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Hostage and Crisis Negotiations: Wise Behavior for Hostages in a Hostage Situation

By James L. Greenstone, Ed.D., J.D., DABECI

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Not all detentions of a person by another, against the detainee’s will, are hostage situations. A domestic dispute would be a notable example of a non-hostage or crisis situation. Suicide attempts may or may not be a hostage situation depending on one’s perspective. (Cooper, 1997). Certainly, it is a crisis situation. This paper will propose those behaviors and actions to be taken by hostages to elevate the probability of surviving such an ordeal.


No set of guidelines is a guarantee. Crises may not always respond to the guidance that follows here. Some may be totally appropriate. The instant dynamic of any such situation, hostage or crisis, are important to consider before acting.

While hostage negotiations and crisis intervention are important courses of study, here the focus will be the survival of those actually taken hostage. What are suggested are best practices. They are intended specifically for situations requiring hostage negotiations rather than for situations requiring crisis intervention. This specificity is important because the dynamics of these diverse situations are different. For example, while a domestic dispute or crisis usually involves family members or other known persons, hostages are usually taken by strangers to those who are taken. Necessarily, what works or does not work for those detained against their will will be affected by the actual type of situation encountered.


Some of the guidelines are simple common sense reminders. Others may require some thought. Remember, the goal is to survive should you find yourself so involved. Take what follows seriously. Note that what you might want to do, or who you are, in day-to-day encounters, may get you killed in these particular predicaments. This is serious business and should be taken seriously. As a hostage, you will be used as leverage against the police who are seeking your release. Generally, it is to the hostage taker’s advantage to keep you alive. Expect little more and resist pushing the envelope. Hostages have been hurt or even seriously injured while in captivity even though not killed. Always attempt to stay out of harm’s way if you can. These guidelines may help.

References on point are provided should you want to explore hostage negotiations in greater depth. The author may be contacted as indicated.

Hostage and Crisis Negotiations: Wise Behavior for Hostages in a Hostage Situation By James L. Greenstone


Copyright © 2013 James L. Greenstone
Copyright ©   2013  The Negotiator Magazine
The Negotiator Magazine  August 2013