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Negotiation Masterclass with Sue Williams

The demand for this event was incredible; we hear you that negotiation is an area we all need to improve on. We’re in no doubt it was the strength of Sue William’s experience that was the real pull for the evening: Sue Williams has been a Hostage Negotiator since 1991, working with both Scotland Yard and the FBI. In 2003, she became the first female to lead Scotland Yard’s Hostage Negotiation Unit. In the same year, she was awarded the Queen’s Police Medal for her contribution to the fields of kidnap negotiation and the saving of lives.

Sue skilfully translated her experience into practical advice for negotiating in our own lives, and here are the 15 key takeaways:

  1. Change what you can control and influence what you can’t.

  2. Don’t go into negotiation like it’s a battle. There is no right or wrong. Arrive as blank slate, put your preconceptions to one side and leave your ego at the door.

  3. The more clearly you understand the other party, the more options you will have. Ask open questions and learn as much as you can.

  4. Understand your opposition’s motivation. Your reality is not their reality. Put yourself in their shoes and understand their reality.

  5. Above all, listen. More specifically, actively listen. Look up Active Listening Skills online to learn more.

  6. The person listening is in control, as they are absorbing knowledge, analysing and planning what to say/do next.

  7. Empathise, don’t sympathise. Never say the words ‘I understand’ unless you have been through it yourself.

  8. Develop a rapport. It is important to be liked, and people tend to do more for people if they like them.

  9. Watch out for your body language. It gives you away, and you need to present yourself as physically open.

  10. Always try to drop in someone’s first name. People have been called it since birth and are programmed to respond to it.

  11. You cannot get to yes without how. Always treat negotiation as a process not a one-off event.

  12. Be prepared. Predict the dialogue, have responses prepared and be ready for the questions you know they will ask.

  13. Anticipate compromise. Have your second level offer ready to bring out if needed.

  14. A team approach can be good. If so, one person can be developing the relationship whilst the other is active listening.

  15. Sometime using an intermediary is useful. Do you know someone who make the relationship more easily and can support?

As Sue said, negotiation is about going into someone’s mind without leaving an entrance wound. It’s advice that will definitely stay with us, along with her recommendation to get another (non British) passport if you can.

Advice for negotiation and tips on how not to get kidnapped – we aim for diversity of thought and topics at BroadMinded, and we think we got just that on with this event!



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Sue Williams - Dec 2019 - square.jpg


Sue Williams

Former Head of Scotland Yard's Hostage Negotiation Unit

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