How to Negotiate Like an International Peacekeeper

Have you ever wished you had the skill and savvy to negotiate like an international peacekeeper or hostage negotiator? Well, your wait is over! I recently interviewed former hostage negotiator and international peacekeeper, Paul Nadeau. He shared his top tips on effective negotiating and I’m going to share them with you here.

Negotiating Your Mindset

The first secret to success is to always start with negotiating your own mindset. Challenge your inner saboteur and choose to believe in yourself. Silence the voice telling you that you’ll never amount to anything so why even try. Paul shares a story of a teacher in grade 7 who called him out in front the class by saying, “We’re going to have a test next week and I expect everyone here to pass … except for you, Nadeau.” Not surprisingly, he was humiliated. And surprisingly for 7th grade, he recognized he had a choice. He could accept the inner critic urging him to quit or he could buck up and prove it wrong. He chose the latter.

Part of negotiating your most powerful mindset is coming from a place of pronoia. If you’re not familiar with that term, pronoia is the opposite of paranoia. It’s believing that the universe is conspiring for you. This positive expectation is a much more powerful place from which to bargain than expecting the worst.

We Are More Similar Than Different

Nadeau always starts from the premise in negotiations that we are more similar than we are different. When you negotiate with someone, consider that they’re going through the same things as you. They’re wondering, “Is this the right fit for me? Am I making the right decision? What can I expect? Can I trust this person? Do I like this person?”

You Get What You Give

Remember that we get what we give. If you show up with negative energy, you’ll attract that negativity in kind. By contrast, if you show up with empathy and ensure you treat the other party with dignity and respect, you’ll inspire that. Decide, with intention, who you want to show up as in your negotiations.

The P.I.E.R. Model for Successful Negotiations

Paul advocates what he calls the PIER model for negotiations.

  • P stands for planning.
    You want to be as prepared as possible for any negotiation, whether personal or professional (whether planning for a first date or for a complicated business deal). Lack of preparation is one of the biggest mistakes people make in negotiating.
    As hostage negotiators, Paul’s teams did a lot of role-playing, considering a multitude of possible outcomes and scenarios. When you prepare in advance for a variety of possible approaches you may encounter, you’re better equipped to avoid reactivity and to respond with the required clarity and focus.
  • I is for intent.
    Avoid a single-minded self-serving focus. For effective negotiations, show up seeking to provide a service and/or considering what you can give of yourself to make meaningful connection. Don’t make it about you. At least at first, strive to make it about the other party. Don’t make pitches. Listen. Be interested in what they have to say.
  • E is for entrance & engagement.
    Seek to make a good first impression. Your entrance should be warm and friendly. Smile. The other party will be evaluating you as you enter and throughout the negotiation as you keep them engaged … or not.
  • R is for relationship.
    Be intentional about the relationship. Consider the relationship outcomes you seek before going into the negotiation. Be intentional about building rapport and connection. Avoid jumping straight to business.
    The art of negotiation is really about connecting with the other party and making them feel safe.

Focus On What You Can Control

Try not to focus on things you can’t control in a negotiation. Focus on the moment, the things you can control. What does that mean? Pay attention to how you ask questions, how you deliver, how you engage. Your job is to listen with your ears and your eyes. Pay attention to the cues from the other party. If the other party suddenly shuts down, or the emotion changes, or there’s a tension in their body … take note and adjust accordingly. Identify that white elephant in the room. Label the white elephant. Don’t be so focused on your desired outcome that you miss the cues that can help you get there.

On Fear

On fear in negotiation, Paul Nadeau reminds us that we all experience fear at some point. Courage is not the absence of fear, it’s moving beyond it. Our fears are often unwarranted, but they can immobilize us if we allow it. See the fear as an opportunity.

Remember that the other party will similarly have fears. When uncertainties show up in the other party in a negotiation, stop and ask, “What are you worried (or concerned) about right now? I sense there may be something holding you back. Let’s bring it out in the open so I can address it. I’m here to serve.” This can be a powerful approach.

Everyone wants to be seen, heard, acknowledged, and understood. Whether you’re dealing with a hostage-taker, criminal, angry businessperson, contractor, loved one or child. Always start from the premise that you’re walking in to talk to a human in any negotiation. Treat them with dignity and respect. Don’t seek to exert power over them – instead look to work together. Consider the fears that may be driving them, or circumstances in their life you have no idea about. Try to pay a genuine compliment where possible. Practice gracious assertiveness. Invite them to be the best version of themselves.

These tips served Paul Nadeau well, both as a hostage negotiator and as an International Peacekeeper. They most certainly can help up-level your negotiation prowess, whether in your personal negotiations, professional negotiations or all the spaces in between.



hostage negotiator, International peacekeeper, negotiation prowess, P.I.E.R. Model for Successful Negotiations, Paul Nadeau

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