Quick Tip: Hostage Negotiator's Tone of Voice

Crisis and hostage negotiator's are involved in situations that are tense, stressful, and anxiety-filled.  In order to try to reduce the overwhelming emotions being experienced by the person they are trying to help, the negotiator's tone of voice is an important tool that can help move the conversation toward a peaceful resolution.



According to Strentz (2012, p.81), after interviewing numerous hostage takers, a theme that emerged was that frequently the hostage takers could not recall the specific things the negotiator said to them that contributed to them turning him or herself in. What they did remember however was the tone of voice of the negotiator- it was one of concern for them as a victim and in need of help.

Think about that- the hostage taker felt the negotiator cared for them and felt like the negotiator saw them as a victim.  Can you as a crisis/hostage negotiator talk to a hostage taker so he or she feels like you have genuine concern for them?  This job is clearly not for everyone.  

Even if you are not a hostage negotiator, consider the impact your tone has if you are a mediator, negotiator, ombuds, or conflict coach. Being aware of your tone is the first step to realizing the impact it is having in your role as being a guide in assisting people navigate through their dispute or conflict.  

Your tone, like your other nonverbal (and verbal) communication such as your posture, gestures, and facial expressions is contagious- are your displaying calm, patience, understanding, and empathy?

The tone of voice of a hostage negotiator also is important because of its connection with he or her trying to build rapport and develop trust with the hostage taker.  In order for a crisis/hostage negotiator to be effective in influencing the hostage taker to re-evaluate their situation and accept a peaceful resolution, it requires a negotiator to employ a variety of skills that must be used effectively based on the context of the situation.

Some quick tips with respect to a negotiator's tone of voice:
  • An FBI negotiator during a training once said talk to the person as if they are your friend.  Your situation might be contextually different but ask yourself if your tone is displaying respect?
  • Speak slowly and clearly
  • Have your voice emit calmness while also being assertive (they complement- not contradict- one another)
  • Reduce speaking disfluencies ("umms" and "ahhs")
  • Use minimal encouragers ("mmm" and "okay") as it shows interest in what they are saying and encourages people to continue speaking  (Read about more active listening skills here)
  • Be genuine- regardless of what words you use, your tone can show the person if you genuinely care or just "going through the motions"
A negotiator's tone of voice, when used effectively, is a critical tool that can guide the hostage taker towards a peaceful conclusion.  This is not limited to just hostage negotiators as other conflict resolution professionals who are mindful of this will realize how your tone is an important tool in helping people involved in conflicts and disputes. 

read more "Quick Tip: Hostage Negotiator's Tone of Voice"

Top 10 FBI Behavioral Unit Techniques for Building Rapport With Anyone

Robin Dreeke
(From Time.com) Robin Dreeke is head of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Behavioral Analysis Program.
In his book It’s Not All About “Me”: The Top Ten Techniques for Building Quick ... he simply and clearly spells out methods for connecting with people.

1) Establish artificial time constraints

Nobody wants to feel trapped in an awkward conversation with a stranger...
Yes, I am sure you want to read more just click [HERE] and read the rest from Time.com 
You can also read more on rapport building from a few of my articles:

CPR: Charisma, Professionalism & Rapport

5 Tips On Measuring Crisis & Hostage Negotiation Progress

Tips On Building Rapport

read more "Top 10 FBI Behavioral Unit Techniques for Building Rapport With Anyone"

Your Stress Is Contagious

Mediators, coaches, negotiators, and ombuds- your verbal and nonverbal actions are contagious.  As "guides" in assisting people involved in conflicts and disputes, you can help or hinder them on their journey.

Sometimes your actions and words spoken are purposely done, yet other times unknowingly you "leak" out anxiety, stress, and discomfort.


A recent study demonstrates how your stress can be contagious.  

From one of my favorite sites PsyBlog:
Seeing another person under stress — even when you’re not involved in the situation — is enough to activate the stress hormone cortisol in your body as well, according to a new study. 
In the study, conducted by German psychologists, people who were emotionally closest to each other, demonstrated the highest empathic stress response (Engert et al., 2014).
 So what does this mean for conflict resolution professionals?

I first recommend being aware of your verbal and nonverbal actions by preparing properly.  Preparing can help you not give out stress signals that can then be "caught" by the parties you are trying to assist.

Building rapport, demonstrating patience, and displaying control of the process (while maintaining self-determination) allows you to promote positive signals that also can be contagious.  [Here's some quick tips on how to build rapport and how it can be diminished- all based on research]

Another important element is slowing the process and not rushing towards a resolution- regardless of how "perfect" you think it is.  It is no wonder crisis and hostage negotiators constantly practice this.

Research shows that both positive and negative signals are contagious.  Are professionals, you have the choice in guiding the parties down different paths.  Being aware of your signals is the first step in helping decide which path with be selected.
read more "Your Stress Is Contagious"

Popular Posts