Derek Gaunt

Derek Gaunt is lecturer, author of Ego, Authority, Failure, and trainer with 29 years of law enforcement experience, 20 of which as a team member, leader and then commander of hostage negotiations teams in the Washington, DC metropolitan area. As a member of the Black Swan Group, he is a negotiation trainer and personal coach. His training has helped leaders and their organizations increase their performance by changing the way they think about communicating one person to another.
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Recent Posts

Negotiating Within The Negotiations

By Derek Gaunt | February 12, 2018

The Incident Commander (IC) is brand new. He has spent the last three years as a sergeant in the Property and Evidence section. He was promoted to sergeant four years prior and spent one year running a squad before being transferred to Property and Evidence. Two months ago he competed for and was ultimately promoted to lieutenant.

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Using The Power of Silence To Get More

By Derek Gaunt | January 22, 2018

Falling silent, also known as the effective pause, is a powerful tool to use during interpersonal communication. It is a skill in which you intentionally create a void in the dialogue, before or after saying something meaningful, to entice the other side to continue talking and perhaps expound on a point they were trying to make. It is arguably the most underutilized listening skill. Sometimes, even though it is in our best interest, we find it difficult just to shut up.

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Are You The Favorite or The Fool?

By Derek Gaunt | November 20, 2017

Two weeks ago I coached a client before an upcoming negotiation. His company had been engaged in a relationship with a prospect for over a year that was based on assumptions that were never tested. My client is a real estate developer. The prospect was a potential tenant. The potential tenant provided a Letter of Interest as well as personally expressing their interest in leasing from my client. My client assumed all was good and passed the potential tenants on to other divisions and departments within his company to finalize the lease contract. What he did not know at the time was that the potential tenant had tendered a counterfeit yes.

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Bridging the Gap: Why Hostage Negotiation Is Successful In Business

By Derek Gaunt | October 23, 2017

Last week, I was presenting basic negotiations concepts to a group of CEOs and senior managers. About 45 minutes into our talk, one of the participants asked if I was going to draw a correlation or otherwise explain how hostage negotiations techniques apply to the business world. 

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2 Techniques To Fend Off An Attack

By Derek Gaunt | September 25, 2017

Have you ever been in a difficult conversation where the other person appears intent on pulling you into an argument or trading personal attacks? We all have. When under attack during a difficult conversation our default response is to attack back. This is especially true when the attack appears out of nowhere, is irrational or personal. It evokes emotion.

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Like Seeing A Unicorn

By Derek Gaunt | August 21, 2017

Sebastian had spent most of the late morning into the early afternoon, one day in July, being exposed to the Black Swan method of labels and mirrors. Having already read “Never Split the Difference,” he was anxious to see and hear the practical application of the skills. Turns out, Sebastian was a quick study. As soon as the class concluded, he was chomping at the bit to see if the skills would bear fruit. That afternoon, he scheduled a phone call to negotiate the acquisition of a domain name. The seller anchored high with a five figure number. Rather than balk and counter, Sebastian used labels and mirrors to discover that it was most important to the seller for the domain to be used for a purpose in which he believed. Unbeknownst to the seller, this was Sebastian’s plan all along. Sebastian’s use of labels and mirrors uncovered other Black Swans as well:

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Do You Get It?

By Derek Gaunt | July 24, 2017

At the Black Swan Group, our instructors have been spreading the gospel of empathy and the techniques used to demonstrate it for years. We have trained thousands of people all over the globe on how to apply techniques developed in the world of hostage negotiations to business and other personal interactions. Of those thousands, as an instructor, I wonder at times how many don’t get it? 

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Communication Skills: Hang a Label On It

By Derek Gaunt | June 19, 2017

A “like” is an expression of value appreciation or desire that the Black Swan Group refers to as a positive. A “dislike” is a lack of appreciation, aversion or reluctance, to or for something. It is what we refer to as a negative. The positive or negative emotion that the counterpart attaches to a term or a dynamic is a clue as to the valuation they have put on it. The recognition, articulation, and exchange of values are what negotiation is all about.

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Why It's Important To Embrace "No"

By Derek Gaunt | May 22, 2017

“I’m telling you now man, if y’all do anything foolish, these people are gonna get hurt,” Mike said after taking 12 people hostage during a botched robbery. Our being there meant that we wanted him to surrender peacefully. In other words, we wanted Mike to say, “Yes.” His utterance was an emphatic “No.”

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Communication Skills: How to Use a Cold Read and Accusation Audit

By Derek Gaunt | April 17, 2017

In September 2016, I attended a meeting where I was the lone hostage negotiator in a room full of SWAT guys. The meeting is held quarterly for SWAT guys by SWAT guys. I was an interloper in hostile territory. The purpose for my attendance was to request a piece of their pie. The SWAT group had a training operations cache of about $78,000. Since they had spent none of the money over several years, I was requesting about $9,000 annually for the training of negotiators. Here's how I used two communication skills, a cold read and accusation audit, to walk away successfully.

Reading The Room

Historically, the relationship between SWAT and negotiators has been tenuous at best. Some in my profession view them as knuckle-dragging, Neanderthals who have a penchant for destroying things. Some in their profession view us as touchy-feely, mouth-Marines who want to talk all problems away. It is through this prism that I saw the group. As I walked in the room, I noticed several leaning to their right or left to whisper to the guy sitting next to them. Some just stared. Others looked my way with an air of ambivalence. I suspected that most of them probably winced and grumbled when they saw my name on the agenda. Bottom line… they either did not care or were not thrilled I was there. Having not spoken to anyone but the chairman of the group, this was my Cold Read.
A Cold Read is where you assess the environment, history, present circumstances and people before driving for your “yes.” 

Making The Ask

When my turn to speak came, I explained to the group that what I was about to ask was probably going to be a difficult pill to swallow because it would involve them ceding some of their territory. In addition, I told them that many in the group might question my audacity in asking for the handout. This was my Accusations Audit; a technique used to identify and label the negative sentiments likely harbored by your counterpart. I then gave them my reasons for requesting the funding and gently outlined the consequences if they did not acquiesce.

Accusations Audit -  a technique used to identify and label the negative sentiments likely harbored by your counterpart. 

The Cold Read + The Accusation Audit = Success

After my presentation, there was much discussion about the pros and cons of the request. Some clearly felt threatened. Others recognized that if they did not “play ball” they risked losing their present autonomy as it pertained to the training funds. After the discussion, I felt pretty good about my chances, but no decision was made at that point.

A few days later I was contacted by the chairman of the SWAT committee. The vote was unanimous. We were getting the money. Assessing these two communication skills prior to my presentation defused the negative emotions and led to success.

As you prepare for your next driving-for-a-yes conversation, review the situation as you know it to that point. Your experience and knowledge of how the land lays will enhance your discerning observations. Next, consider the predictable positive and negative sentiment your counterpart is likely to bring to the table. Prepare 3-5 labels in advance to preemptively mitigate negative sentiments and reveal what may be driving their aversion. Once at the table, assess the mood, atmosphere, and environment. Cold reading just before engagement will allow you to make adjustments to your labels as necessary.

To Sum Up:

When entering a driving-for-a-yes conversation:

  • Consider the predictable positive and negative feelings and thoughts your counterpart will have.
  • Prepare 3-5 labels
    • Labels to diffuse the negatives and labels that will enhance the postives, if they exist
  • Once you're at the table, do a cold read of the mood. Use this to fine-tune your labels for success!

The cold read added on top of your accusations audit is the formula for success. 

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