Discover how to apply the lessons of hostage negotiation scenarios to avoid disasters, diffuse tensions, and break through impasse with open communication when you download your copy of the FREE special report, Crisis Communication: How to Avoid Being Held Hostage by Crisis Negotiations, from the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School today!


crisis negotiation

What is Crisis Negotiation?

A crisis negotiation in the business world usually involves a high-stakes situation with heightened emotions and the participation of multiple parties.

In a crisis negotiation, parties often feel desperate to reach a deal at any cost, and quickly. However, this type of short-term thinking often limits us from considering the various eventualities that could unfold down the line. Yet even as you approach the problem with intensity and a sense of urgency, there is value in working methodically.

As a negotiator in a difficult situation, how can you manage the exhaustion, time pressure, and stress that typically infects such high-pressure talks? Planning for a crisis, particularly in international negotiations, can help negotiators develop strategies before a crisis emerges.

If you do find yourself in the midst of a crisis negotiation, take time before you begin substantive talks to establish the ground rules. Ground rules establish a foundation for trust, and they also give you room to say no to extreme demands. 

Additionally, don’t rush things and take time to explore the emotions behind a position. Business negotiators often assume that a crisis negotiation needs to be conducted as quickly as possible, but remember that time spent exploring the emotions behind a counterpart’s stated positions is never time wasted.

In these situations, it can be especially important to emphasize the importance of cooperation to reduce the odds that parties will blame one another and become overly competitive, resulting in less than desirable outcomes.

Be sure to download this free, valuable report, Business Crisis Management: Crisis Communication Examples and How to Use Police Negotiation Techniques, from the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School. In it, you’ll uncover proven strategies and techniques for turning hostile situations into collaborative negotiations, being forward-thinking during negotiations, and working with counterparts to find an agreeable solution 

The following items are tagged crisis negotiation:

What is Crisis Management in Negotiation?

Posted by & filed under Crisis Negotiations.

Organizations often establish elaborate business crisis management plans. Through a rapid, centralized response, an organization can shift swiftly and efficiently from day-to-day operations into crisis-management mode, whether that crisis involves a building evacuation, a tumble in the company’s stock price, or a product recall. … Read More 

How to Negotiate Under Pressure

Posted by & filed under Negotiation Skills.

At the time, it seemed to be an example of coolheaded dealmaking in the midst of disaster. In 2009, hit hard by the 2008 financial crisis and changes in consumer preferences, U.S. automaker Chrysler was on the brink of collapse, and the Treasury Department stepped in to do a deal. In exchange for about $12 … Read More 

Police Negotiation Techniques from the NYPD Crisis Negotiations Team

Posted by & filed under Crisis Negotiations.

Few negotiators can imagine negotiation scenarios more stressful than the kinds of crisis negotiations the New York City Police Department’s Hostage Negotiation Team undertake. But police negotiation techniques employed by the New York City Police Department’s Hostage Negotiations Team (HNT) in high-stakes, high-pressure crisis negotiation situations, outlined in an article from Jeff Thompson and Hugh … Read More 

A Crisis Negotiations Case Study: Chen Guangcheng, the United States, China, and Diplomatic Negotiations

Posted by & filed under International Negotiation.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s indirect approach to diplomatic negotiations with the People’s Republic of China over political dissdent Chen Guangcheng demonstrates the power of adaptability at the bargaining table, especially when dealing with a counterpart from a different culture or who may speak a different language. … Read More 

Business Contract Mistakes—and How to Avoid Them

Posted by & filed under Dealmaking.

When negotiating a business contract, parties are often so focused on reaching agreement that they don’t think enough about how the deal will unfold after the ink has dried. This type of short-term thinking leads to real problems down the road. The following three business negotiation tips can help you adopt a long-term perspective the … Read More 

Hostage Negotiation Techniques for Business Negotiators

Posted by & filed under Crisis Negotiations.

What do FBI hostage negotiation techniques and business dealmaking have in common? Not a lot, we might assume. In workplace talks, lives are rarely at stake, and tensions seldom escalate into violence. Yet dig a bit deeper, and similarities emerge: just as in a crisis negotiation, business talks can be highly charged, unpredictable, and emotional. In … Read More 

Negotiation Training with Heart

Posted by & filed under Negotiation Training.

In typical negotiation skills training, we are taught to get beyond our emotions and look at situations rationally. There’s merit to this approach, of course, as feelings can cloud our judgment. But consider what Lieutenant Jack Cambria, who retired in August as the longest-running head of the New York Police Department’s (NYPD’s) hostage negotiation team, … Read More 

How to Conduct a Mediation During Crisis Negotiations

Posted by & filed under Mediation.

The most difficult peace negotiations in recent decades—in Ireland, the Middle East, the former Yugoslavia, and Sri Lanka—were plagued by a common enemy: violent disruptions by spoilers opposed to the peace process. In each of these cases, extremists stalled negotiations by creating security crises that divided public opinion and drove negotiators apart. … Read More 

Negotiating in the heat of the moment

Posted by & filed under Crisis Negotiations.

At the time, it seemed to be an example of coolheaded dealmaking in the midst of disaster. In 2009, hit hard by the 2008 financial crisis and changes in consumer preferences, U.S. automaker Chrysler was on the brink of collapse, and the Treasury Department stepped in to do a deal. In exchange for about $12 … Read More 

When the going gets tough…

Posted by & filed under Daily, Negotiation Skills.

Adapted from “Taming Hard Bargainers,” by Robert C. Bordone (professor, Harvard Law School), first published in the Negotiation newsletter. Suppose you’re about to face off with an “old school” negotiator whose reputation for hard bargaining precedes him. You know you’re supposed to adopt a collaborative approach for the best results, but what about when the other … Read More 

Keeping Your Cool when the Negotiations Get Hot

Posted by & filed under Daily, Negotiation Skills.

On the heels of an intricate negotiation, conditions change for the worse. Crops fail, the price of oil skyrockets, one side issues an earnings restatement, or the market as a whole is a lot less promising than it was when you negotiated the initial terms. Suddenly your agreement has lost its luster. How should you … Read More