"Greg" in a great show called Flash-Point


You see it all the time on the Hollywood blockbusters and on television in general. But many people really don’t know what hostage rescues and Hostage Negotiation work and how it pertains to them. In the realm of Gun-Fighting and being a Civilian Operator™ I can attest that you never know under which circumstances you will find yourself – as there are just way too many variables to account for. But even more than that, as a Gun-Fighter or Civilian Operator™, I can tell you this much; being able to deescalate a situation is a must have skill.


Now there will be times as people and situations alike simply “get under your skin”, and if your asking I have lost my cool on a number of occasions, but then again who hasn’t. The thing is you going to continue to let people and situation “get your goat” every time you turn around? And the answer for me as it should be for you is NO! I will never forget the time I lost it in a Sprint store! Yep, VODA went off! Thankful for me I had someone I admire pull me to the side after the fact to help me see the errors in my ways. For that I an eternally grateful.


However, when it comes to Hostage Negotiation this above example is very relevant as it was a lesson on one particulate thing: “DON’T LOSE YOUR COOL”. See, when I had the opportunity to speak with some people who actually have been in these hostage situations whether as a Police Officer or Captive, they both said the same thing – you really have to keep your cool. Why? Because panic is contagious under these kinds of situations. Hence, this is why they are called “Times of Crisis”.


So out side of giving you the advice and lecturing thought text the importance of “Keeping Your Cool” i would like to also include some other tips that may prove to be useful in helping you preserve your life if you had to literally talk your way out of a situation to save your own life or what to except if you had to have the unfortunate opportunity to be a captive in a hostage situation which are as follows:









This is something that you simply don’t want to do. And the reason for this is because if you lie and get caught, nothing will diminish the level and factor of trust between you and the Hostage taker faster. For if you get caught lying, you will seriously exponentially compound the problem by make in the Captor even more aggravated that he previously was.


Furthermore, when the Captor increases his level of tension because he or she caught you lying the Captor becomes more likely to start pressing triggers, stabbing or doing other acts of violence that will in turn increase the risk of great bodily harm or serious injury to a either you as a hostage or another hostage in general. If you cannot do something tell them that you cannot do it and let them know why. If the Captor forces you anyway either comply or let them know that you “will see what you can do”. In addition to that do not make any promises, especially promises you can’t keep.


There are 7 Active Listening Skills according to the FBI recommends they are as follows:


  • Minimal Encouragements

  • Paraphrasing

  • Emotional Labeling

  • Mirroring

  • Open-Ended Questions

  • “I” Messages

  • Effective Pauses


Although I will not cover all seven of these active listening skills I will touch on Mirroring and Open-Ended Questions.When you are actively listening in respect to Mirroring all you are seeking to do is to make sense of out the words, body language and or signs the Captor is attempting to convey to you. Repeat sentences back to the Captor in a normal calm tone to let the Captor know that you are making every effort to not only listen but to comply with what he or she is saying or instructing you to do. Next, as you listen and comply, ask an Open Ended Question. What you want to do is keep him or her talking so that you can build a bridge to connect to your Captor.


Captor: “It’s your fault that I’m even having to do this!”


You: “Let me understand something, you said it’s my fault for you having to do this; can you explain to me how is it my fault and what can I do to change the situation?”


The above technique is called Mirroring in combination with an Open-Ended Question. All you are doing is taking a couple of the words the Captor used and reusing them in a way that allows for them to reflect on what they just said. In Active Listening it allow you to not only buy time but it allows your Captor to self-reflect during this time. This is an important opportunity for the Captor to “Cool down” a bit and possibly take some time out to think about what her or she is doing. If you can, continue to ask Open-Ended Question If you don’t know what an Open-Ended question is, it is a question that require explanation other than a simple “yes” or “no”.


I would recommend refraining from placing negative labels on the Captor and using condescending tones when talking to the Captor. Avoid attempting to challenge them. Using the above Mirror technique should allow you to gain some insight into your Captor. The old logic applies: in order to beat your enemy you must study your enemy. Remember, talk slowly and clearly. Like my mother says; “Speak to be understood”. If there is hesitation in your voice that may signal uncertainty in your Captors mind. Remember: ask Open-Ended questions as this is a time of reflection.



Everyone on this earth has the basic need to want to connect with another person at some point and time. And the odds are is that your Captor shares this same need as well. If you do not know what empathy is, all you have to do is perform a quick Google search for the definition of empathy and it is as follows:


“The ability to understand and share the feelings of another.”


The only thing you have to do is bring it out of them and exploit that. You can say something like:


“I can understand exactly were you are coming from and the point that you are trying to make.”


Remember it is not about your ego. It’s about staying alive (self-preservation). For all the keyboard commando and arm chair generals you cannot shoot your way out of ever situation. In fact the gun may not be needed in every situation. While actively listening you should be seeking to see things from your Captors point of view.


However, at the same time you should be also analyzing what movements and questions you ask as well as what movement and verbiage the Captor is using while actively listening. You should be seeking to see things from your Captors point of view. Also consider, at the same time you should be also analyzing what movements and questions you ask as well as how your movements and the questions you ask are going to be perceived by your Captor.


There should be no attempts at “tough love”, finger pointing and placing blame on the Captor. To further understand the point I’m trying to make see it like this: “The Captor is mentally sick and they need help right now until their Therapist and or Psychologist shows up. You are their life line, their support.” Be that support.


See what you and your Captor have in common based on the communication shared from actively listening. I would recommend whatever conversation you are going to make it relevant to either the conversation you had with your Captor or something that is going on within context of the environment you’re being held within. Look for any tattoos or other identifying markers on your Captor. Inquire about them. If your Captor does not want to talk about it DO NOT PRESSURE THEM TO TALK ABOUT IT!!! Remember the goal is deescalation and to go home in one piece.


Supporting my position we turn to Hostage Negotiations - Missouri POST (Police Officers Standards and Training) Approved Technical Training Course: 


“As you talk the hostage taker through to surrender, it may be helpful to make clear that you are not focused on the initial crime.”


“They should be clear that you are most interested in a peaceful resolution of the current situation.”



All we are looking to do here is to persuade them to let you go. Another thing you can do at the very least is make an attempt to get your Captor the go along with the idea of calling a part or the entire thing off. Remember your goal is to stay alive and go home. We are also looking to possible bargain or make some kind of suggestion with your Captor. Your focus should be to make it a win-win situation for you and your Captor.



What I mean by this is that, you what to see your hard work pay off, this is be a time (if you get there) to brainstorm problem solving solutions with your Captor. I know it sounds counter-intuitive. But its worth it because the last thing you want to see is the whole thing fail and take a turn for the worst and escalate the situation to where people (YOU) are back in being in harms way again. What we are also looking for is a significant decrease in aggression and lethality. We are also looking to continue dialogue (within context) so that the whole event can be over and done with.


Remember there will mostly like be no intelligence gather team with you so you will as a Civilian Operator™ or Gun-Fighter would have to use a bit of “Verbal Judo” to gain intelligence about your Captor so that you can use it for your advantage. The above mentioned bullet points are known as the “Behavioral Change Stairway Model”. This model is currently being used by Law Enforcement Agencies such as the FBI. In hostage situation you must have patients and you must be flexible.





  • Gregory M. Vecchia, Vincent B. Van Hasseltb, and Stephen J. Romanoc, “Crisis (hostage) negotiation: current strategies and issues in high-risk conflict resolution,” Aggression and Violent Behavior 10 (2005)


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