\u201c60 Seconds or She Dies.\u201d That\u2019s the name of the exercise former FBI hostage negotiator Chris Voss conducts during conflict management skills training. The basic premise is that the \u201chostage-taker\u201d demands a car, or he\u2019ll kill the hostage. But the trainee isn\u2019t allowed to give him that car. And the clock is ticking.If the idea of managing that situation makes your palms sweaty and your mind race, you could probably use a lesson in conflict management from hostage negotiators.At first blush, managing a conflict at work seems like it has as much in common with hostage negotiation as your morning commute does with The Fast and the Furious. But these conflict resolution techniques are useful anytime you need to defuse a tense situation, especially when you know you can\u2019t give the other party what they want. Whether that person is a team member asking for a raise that just isn\u2019t in the budget, or a felon demanding a suitcase full of cash, you can use these conflict management strategies to turn a standoff into a productive interaction.Or course, there\u2019s a major difference between hostage negotiations and workplace conflict, which is that, at the end of the day you and your team member want the same thing: for them to succeed. Your mission is to prove that you\u2019re on their side.Conflict Management Skills: Emotional IntelligenceIt can be both difficult and uncomfortable for managers to deal with strong emotions at work. We’ve got this misguided idea that people are supposed to \u201ccheck their emotions at the door\u201d when they come to work. But a workplace without strong emotions is a workplace where no one is really invested in the work. As Voss says, \u201c. . . without emotions, you actually can\u2019t make a decision, because you make your decisions based on what you care about.\u201dManaging conflict like a hostage negotiator means working with the other person\u2019s emotions: being receptive to them instead of trying to shut them down, being curious about their causes instead of immediately trying to provide solutions.Project a Sense of CalmWhen a team member is angry or upset, most people\u2019s first inclination is to either shut down or get upset themselves. But hostage negotiators know that the most effective tactic when dealing with strong emotions is to project calm and empathy. That means not only choosing your words carefully but monitoring your nonverbal communication so your body language and tone of voice are reassuring. As Voss says, \u201cCalm is contagious.\u201dControl the PaceDon\u2019t let a team member draw you into an emotional ultimatum. If a team member demands a promotion or they\u2019ll quit, defer by saying you need to look into the issue or ask your supervisor. Give them time to calm down and let their immediate distress subside. This also reduces the likelihood that you\u2019ll lose control of your own feelings and escalate the encounter.Talk One-on-OneThe more people who are watching a conflict, the harder it is for a person to back down from their position and be open to negotiation.Public arguments quickly become performances.Hostage negotiators try to establish a direct and private phone link to hostage-takers, instead of yelling at them through amegaphone. As a manager, you can de-escalate by moving a conversation to a private venue or addressing it in a one-on-one meeting.Conflict Management Skills: Active ListeningThe first mistake most managers make in handling conflict is trying to make their point without ever making the other person feel heard. According to Voss, \u201cMost people . . . don\u2019t walk into a negotiation wanting to hear what the other side has to say. They walk into a negotiation wanting to make an argument.\u201d That might be a good strategy for an academic debate, but when you\u2019re dealing with an upset team member, it\u2019s a surefire recipe for miscommunication and escalation.The FBI\u2019s method of hostage negotiation is called the behavioral change stairway model. The first and most crucial step is active listening.What is active listening?Active listening is a communication style in which you give the person speaking your total attention, feed their words back to them, and make observations rather than judgments. This technique will help you better understand your counterpart’s position as well as communicate that you’re really hearing them, and not just waiting for a chance to make your point.It\u2019s also an opportunity for you to get the other person to talk out their own position. By talking, they might realize that they’re actually upset about something else. If nothing else, they’ll start to see that their tactics for dealing with this conflict aren\u2019t getting them what they want.Active listening techniquesThe FBI uses the following techniques to teach active listening. Managers can apply them to negotiations and conflicts at work.MirroringMirroring is a technique in which you repeat the last few words of what someone just said. Doing this reassures the other person that you are listening closely to their every word. And if the conflict is overwhelming, it\u2019s also an easy strategy to give yourself some mental breathing room.Mirroring is particularly effective when you repeat the words with a different inflection, turning a statement into a question. This gives the other person the opportunity to either confirm or back off of their original statement.Mirroring example:Team member: \u201cI\u2019m fed up with having to pick up the slack for everyone else! I\u2019ve worked late every night for the last three weeks!\u201dManager: \u201cEvery night for the last three weeks?\u201dTeam member: \u201cWell, not every night, but several times per week.\u201dParaphrasingWhen your counterpart makes a point, summarize it and repeat it back in your own words. This is slightly more involved than mirroring because, while mirroring shows that you\u2019re listening to someone, paraphrasing shows you\u2019re understanding them.Accurately paraphrasing a team member\u2019s remarks can help you achieve a major victory in conflict management: getting the other person to say, \u201cThat\u2019s right!