Coinciding with International Conflict Resolution Day on October 20, 2011, FBI Special Agent Mark Holstaw came to Korbel to speak about the skills needed in crisis negotiation.
Drawing on his own experience with the Texas Seven, and negotiating over the release of oil workers held captive in Nigeria, Holstaw outlined the techniques used by career professionals in the negotiation field.
For individuals in crisis, the goal, says Holstaw, is to bring down their emotionality so that you can bring up their rationality. Using techniques like active listening, building rapport, and trust, crisis negotiators can influence hostage takers and others towards peaceful resolutions.
“I’m trying to convince them to do the right thing and do something they don’t want to do. It can be very challenging,” said Holstaw.
Going through the techniques with students in the Master’s of Conflict Resolution program, Holstaw was sure to emphasize that negotiation simply takes training. “It’s not magic, it’s stuff we all do,” he said.
Examples from his negotiations with the Texas Seven, seven men who escaped from a maximum security prison in Texas in 2000 and ended up being captured in Colorado, gave a real world application to the strategies outlined.
Empathy was noted as one of the most important skills to use. Trying to understand what a person in crisis is going through is a powerful motivator to building trust.
Using humor to illustrate serious crisis situations, Holstaw lamented, “I get the privilege of developing rapport with all the goofballs.”