Should police negotiators ask to ‘talk’ or ‘speak’ to persons in crisis? Word selection and overcoming resistance to dialogue proposals

2019-11-19T11:41:01Z (GMT) by Rein Sikveland Elizabeth Stokoe
This paper explores whether and how word selection makes some proposals easier to resist than others. Fourteen cases (31 hours) of UK-based police crisis negotiation were analysed exploring (i) how negotiators use the verbs talk or speak when proposing ‘dialogue’, and (ii) to what extent the strength of persons in crisis’ resistance towards the proposals may be attributed to this word selection. We found that persons in crisis were more likely to overtly reject proposals formulated with talk compared to speak. And while negotiators used both talk/speak when proposing dialogue, negotiators and persons in crisis associated talk with more evaluative stances towards dialogue compared to speak. This paper has implications for the study of word selection in interaction and for crisis negotiation and other professions where ‘talk’ is promoted as the solution.