\u201d According to Voss, \u201cThe moment you\u2019ve convinced someone that you understand their dreams and feelings is the moment a negotiation breakthrough can happen.\u201dParaphrasing example:Team member: \u201cI keep on trying to improve and learn more skills, but then you assign me the same boring projects. If you never give me a chance prove myself then I\u2019ll go somewhere else where they believe in me.\u201dManager: \u201cSo you feel like the projects you\u2019ve been given aren\u2019t helping you grow, and you don\u2019t want to stay here unless that changes.\u201dTeam member: \u201cThat\u2019s right.\u201dEmotional labelingPeople often mislabel or simply fail to label their own emotions, especially when those emotions are unpleasant. By suggesting labels, managers can get to the root of workplace conflicts and help find solutions to address the negative emotion, even when you can\u2019t meet the person\u2019s specific demands.Emotional labeling example:Team member: \u201cIt\u2019s ridiculous that Pamela got a bigger raise than me when she lost one of our biggest customers!\u201dManager: \u201cIt seems like you\u2019re pretty angry with Pamela.\u201dTeam member: \u201cI\u2019m not angry at Pamela; I just don\u2019t think you treated me fairly.\u201dEffective pausesEven skilled communicators are often uncomfortable with silence, but it can be a powerful tool in conflict resolution. If you feel you\u2019ve hit a wall in negotiations, try going quiet, and let the other person\u2019s natural aversion to silence take hold.Gary Noesner, former hostage negotiator and author of Stalling for Time: My Life as an FBI Hostage Negotiator, attests to the power of thoughtfully employed silence: \u201cEventually, even the most emotionally overwrought subjects will find it difficult to sustain a one-sided argument, and they again will return to meaningful dialogue with negotiators. Thus, by remaining silent at the right times, negotiators actually can move the overall negotiation process forward.\u201dConflict Management Skills: Prioritizing RelationshipsIn hostage situations, the negotiator and hostage-taker are strangers, the negotiator\u2019s primary goal is the safety of the hostages, and the negotiator\u2019s relationship with the hostage-taker will end once the standoff is over. The situation is different for managers since they have a relationship with the person or people in conflict, but that relationship is also your biggest asset in conflict management.You\u2019re working to protect the relationship; it\u2019s why you\u2019re negotiating in the first place, rather than just letting this person walk out the door.After \u201cactive listening,\u201d the next two steps in the FBI\u2019s negotiation staircase are \u201cempathy\u201d and \u201crapport.\u201d Luckily for you, managers have a giant advantage over hostage negotiators in this regard. You should have already proven your empathy and built a rapport with your colleagues and team members. Hopefully, you\u2019re using your one-on-ones to learn what\u2019s important to this person, proving you’re on their side and investing in their success.Noesner writes: \u201cNegotiators generally achieve peaceful resolutions only after they demonstrate their desire to be nonjudgmental, nonthreatening, and understanding of the subject\u2019s feelings. By projecting that understanding, negotiators show empathy and lead the subject to perceive them, not as the enemy, but as concerned individuals who want to help.\u201dOnce you\u2019ve proven that you are that concerned individual, a person can be receptive to your ideas on how to resolve the situation.Give What You CanA hostage negotiator is rarely able to give a hostage-taker what they\u2019re asking for, but they can still offer a gesture of good faith, like food and water. As a manager, you can also present a gesture to a team member to show you\u2019re taking their feelings seriously.You might not be able to take them off their current project, but you an offer them support to finish it more quickly so they can move on to other things. You might not be able to give them the raise or promotion they want today, but you can offer to revisit it next quarter. The important thing is to make your team member feels heard, not merely placated.Don\u2019t Abuse TrustIt can be tempting to try and get out of a workplace conflict by offering a solution you know you can\u2019t actually provide. But if you promise something and don\u2019t deliver, you\u2019re setting yourself up for even worse conflict in the future, because you\u2019ve lost the trust you worked so hard to build.Don’t make a promise you can’t deliver in order to end a conflict.Don\u2019t Settle for a \u201cCounterfeit Yes\u201dSo you\u2019ve talked a team member down from hysteria, you\u2019ve suggested a solution to the problem, and you\u2019ve even gotten them to agree to it. But unless that agreement is genuine and your team member is committed to the solution, you haven\u2019t really resolved the problem\u2014just left it simmering.Chris Voss calls this faux-resolution a \u201ccounterfeit yes,\u201d and suggests avoiding it by framing your requests in ways that force people to say \u201cno\u201d instead of \u201cyes.\u201dFor instance, asking, \u201cAre you okay waiting until next quarter to talk about the raise?\u201d might get you a grudging, counterfeit \u201cyes.\u201d But asking, \u201cWould it be impossible for you to wait?\u201d gets you a more honest \u201cno.\u201dLevel Up Your Conflict Management SkillsYou don\u2019t have to wait for an interpersonal conflict at work to put these conflict resolution skills into practice. Empathy, active listening, and emotional awareness should inform the work you do every day. The more you practice these skills, the better equipped you\u2019ll be to resolve differences when they arise. So even if managing interpersonal conflict is never your favorite part of your job, you don\u2019t have to let the fear of it hold you hostage.