I Interrogated An FBI Hostage Negotiator For His Best Secrets With Derek Gaunt

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Do you struggle to find the right words when it comes to writing? Do you want to improve your writing style and make a lasting impression with your words? Look no further! Join Igor as she explores the writing style of Derek, a skilled and seasoned law enforcement officer, known for his exceptional communication skills. Get ready to discover the secrets behind using hostage negotiation tactics to influence people in business and life. Learn how you can elevate your own writing game to new heights. So, grab your pen and paper, and tune in!

Guest: Derek Gaunt is a 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. Derek has trained throughout the US and around the world, instructing business organizations on how to apply hostage negotiation practices and principles to their world.

[00:00] In this episode, Igor is joined by Derek Gaunt to discover the secrets behind using hostage negotiation tactics to influence people in business and life.

How To Become Proficient At Interrogation?

[04:20] How Did Derek Begin His Journey?

  • When I was a new police officer, I had probably been on the streets for a year and a half before I got pulled into a specialized assignment. I was part of a group that focused on street-level narcotics violations and arresting people.

  • I had a natural inclination to be able to say specific things in a specific manner to elicit specific information that most of the people I encountered were not inclined to give me.

  • I had the power to get information from them, that they were reluctant to give, in order to move further up the criminal food chain if you will.

  • So I was always enamored with the psychology behind communication. 

[06:26] Work Smart, Not Hard:

  • I made it a mission in life to not work hard, I wanted to work smart. And in police work, working hard means exactly what you would imagine it would be.

  • There were guys that I worked next to within my agency that would go out on a call, there was conflict, and they were fighting with someone or they were chasing someone. And they’re calling for help on the radio. And I made it a mission in life not to be part of that clique. 
  • I became a detective in 1994. And then I became a hostage negotiator in 1997.

  • From that point on, I was so intrigued by the ability to communicate to influence that I just became a student of the game.

[07:39] Learning The Art of Communication:

  • I just continued to teach myself. It’s available to anybody if you would just take the time.

  • That’s one of the reasons why most people won’t engage in communication to this level, it takes energy. And it takes effort. And by and large, most people are lazy.

  • The idea here is not to think about tactical empathy or empathetic listening as a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week endeavor because it’s impossible, because, to your point when you are listening at the deepest level, you are expending much more energy than if you are listening at the intermittent level.

[10:23] Advice For Beginners:

  • You can actually self-label before you engage your kids before you engage your spouse in the evening.

  • Self-labeling is identifying that you’re moody, identifying yourself that you’re tired, and actually saying those words in your mind.

  • That will dissipate the negative emotions and dynamics that are bouncing around in your amygdala, because that’s what’s fired up at that point when you start to get moody, and you start to become short with those who are closest to you.

  • It’s because you’ve given everything to everybody else. And now they’re asking for attention in time, and your amygdala is fired up because of that.

  • And when your amygdala is fired up, what’s supposed to be going on in the prefrontal cortex does not occur.

  • To help mitigate that, amygdala flare-up, just self-label, and that will put you back on the right track to looking for the motivation behind the statement or the behavior that you’re dealing with, with your loved ones at the end of the day.

[12:49] The Unquenchable Thirst To Be Heard:

  • As human beings, we all have this almost unquenchable thirst to have somebody else understand what our perspective is.

  • This is why we are in the mess that we’re in globally because we just don’t appreciate the power of communication, positively and negatively. And as soon as we would, the sooner we would just sit down and have a dialogue with someone that we disagree with, the better off we all would be.

  • Because even the people that we disagree with want to be understood and want to be heard.

  • Every person that I dealt with, on the other end of that phone, was a hostage taker, or who was threatening to commit suicide. We started off at opposite ends of the continuum.

  • We started off as, for lack of a better term, adversarial. And yet and still in the US, our success rate at influencing surrenders is close to 94%.

  • It’s because we have a keen appreciation of the human nature response, which dictates negative emotions and negative dynamics drive decision-making drive behaviors, full stop.

[17:24] The Importance of Curiosity in Dialogue and Understanding Emotional Responses:

  • Step back and look at it as a non-participant or non-combatant, you gotta ask yourself the question, “Where’s that coming from?”

  • When one’s behavior does not line up with the realities of the environment, it’s always coming from an emotional place.

  • And so curiosity is what’s missing in most of our conversations. Because we’re so focused on where we want to end up, we’re so focused on what our agenda is and what our goals and objectives are.

