Negotiating Tip #23:
Business Negotiators Can Learn from Other Negotiators
As profiled in the Financial Times, Suzanne Williams spent 30 years as a Scotland Yard police officer, including as their hostage negotiator. She specialized in kidnappings, sieges, suicide prevention, and what she calls “crimes gone wrong” such as bank robberies.
While in business school after retiring, she realized many skills from hostage negotiating apply in business. For instance, managing the parents of abducted children can be harder than managing the kidnappers – in a business context, your management and colleagues can be as much a problem as the other side. Other examples: identify who are the real decision-makers, know what is really negotiable, and prepare a second-best scenario to fall back on.
Many of her clients are women wanting to learn how to be more assertive. She offers some advice we also make use of at Mobus Creative Negotiating. In particular, gather information, consider what the other side really wants, and make sure your pitch is evidence-based. Some of her advice for British clients fits Americans perfectly, for instance, “don’t fill silence with nonsense, there’s a British trait of thinking every silence has to be filled.”
We at Mobus Creative Negotiating have as a mantra that to be human is to negotiate – that we negotiate in many different contexts. However, not all negotiations are the same. Dealing with a kidnapper is very different from dealing with a sole-source supplier. We teach you how to recognize what kind of situation you are and how to adapt your approach to that situation.
To be honest, our course is probably not ideal for learning how to negotiate with hostage-takers, but we cover the full range of business situations, from one-time haggling over price to working a long-term strategic partner.