Former hostage negotiator Paul Nadeau, who presented at TEDxToronto Thursday afternoon, has diffused dozens of high-stake standoffs. And even though he didn’t delve into it during his speech, the now motivational speaker believes the same skills he once used to save lives can be applied to resolve conflict within your personal life.
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He grew up seeing his fair share of it at home —; his father was a violent alcoholic who took his own life when Nadeau was 17. Four years later, Nadeau became a police officer who would go on to stop countless desperate individuals like his dad from ending it all.
“I have not lost anybody.”
Whether he had to talk someone off a ledge or talk through a terrorist threat on a plane, proper communication was always crucial.
Here are his tips to work through a personal conflict like a hostage negotiator would work through a crisis:
1. Ask and keep calm
Start by asking the person who’s upset – whether it’s your partner or employee – why they’re upset.
“Valuable lessons could be learned if we just asked ‘what’s going on.’”
2. Let them vent
“It doesn’t matter if it’s a squabble you’re having with a husband, boyfriend or friend; or if it’s something you want to talk to your boss about — that you’re frustrated you’re not being validated or appreciated as much — sometimes it’s just: ‘If you’re willing to listen, I want to talk.”
“People just need to be heard sometimes.”
Sometimes that’s all the release they need. They might even feel better after just a 15 or 20 minute vent, Nadeau says.
3. Keep calm
Don’t get defensive when they lay it on you.
In hostage situations, the moment you lose your temper is when you can put people’s lives in danger.
4. Be an “effective” listener
Hostage negotiations are really about the art of listening and understanding, Nadeau explains.
So what is being an effective listener all about?
“It’s about not listening for the purpose of responding, it’s listening for the purpose of understanding.”
“People sense when you’re really listening.”
5. Repeat back
Nadeau suggests you paraphrase what the person who’s upset just said to you. It allows the individual to see you’re paying attention and taking in what’s being said.
“‘So if I understand you correctly, these are your frustrations, this is how you’re feeling,’” Nadeau offers as an example.
“That puts you better in line to deal with a situation or resolve it a little more clearly.”
Look out for Nadeau’s TEDx talk, in which he discussed how we can find humanity within anyone, even criminals and terrorists.
“It’s something we all have,” he believes.
Here’s a preview:
He also has a book coming out around Christmas-time called Hostage to Myself. It will examine “how we hostage ourselves to thoughts [and] feelings that just don’t serve us.”