Ryan on Negotiating

Ryan on Negotiating

I was always a good student. My grades may not have been that great, but I went to class, asked questions and was always totally engaged. I was good at the actual in-class activity of being a student, just not so much the test taking part of it. So when the NYPD periodically offers classes for the officers, I jump at the opportunity. Want to know the pros and cons of different handcuff designs? I’m your guy. Wondering about the storied past of our city’s Puerto Rican culture? I may be able to help. Want help buying a car? Yeah, I can probably help you out with that too.

See, one of the most useful classes I’ve taken was on hostage negotiation. While Beckett, and now oddly enough Castle, have first hand experience with hostage takers, I myself have never used my skills in the field. I have however, used them in everyday life. A lot. It’s amazing how useful hostage negotiation techniques can be. The nibble, B.A.T.N.A., disarming empathy, expanding the pie – these are golden tools of every sort of negotiation.

For example, this one time Jenny and I were getting some remodeling done at our apartment, and frankly, I negotiated like a champion. First off, I remembered that timing is everything. When dealing with a hostage taker, you generally want to wait a little while before you start negotiating, so they get hungry. That way you have one more thing to leverage them with. Using the same principle, I set our first appointment in mid December, when I knew business was about to start tapering off for the holidays.

Then, after our contractor looked around, I made sure to be the first to suggest a price.  That way, I set the benchmark for where the negotiations could go. You wouldn’t say “What will it take for you to release those hostages”, you just say “Release those hostages.” But you have to know what you’re talking about. You don’t want to go with an offer that is so low that it makes the other person walk away. You just want to set them on edge a little bit. There’s a sweet spot in there, you just have to find it.

From there, it’s all about sticking to your guns, but being nice about it. If you just dig your heels in and keep repeating the same number, you probably won’t have much luck. Instead, you tell the person that their price is absolutely fair, but you just can’t afford it. That way they’ll sympathize, and want to help you out. That’s why you always see negotiators trying to form a relationship with the hostage taker. When you’re nice, people tend to want to be nice back to you.

I will admit there is one pretty big difference between these kinds of negotiations. If you blow a negotiation for your remodel, you can always find another contractor. If you blow a hostage negotiation on the other hand… things get deadly. So you have to know what you’re willing to lose.

Oh, and one more thing. Please don’t use any of this on your significant other. You may love that couch that you got for 40% off because of your keen negotiating skills, but you won’t like sleeping on it.