The hijacking of a plane that landed with one hundred passengers shows us the importance of a written preparation. The hijacker threatened with two pistols. How much power does the hijacker have? How do you negotiate with an individual like that? Let’s learn from the police.

The police negotiators begin their dialogue to get informed in what the hijacker needs. “My name is so-and-so. I’m the federal police negotiator. I come to help.” He will come up with questions like, what do I have that the other wants? What does the hijacker need with one hundred passengers, including children, elderly, pregnant women and babies? After hours of being held hostage they will require milk for babies, water, food and medicine for the elderly. Does the hijacker want money? How does he want it? Where does he want it? How does he intend to leave? What vehicle does he need? Does he need a pilot? Does he want the press to come? Does he need fuel to fly?

These questions open the dialogue to various issues, rather than focusing on a single issue: the lives of the passengers. There is no attempt to convince the hijacker and persuade him not to kill anyone. Convincing a hijacker has rarely worked. To reprehend a hijacker doesn’t work either. The only thing that works is to give him what he wants, on your terms.

The police protect the passengers by introducing variables such as food, water, milk for babies, medicines for the elderly, gasoline for the plane or money. Why do the police introduce these variables? They do not want to focus the discussion on a single issue: to kill or not to kill. Think about it, when you negotiate with your clients you often end up discussing a single variable, which unfortunately is the usual: the price. “What about a 5% discount?”At the end of the process, the whole dialogue is reduced to money. And that is very difficult to defend for anyone.

Police introduce variables to use them later as the negotiating capital in the bargain phase. The federal police negotiator begins with small trades to inspire confidence. It is very common to start trading small things in exchange for hostages. “Do you want pizza?”, “If you release a hostage, we will give it to you.” “Do you want cigarettes? Release another hostage.” Thus, when the hijacker sees the negotiator complying with their word, his tension is declining and he begins to have enough confidence as to discuss their surrender. What if the hijacker asks for medicines for the passengers? No problem, the police will give it to him whenever he lets the babies out and the two pregnant women. Does he want fuel? They will give it to him as long as he releases the elders. The police use these variables to protect the lives of all passengers.

The first item on your list of variables is time. Whenever you feel that there is only one variable then think about time. Hence, the objective of the federal negotiator is to gain time. They know that the more hours the hijacker is in dialogue, the more interest he shows in wanting to reach an agreement and that he does not want to kill anyone. The more time spent negotiating, the more tired he will get. The longer the time, the more his position is weakened. As the talk progresses, the apparent closeness of the deal makes the hijacker more careless. That is why the police negotiator knows that the negotiation ends only when the hijacker is handcuffed and inside the patrol car.

The police use the time variable because they know that it runs in their favor and weakens the hijacker. Imagine the hijacker’s exhaustion after ten hours of dialogue with the police. Why do they spend so much time on him? While the negotiator is talking, the police have had time to call some very special gentlemen who are fully rested, prepared and motivated for the assault: the Special Forces. An elite, operative, prepared team that has trained for months to forcibly board planes with a hijacker that is armed and exhausted. Tell me, who has the power now?

List all the variables you could negotiate in your particular line of work. The list should be a long one. If it isn’t, you are missing opportunities for negotiating better deals. If you get stuck with a small list, give it another thought. Start from the other end and write down all the non-negotiable variables in your business, the things you don’t negotiate over. A constant reviewing of the negotiable tradables is a necessity for successful negotiating.


Image: Pixabay.

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