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Training a Captive Audience
Stuart M. Kirschner & Jack J. Cambria
Editors’ Note: Let’s say you’ve finished this book and would like to use some of it. But what about your more hardheaded colleagues, team members or other audiences? Using their experience in training the highly skeptical police officers of the New York City Police Department, psychologist Stuart Kirschner and longtime (2001-2015) NYPD Hostage Negotiation Team commander Jack Cambria discuss the design of training for a potentially resistant audience.
The practice of negotiation embeds a great deal of “teaching” activity. In any but the simplest of transactions or disputes, it becomes necessary to inform your counterpart, and your own team (if you work as part of a team), of information and possible new perspectives that you have and they do not have. The fact that you may have a body of knowledge, which you wish to impart to them, may create the trap of having to negotiate with the negotiator. To be sure, many of those who have been in the position of authority as negotiators do not like to be “taught,” especially by someone they perceive as an opponent, outsider, or intra-team rival. Negotiators may have the self-perception that they are the bearer of knowledge, not necessarily the recipient. Even when negotiators or team members clearly recognize the need to gather new perspectives or information, and to adjust their own thinking in relation to either or both, they certainly may resist being given a lecture.
It is frequently the case that those who engage in negotiation can be very resistant to changing and/or expanding their thinking. This mind set is certainly true for police officers who are required to negotiate as an essential part of their job. It is inherent in the police culture that officers are figures of authority, and they are not inclined to take direction, especially from those they are tasked with policing. The perception is “I’m the cop and you will listen to whatever I have to say,” lending an added impediment where the police culture often seduces an officer into believing that they are more than they are. This attitude presents a major obstacle to the training of police. It becomes even more salient when there is a civilian trainer. The officer needs to develop flexibility and openness during the training—the very same stance that the officer must adopt when negotiating. And while it is the task of the trainers to facilitate this change in perception, that is of course easier said than done. The abilities to listen, understand and receive the trainers’ message are the same skills that will place the officer in a better position to assist the consumer. In fact, the mission of the trainer is not dissimilar to that of a psychotherapist who is treating a resistant patient. Breaking through the resistance to treatment is treatment in itself.
The officer’s position, instead, should now be: “teach me how to better understand you.” The hostage team commander has made this point many times, when teaching a new class of negotiators to embrace the difficult people of the world: ultimately, they will become your greatest teachers. It is perhaps those difficult or negative encounters where over time we derive our most powerful lessons, in learning what people in crisis would better respond to.
This chapter discusses the tension which may occur between those who need to transmit information and perspectives, and potentially resistant practitioners. This friction was exemplified when an explicit need arose to create an effective course in negotiation with emotionally disturbed persons for officers of the New York Police Department. The lessons learned from more than twenty years of experience in teaching that course may be helpful to other kinds of negotiators (and trainers) as they contemplate how to get their next audience to pay better attention to what they have to say.
Over the past few decades, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of chronically mentally ill people who are treated in the community. This trend has derived from a conscious policy to shift away from inpatient services, with a concomitant downsizing of inpatient facilities for the treatment of psychiatric patients. Deinstitutionalization, changes in the standard for the civil commitment of the mentally ill, and U.S. ....
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