[19:44] Being Trained As A Hostage Negotiator:

  • It’s not by accident that hostage negotiators all over the globe are trained in the same skill set.

  • Hostage negotiators in Tokyo, Melbourne, Mumbai, Tel Aviv, Frankfurt, London, Johannesburg, the US, North America, or South America, they’re all trained in the same skills skill set, doesn’t matter what you look like, it doesn’t matter where you come from, because it’s not based on any of that.

  • It’s based on the human nature response. And once you get your head around this idea that negative emotions and negative dynamics drive decision-making and drive behavior, your communication, and your ability to influence are increased, and you are at a distinct advantage over those you’re engaging with because they now become predictable.

[22:10] The Power of Stating the Obvious:

  • Most of the Black Swan skills are all about uncovering and highlighting the obvious and being fearless about it.

  • When you’re going to go into your boss’s office to basically demand a pay increase. They’re going to think that this is a bad time to have this discussion, they’re going to think that you’re being greedy, they’re going to think that your work effort doesn’t line up with your requested increase, they’re going to think that this is just another problem on a long list of problems that they have to deal.

  • So the first thing I’m going to do is throw those out in front of the conversation before I even get to my task. I’m going to say those things. And immediately I took permission and authority away from them for using those against me when I ultimately asked them for my pay increase.

[24:30] Taking The Brain To A Positive State:

  • There’s research out there that says the brain works up to 31% better when it’s in a positive state.

  • So every time that I sit down with a counterpart, that’s one of my first goals is to try to put them in as positive a state as possible, because I want them to be clear of mind.

  • When I ultimately make my ask and fail to point out the obvious as you describe. It puts you at a distinct disadvantage. the adage, you do that at your own peril. 

[25:15] The Accusation Audit:

  • This is a really powerful technique. I use it, especially quite a bit in emails, and when I do not have the advantage.

  • I’ll use an accusation audit, and I’ll lean in on it really, really hard. I’ll try to almost exaggerate.

  • Making a deliberate attempt to recognize their circumstance. And then articulate that circumstance is enough. It’s the cheapest and most effective concession that you can make from one person to another.

  • Just shut your mouth and listen.

[28:59] Concede And Achieve:

  • It is very difficult to teach people to concede without feeling like their ego is being murdered.

  • There’s a powerful need for people to be right. So if you state something like a label, if you label them incorrectly, they’ll be in a rush to correct you and feel good as a result.

  • That correction is going to be more honest and valuable information, they start to give you information that they have no business giving you. Because the feeling that they get on the correction outweighs any exposure that they’re fearful of, by sharing further information with you.

[41:14] Empathy Is Powerful In Business:

  • It’s powerful in everyday life, it’s powerful in your business world. And it’s just a great way to demonstrate to the other side that this conversation isn’t all about me, I’m also concerned about you. 

[43:30] Getting People To Say “Yes”:

  • I would caution you about pushing people for a yes.

  • I know when you are trying to get me to say yes. I become defensive. Because yes, it’s always commitment. It’s always an obligation. You are encroaching on my autonomy when you were pushing me for a yes.

  • The thought process behind that is that if I get you to say yes to a bunch of little things through the course of art interaction. When I get to my ultimate ask the big yes, you’re more inclined to give it. Some people even call these things. 

  • I say you guys actually call these things. Yes, tie downs where you’re trying to tie your counterpart down, and you think they like that. And so just be careful about driving for a yes.

[48:57] How To Become A Master Negotiator?

  • When you’re articulating something that they haven’t said yet, there’s no clear way to demonstrate that you are viewing this from their perspective.

  • I encourage people, always ask themselves, if you were them, what would you be thinking about yourself? What would you be thinking about this conversation? What would you be thinking about this email?

  • You’re facilitating that need that all of us have to dissipate negative emotions, you’re making them clear of mind.

  • One of the best characteristics of tactical empathy is that it encourages reciprocity, people are subconsciously obligated to return that “feel good” aspect back to you.

[52:21] Learn More About Derek Gaunt:



Igor Kheifets is an amazon best-selling author of the List Building Lifestyle: Confessions of an Email Millionaire.

He’s also the host of List Building Lifestyle, the podcast for anyone who wants to make more money and have more freedom by leveraging the power of an email list

He’s widely referred to as the go-to authority on building large responsive email lists in record time.

Igor’s passionate about showing people how to live the List Building Lifestyle.