The backstage work negotiators do when communicating with persons in crisis

2019-05-02T10:09:39Z (GMT) by Elizabeth Stokoe Rein O. Sikveland
When a person in crisis threatens suicide, police negotiators engage them in a conversation to prevent death. Working in small teams, the primary negotiator’s role is to talk directly to the person in crisis. A secondary negotiator, working ‘behind the scenes’, supports the ongoing negotiation. Using 31 hours of audio-recorded British negotiations, we uncover the backstage work of secondary negotiators. We use conversation analysis to identify the sequential position, linguistic form and action of the secondary negotiator’s interventions on (i) the delivery (e.g., ‘sound angry’) and (ii) next actions (e.g., ‘say please’, ‘try asking them to move’) of the primary negotiator, and how the primary incorporates them into the negotiation. Our analysis shows that, while some suggestions were effective, others disrupted the flow of the negotiation as well as the alignment between primary negotiator and person in crisis. The paper augments current sociolinguistic understandings of the high-stakes language activity of crisis negotiation and highlights the importance of attending to linguistic features of interaction when training negotiators to work better as a team.