The Best Negotiation: Interview with Jack Cambria

For 30 years Jack J. Cambria was the New York Police Department's Top Hostage Negotiator, managing hundreds of extreme negotiations. He is considered one of the most influential negotian expert and he was one of the main guests of the World Master Class "Dritti al sì", organized by the training company Performance Strategies on the 7th and 8th of May

From your experience, which are the 3 main skills a negotiator must have?
Maturity, Stability and Compassion. Hostage Negotiators are a group of law enforcement officers who attempt to resolve high-crisis situations with their words without resorting to tactical force. They must have the ability to remain calm under emotionally demanding circumstances. Demonstrating self-control is one of their most critical attributes. They are required to bring a lifetime of experience to the table in order to manage potentially volatile situations and be the calming voice of reason in the most unreasonable and chaotic of situations.

How to gain control under pressure?
The negotiator is expected to possess the ability to set his or her emotions aside during intense negotiations, be non-judgmental and non-threating in their approach, and to do so, in most instances, in a harmonious fashion. The one major theme in most occurrences is that the negotiator has a wealth of experience in dealing with these-type situations, whereas, the first-time hostage-taker or barricaded individual has no experience in dealing with this situation. The negotiator will draw upon his or her past experiences to slowly start to gain control by instilling a sense of calm and establish rapport and then (hopefully) trust that will enable that individual to abandon their plan and come out.

How to handle people who has no intention to negotiate?
These are perhaps the most difficult encounters to resolve. The negotiator must work diligiently to create a profile of the hostage-taker and thus gather intelligence of who this person is, and, perhaps more importantly, what is important to them. The negotiator will attempt to lower the emotional state of the individual by conveying that the situation may not be all that serious and that the negotiator can only help them if they cooporate with negotiation process. If that individual still refuses to communicate, and/or cooporate, then they may have to encounter a tactical response by the police.

What to do if you feel not having any negotiation power? How to gain it?
There would be several options in this case. One strategy might be to change the negotiator. If rapport and cooporation has not been established with the negotiator, then the negotiation team manager might consider starting over with another negotiator; perhaps a woman, if the first negotiator was a man. Conceivably the hostage-taker might prefer the softer approah that a female negotiator might offer. Another option is to advocate the benefits of cooporating with the negotiator; so why is it important to that individual to assist in this process. In the beginning, the hostage-taker is only interested in themselves. The negotiator would point out what would probably happen if they do not cooporate (tactical assault, longer jail time, etc.).

Talent, instinct, experience: are they enough?
Talent, instinct and experience are a necessary good starting criteria, however, it is important to realize that each negotiation is taylor-made for that specific individual. No two negotiations are exactly the same because no two people are exactly the same, nor are the circumstances of the incident. Although the negotiator must possess these virtures, they must also have the ability to be flexible to the ever-changing nature of a unpredictible hostage incident.

Negotiation may not be a art, but does improvisation pay off?
Yes, absolutely! The negotiator must follow the emotional rollercoster of the hostage-taker wherever it may take him or her, where often-times ad-libbing or improvising along the way may be considered, after all, this is an unscripted event where we do not know its ending. In addition to being skilled, the negotiator must also be creative in navigating the treacherous and dangerous waters of any hostage related event.


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