needs life-saving services will probably
feel worse before feeling better, and will
not want to be there.
A person with a bodily medical emergency who is told “you need to go to
the hospital right now for emergency
surgery” can usually participants in the
discussions and decisions. They can
say “No” and go home and take their
chances that they may die from their
bodily malfunction, or go to the hospital.
In an emotional crisis, a person’s rational thinking button may be broken at the
very time it is needed the most, making
them unable to participate effectively
in the decision-making process. It is as
hard to go from suicidal thoughts to “I
am fine” as it is to go from serious surgery to home the next day. This is why a
professional can act on someone else’s
behalf, even against their will, to take
steps to try to protect them when they
aren’t processing safely and are at high
risk of self-harm.
Experienced conflict resolvers know
how to observe body language while
listening to words and tone for consistency in what is being communicated.
This is an extraordinary skill that makes
them naturals for understanding the
intricate nature of critical conversations
If we remember the importance of
talking about suicide, we can help reduce
the number of suicides by engaging in
conversations and starting discussions
by asking the question, “Have things
ever been so bad you thought of suicide
as a solution?”
With recognition, appropriate inter-
vention, and recovery counseling,
suicidal persons can rebound and go
on to enjoy rich, fulfilling lives, and share
their talents and resources as produc-
tive members of society.
The very nature of being a conflict
resolver connects the ability to observe
body language while listening to words
and tone for consistency in what is being
communicated. This is an extraordinary
skill that distinguishes conflict resolvers
as naturals for understanding the intricate nature of critical conversations.
Negotiating with Heart
Crisis negotiation calls for an understanding of communication, behavior, and psychology in context. It is a skill that
requires training and experience to master. But gaining skill in
the tools and techniques of crisis negotiation is only part of the
story. After 29 years of military and federal law enforcement
experience, most of it as a special agent with the FBI, I came to
realize the importance of negotiating with heart. It is this genuineness that makes a great crisis negotiator.
My first encounter with crisis negotiation started when I was
a new FBI agent working on Russian organized crime in Miami,
Florida. Before the terrorist attacks of 9/11, organized crime
cases were the bread and butter of the FBI.
My case involved wiretapping cell phones of several KGB-trained criminals who ran prostitution rings, trafficked in Ecstasy
and cocaine, and conducted strong-armed shakedowns in local
neighborhoods for “tribute,” a form of protection money. The
Russian criminals were brutal, with no respect for the law or
law enforcement, even compared with the “American” mafia.
Most were killers who had spent time in Russian prisons and
immigrated to the U.S. to continue their criminal enterprises,
mostly victimizing other Russians immigrants. These victims
rarely would talk to the police because of previous bad experiences with corrupt officers in Russia.
After several years of conducting the wiretap investigation, I
learned not only about the targets’ criminal activities, but also
about their personal lives and relationships. It was like I knew
Eventually I obtained the warrants to arrest the offenders. As you might expect, I requested the assistance from the
SWAT team, since my targets were known killers. The time for
the forced entry/arrest was set for 6:00 a.m. The SWAT team
arrived early in their typical black van with no markings. They
jumped out of the back of the van, dressed in black with lots of
guns and protective gear, and all in very good shape and rather
young-looking. The last man who exited the van, however, was
markedly different from the others: he was older, fatter and
much less fit.
As all the others ran past me, the older man was the only
one who stopped to ask me about the people to be arrested.
About the Author
retired from the FBI
after 29 years of
in the military and
as a federal agent.
He was the Chief of
the FBI’s legendary
Unit, and an FBI crisis and hostage negotiator. He is now
of Criminal Justice
at Missouri Western
I felt strongly that if I were to truly
understand how crisis negotiation worked
I needed to understand why it worked.