It is useful to know how to negotiate a hostage release and Hostage negotiators undertake one of the most stressful jobs imaginable – trying to ensure that tense hostage stand-offs come to a peaceful conclusion. You will be put into high-pressure situations and must be able to think on your feet. You should also maintain a positive outlook to give yourself the best chance of securing a favourable outcome.

To become a professional negotiator, you will have to undertake a number of courses and secure the appropriate qualifications. But more important is a background in real-life crisis management. Law enforcement agencies are likely to be on the scene before your arrival. Get as much information from them as you can, but remember you are not one of them – your job is to be an intermediary, the calm centre of a web including hostage-takers, hostages and authorities.

Your first move is to find out who the hostage-taker is and what they want. Most situations are domestic, often involving a disturbed individual holding family members. The hostage-taker is likely to feel desperate and not in control, which can strengthen your position. Where the perpetrator has political aims, you stand less chance of ‘talking them down’. Be prepared for negotiations to take hours, days or even more.

Never openly argue with the hostage-taker or refuse a demand, no matter how unreasonable. You don’t want to risk losing lines of communication. Instead, meet a demand with a counter-offer. Most governments take a stance that striking deals with hostage-takers is unacceptable, but negotiating must by its nature include some room for manoeuvre.

In general, the longer a situation goes on, the more chance it will resolve itself well, so delay as much as you can. Don’t ask questions with yes or no answers, and play for time by telling the hostagetaker that you have to clear their demands with a higher authority. Try to earn their trust and build up a psychological profile. Do whatever you can to ensure the well-being of the hostages. Try to get food and medical supplies to them if necessary. If you can secure the freedom of a few, then take the opportunity. As well as being out of danger, they will be able to supply information about what is going on at the scene and, in the event of an armed assault by law enforcement personnel, the fewer hostages the better.