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Influence in Negotiations

Stalling for Time is the riveting memoire of Gary Noesner, the first chief of the FBI Crisis Negotiation Unit. Hostage negotiation was a budding discipline when Noesner was starting his career with the FBI in 1972 and was something he was interested in learning and wanted to “become good at.”

For Noesner, negotiation became a skill to be honed and developed over his 30-year career and he worked to learn from every human interaction he had. From domestic issues to kidnappings to high-level terrorism, Noesner encountered numerous situations to lead him to the relational abilities he has to influence other human beings.

Negotiation for Noesner comes down to influence and “as a negotiator, you have to earn the right to be an influence,” he says.

To earn the right, Noesner says you have to win their trust. You have to form a sincere, genuine relationship by listening, offering support and concern, and earning their respect, and you have to mean it.

I have found the ability to care about other people, especially people you don’t know and have seemingly no impact on your life, is a necessary skill in negotiating. It’s not always natural for people, so it could be something you have to learn and develop, and definitely something I have worked on throughout my career. 

For an FBI negotiator, if you don’t care if the guy on the roof jumps or not, then why would you put the emotion and empathy into helping him through that situation? 

Applying that idea to the business world, if you’re working on the merging of two companies, and you don’t care how these decisions affect each of the owners’ lives personally, then you may have severe blocks in your way. I know firsthand how important it is to also understand points of leverage, and these personal life details may help. 

Hear more about Gary Noesner’s philosophy on the importance of building relationships when negotiating on our March 10th episode, “Stalling for Time in Negotiations.”