Negotiation is a skill required in many roles, but for Suzanne Williams QPM it's her job. We teamed up with the former head of Scotland Yard and global Kidnap and Hostage Negotiator to share her experience from negotiating in war zones, with modern pirates and on behalf of well-known families. 

In cases like a hostage situation, Suzanne tells us negotiation is all about saving lives, buying time and lowering emotions and expectations. But a lot of the skills required to achieve those things can be transferred to the world of work. 

After taking nearly 300 attendees through some interesting stories from her experience in the role she left the audience with three key mantras… 

👀 Seek first to understand, then to be understood

This is all about recognising your unconscious and conscious bias and not letting it get in the way of negotiation. It’s not about winning or losing, right or wrong but it’s trying to identify the answers to questions. In a hostage case it’s; why now? Why today? Why these people? And you’ll only be able to answer these questions by disregarding common assumptions and trying to understand the discussion and situation from their perspective, where they sit in your current context.

One of the live broadcast attendees commented: 

“What an amazing session to attend! So many takeaways but my main one was Suzanne's mantras and how she has to channel any conscious and unconscious bias in order to save lives.

Such a powerful skill that can be adapted into our everyday lives in order to ensure our worlds are more diverse and inclusive. Powerful stuff!”

👂🏻 Listening is the key to effective negotiation

Suzanne asked the attendees what the most important quality a hostage negotiator should possess in a live poll.

This was one of our key takeaways and something the audience guessed right in our live poll. Suzanne explained that listening is the key inventory in all negotiation. By listening you gain knowledge and knowledge is power, which is something we, of course, all know to be true in L&D. 

🎮 Change what you can control, influence what you can't

Suzanne’s last mantra to take away was “change what you can control, influence what you can't.” This is all about recognising the hooks and opportunities to influence a situation to your advantage.

As well as controlling what is in your hands, for example, your own emotions, a good hostage negotiator is able to compartmentalize and manage not only their own emotions but help others involved such as hostage families manage their emotions too.

When speaking about a kidnap situation, Suzanne asked the audience how they felt about paying a ransom. The reactions feature in THRIVE LXP’s latest tool broadcasts lets the audience show how they’re feeling. Here’s an example from the event which showed us that people did not agree with paying a ransom. 

Suzanne wrapped the session up with a live Q&A where the audience could ask her anything using the messages feature in broadcasts. We got all kinds of questions including; “how do you debrief and maintain your mental wellbeing day-to-day?” “How do you deal with press interest?” “Have you ever stepped down from a negotiation?” And so much more! 

We’ve already received such excellent feedback about the session and the launch of broadcasts, one attendee shared: 

“This was a fab demo and brilliant to hear about Suzanne's experience in Hostage Negotiation. The seek to understand is a great lesson to take away - as an L&D newbie, I can be easily frustrated with decisions and pushbacks sometimes, and hearing it laid out so clearly really resonated with me.

Super easy to join in and such a simplistic layout of the system - thank you so much to everyone involved!”

If you want to find out more about broadcasts and how it could be harnessed in your organisation, take a look at this article.

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