The Negotiator Magazine

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“SME?” by Russ Moore.

You’ve been fortunate to have been selected for your department’s crisis negotiations team.   Based on your verbal skills and past work performance, you beat out 20 other qualified applicants for the coveted team slot.   You’ve now joined a very elite group of people who are tasked with the opportunity to save a life.   The department will send you to basic and advanced negotiations school within one year.   Every couple of years you might get to attend a training class.

Fast forward three years and you’ve been on ten missions. You’ve been to basic and advanced negotiations schools.   The members of your department look at you as the top negotiator.   The Command Staff looks at you as a resource or Subject Matter Expert (SME or “SCHMEE”).

The question is, are you? Can you live up to the billing or are you all Smoke and Mirrors?   Do you have the background or credentials to be considered a SME?  There are many negotiators on teams across America, who are “resume negotiators.”   Resume Negotiators (RN’s) are those who are on the team only to “pad” their resumes.  They do the minimum to remain on the Team. and try to be assigned to the command post on callouts.   Why?   Because that’s where the Command Staff is (of course!).  RN’s are always looking for “face time.”  They tell great war stories (usually other peoples).  RN’s will do everything in their power to never be primary negotiator because that places them in a position of possible failure and career derailment.  Many RN’s go through their negotiating careers having never actually talked with a person in crisis.    RN’s are a cancer to the Team and a disgrace to the profession.

To be considered a “professional” negotiator should be the goal of every member of a department’s team.   But to be considered a professional or SME, one must do everything within their power to gain as much knowledge and experience as possible in their chosen field.   In many ways, crisis negotiators are no different than a medical doctor.  Doctors, like negotiators, serve to save lives and are constantly updating their training and knowledge.  Why aren’t crisis negotiators doing the same?

How can you increase your knowledge and professionalism?   The following are a start:

ASSOCIATIONS:   Professionals in their chosen fields join organizations to associate with other professionals.    Doctors are all members of the American Medical Association (AMA).  Crisis negotiations should be no different.  Every state in America has associations that promote training and exchange of information for negotiators, The California Association for Hostage Negotiators (CAHN) has over 1000 members and is the largest negotiations association in the world.   CAHN conducts eight local trainings a year throughout the state and one annual training conference.   Dues are $35 per year.  Very inexpensive to enhance your knowledge and experience.

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March 2007