight. It's about
figuring out how to startle them in a
good way and to articulate what's going
on in their head.
That's the whole idea behind a term I
coined - "tactical empathy." Basically,
you're trying to show the person you're
negotiating with that you can see things
from their perspective. Doing so makes it
easier to influence them.
It's about how to confront without
being confrontational. It's about using
listening as a martial art, balancing
the subtle behaviors of emotional
intelligence and the assertive skills of
influence to gain access to the mind of
another person. One of the simplest ways
to engage in tactical empathy is through
mirroring ... by repeating the last few
words your counterpart just said back
to them, you can establish a rapport. It
encourages the other side to talk and
reveal their strategy.
Retail loss prevention executives
frequently deal with crisis
management. Managing local
protesters or a cyber breach is
different from crisis negotiation, but
are there lessons that might dovetail?
The first thing I'd say is tell the
undisputed truth. When you tell the
indisputable truth and don't try to
assign blame, then people begin to
look at a situation fairly and make up
their own mind as to where blame lies.
Showing that you're not afraid of the
STORES May/June 2017 LP55