information about the person, make people like you, and win people to your way of
thinking. Listening plays a crucial role in negotiations like it does in interrogations to obtain
Negotiators in crisis moments are faced with the dilemma of handling a subject's
frustration, anger, and rage. Many crisis situations involve a person who has experienced
intimate rejection, unemployment, or psychological problems.
When a raging abductor is holding someone hostage, the assigned negotiator had better
be prepared to deal with the situation. When you or the other person gets filled with anger,
and rearing to threaten and use other aggressive communication styles, you need to be
In an FBI publication, Gary Noesner, chief negotiator for the FBI's Critical Incident
Response Group, and Mike Webster, former police officer and leader of a private law
enforcement consulting firm, wrote an issue titled Crisis Intervention: Using Active
Listening Skills in Negotiations.
Noesner and Webster say that subjects often have dispersed thoughts and feelings that
themselves do not understand.
Active listening skills is an effective way of building understanding of the subject's thoughts
and feelings, for the subject and negotiator, to create an emotionally safe environment that
encourages open communication and empathy.
Overall, you persuade people and get them to like you, with a series of attentive listening
skills. By listening and showing your understanding of the person's perspective, while
earnestly caring through empathy, you show the person that you have taken their best
interests into your decisions. This gives you more charisma and persuasive power.
Noesener and Webster provide the following seven active listening skills:
1. Minimal encouragements – Say short phrases that show the person you are mindful
of what they are saying. Minimal encouragements include, “okay”, “I see”, and “uhhuh”.
Nodding your head is also a minimal encouragement that shows your
2. Paraphrasing – Restate what the person says, though in your own words. Someone
says, “I don't want to sweep the floor.” In reply you could say, “You'd rather not
sweep the floor.” Contrast that paraphrasing statement with what most people
would threateningly say, “Sweep the floor now or I'll also make you wash the
dishes.” Remember that paraphrasing and other attentive listening skills aim to
assist your persuasive abilities while nurturing the relationship. By themselves, they
are not used to change behavior though that does occasionally happen.
3. Emotion labeling – Mention the emotions you see the person is experiencing about
the issue. Let's say you have a child who does not want to go to school. Instead of
giving an order, such as saying “go to school”, comment on the child's feelings
about not wanting to go to school. You could say, “I see you are disappointed in
having to go to school.” If the child confirms your statement, you have gained
valuable persuasive power. In crisis intervention, labeling emotions is powerful
because it helps the negotiator understand the other person's driving motives
behind their stance. When you understand where the person is emotionally coming
from, you are more able to get them to where you want them to be.
4. Mirroring – Restate a few of the person's last words. The person says to you, “Your
friend Bill does some really annoying things to me. I hate him.” You keep calm
because you have learned that demeanor, poise, and patience are charismatic
skills, before saying, “Hate him, uh?” This technique requires very little effort as it is
simple to use and it keeps other people talking – all the while you understand more
about the person, boost your charisma, and increase your persuasive power.
5. Open-ended questions – Ask questions that get the person talking. A few examples
of open-ended questions that you can use in many situations include: “Could you
explain that a little more?” “What do you mean?” and “What are you thoughts about
6. “I” messages – Personalize your communication by saying “I” messages.
Negotiators may fall into the trap of talking impersonally by talking as if the person
represents several people. Instead of saying, “that isn't a good decision because it
is ignorant”, you could say, “I don't like that decision because it ignores my concerns
of...” Using “I” in your conversations makes you own the experiences in your
7. Effective pauses – Just be silent. Negotiators may feel the need to fill silence with
unnecessary words, which detracts from their persuasive abilities. Silence is a
technique you must use to: handle intense emotions, give the other person an
opportunity for reflection, and enable both persons to express clear messages for a
better understanding. Effective pauses also allow you to reflect on your persuasion
efforts. This allows you to determine what is the ideal path for your charisma and
persuasive power in the conversation that lays ahead.