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Negotiating Through Text Messaging

NCJ Number
Law and Order Volume: 57 Issue: 6 Dated: July 2009 Pages: 80-85
Tim Christol
Date Published
June 2009
6 pages
After discussing the design of cell phones that facilitate text messaging, this article discusses the rationale and techniques for crisis negotiators in using text messaging to communicate with a hostagetaker or a person threatening to harm themselves.
This article presents the hypothetical case of a 13-year-old girl locked in her room and threatening suicide. In initiating a conversation with the girl through her cell phone, the negotiator discovered that the girl refused to communicate via her cell phone except by text messaging. Negotiators must always be prepared to communicate with persons in crisis by whatever means the persons prefer. Consequently, negotiators must be experienced in the technology and techniques of text messaging. Negotiators should be equipped with the type of cell phone that facilitates text messaging. This should be a phone with a full QRTY board similar to the ones found on a computer keyboard. This significantly increases the speed of sending and replying to text messages. Text messaging is not only facilitated by the design of the phone but also by learning the glossary of shortened terms familiar to experienced text messengers. Regardless of the method of communication used in negotiations, principles of effective negotiation remain the same. Active listening and effective responses to emotional states are critical in building trust and assessing the emotional posture of the subject. Texting imposes certain barriers to these negotiation techniques. Active listening through texting requires paraphrasing back to the subject the message he/she has sent and asking whether the negotiator has correctly understood the subject's previous message in terms of how the subject is feeling and perceiving his/her situation, as well as any specific requests or demands. Short text responses require less delay between messages and responses.