Hostage Negotiator Training

Hostage Negotiator Training

Most of us have only been exposed to hostage negotiations through movies and television shows, but the reality of the practice can only be experienced when we enter hostage negotiation training. Hostage negotiators, also known as crisis negotiators or a crisis negotiation team, are the first responders called in hostage situations or other difficult situations to de-escalate and resolve the problem with the least amount of consequences.

To become a crisis negotiator, a person will need to have stellar negotiation skills and undergo professional training programs that have connections to law enforcement or other crisis centers.

This article will outline the process of becoming a crisis or hostage negotiator by first outlining what a crisis negotiator is and then detailing the steps in training and skills required.

Crisis Negotiating Explained:

Crisis negotiation is a specific tactic used to alleviate a threat of violence. It requires various skills and training to become an effective negotiator. They are trained to cover various high-stakes negotiation situations that may arise. Their main objectives are to apply all their knowledge and intelligence to guide the parties to an agreement and ensure that desperate or emotional decisions are avoided.

Crisis negotiators are often present on suicide prevention lines, in government offices, and in all law enforcement offices. Common situations that may involve a crisis negotiator include:

  • Domestic Violence: Many people may not consider domestic violence a hostage situation but the victims of violence are trapped and threatened with further violence. A crisis negotiator may step in and help negotiate a release.
  • Hostage Situations: When a person is holding other people captive, regardless of the circumstances and the relationship between the offender and the victims, crisis negotiators will attempt to secure a safe release of the hostages by managing intelligence, role play, or other negotiation techniques.
  • Suicide: When a person is threatening suicide, crisis negotiators may be called in to attempt to convince the person that this is not the solution to their problems.
  • Government Negotiations: This type of crisis negotiation is not as common, but negotiators have participated in high-stakes negotiations between countries on the brink of war.

Key Training Steps for Negotiating:

Each jurisdiction and department will have different requirements for becoming a crisis or hostage negotiator. However, following the steps below may help set up a person for success in the field.

    1. Degree: There is no formal degree in hostage negotiation. However, some degrees may add the necessary skills required in hostage negotiations. Degrees in law enforcement or psychology may help a person understand law enforcement tactics and human psychology and contact.
    2. Law Enforcement Officer: By becoming a law enforcement officer, a person will learn how to deal with real-world scenarios, how officers respond to crisis situations, and learn more about how other hostage negotiators work in crises.
    3. Specialty Training: The next step in becoming an effective crisis negotiator is to take specific crisis negotiation courses. These courses are oftentimes created and provided by law enforcement officers that have served as crisis negotiators. This course will provide necessary tools in communications, mental health and support, and strategies for dealing with all types of personnel. A specialty training course will be necessary to become a crisis hostage negotiator.
    4. Tandem Practice: Many negotiators will start working in crisis situations with a skilled crisis negotiator to help them understand the intricacies of crisis negotiations and hone their skills before working on their own.
    5. Professional Licensing: In many states, a crisis negotiator may not need separate licensing beyond their law enforcement licensing. However, some states or jurisdictions may require special licensing, so it is essential to understand if licensing is necessary and what is required for licensure.

This basic overview of how to become a crisis negotiator will help you get started. Keep in mind, each jurisdiction will have its particular set of requirements.

Common Skills Learned:

In addition to following the steps above, crisis negotiations require specific skills and techniques to ensure effectiveness in the field. Some of these skills include:

  • Active Listening: A vital first step for crisis negotiators is really listening to the person they are negotiating with. This includes paraphrasing back, asking questions, and observing more than just what the person says but how they say it.
  • Patience: Crisis negotiation is an incredibly grueling process; the slower the process, the more likely a peaceful resolution will be attained. Pushing for a resolution can cause the situation to escalate and lead to violence or worse.
  • Adaptability: Another critical skill for a crisis negotiator is adaptability. This means they can absorb a changing situation and change their approach based on how the negotiation is going. A good crisis negotiator will focus and respond to the person’s words and needs and adapt the conversations accordingly.
  • Stability: Another essential skill is staying calm and level-headed. While they may be feeling a lot of emotions, the negotiator needs to project a calm demeanor and rational thinking.
  • Self-Awareness: Self-awareness goes along with the stability skill. The ability to understand where one is and how the situation makes one feel. Negotiators need to be able to remain calm, assess and recognize the situation, and keep on task.
  • Empathy: Understanding that the people causing the crisis are only human, with emotions that need to be honored and respected during the negotiation is a critical skill. It is crucial in establishing establish a repertoire with the subject and understand the role play required to resolve the conflict.

To learn more about hostage negotiations or crisis negotiations training, check out ADR Times’ site here.


Emily Holland
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