Insights from an FBI Negotiator: Mastering Life and Work Negotiations

In this episode of ‘Deal Talk,’ Jean-Nicolas Reyt and K. John Martin are joined by Melissa Fortunato, a seasoned crisis negotiator who served as a crisis negotiator in the FBI and Scotland Yard.

Melissa discusses her experiences in conflict resolution and crisis management, both in high-stakes environments and everyday situations.

She explains the significant role of emotions in negotiations, encouraging listeners to see them as indicators rather than obstacles, and stressing the need to create space between instant reactions and responses.

Melissa also underscores the importance of truly understanding the person on the other side of the negotiation table, and tailoring your communication style to the situation at hand.

The conversation further delves into the implications of apologizing during negotiations and the impact of behavior modeling in dispute resolution.

Melissa’s powerful insights challenge conventional negotiation wisdom and offer listeners new perspectives on how to navigate their own personal and professional negotiations.


  • [00:21:00] Relationship between Negotiation and Ego
  • [00:22:00] Overcoming Personal Attacks in Conflicts
  • [00:23:00] Role of Crisis Communication
  • [00:24:00] Saving Face in Negotiations
  • [00:25:00] Emotional Management in Crisis Situations
  • [00:27:00] Taking Breaks during Negotiations
  • [00:28:00] Dealing with Triggering Statements
  • [00:30:00] Making Effective Apologies
  • [00:34:00] Operating in Fearful Situations
  • [00:37:00] Differences between FBI and Scotland Yard Negotiations


Negotiation, Crisis management, Conflict resolution, Emotional management, Ego, Personal attacks, Crisis communication, Apologies, Fear, FBI, Scotland Yard, Behavior modeling, Dispute resolution, High-stakes negotiation, Effective communication, Listening skills, Leadership development, Barricaded situations, Kidnapping negotiations, Undercover work.


  1. “When you understand those emotions, it’s much easier to then walk back and figure out the direction that you want to go.”
  2. “Just keep taking a step forward and challenging yourself because each time you do that, it helps you in all areas of your life to manage those feelings and uncertainties.”
  3. “You don’t have to apologize for being the person you are. But you just apologize for that one thing that you think you messed up.”
  4. “You should be a leader on what you want to see and the behavior that you want to see. And I think many times people will follow your lead, especially if you’re coming from a good place.”
  5. “Be the person you want to see in the world because in any negotiation, right? Lead with the way you want the negotiations to go.”

About the Hosts

Shane Ray Martin

 Shane is a professional negotiator and mediator. He was trained at Harvard, Yale, learn and other organizations.

Jean-Nicolas Reyt

JN is an award-winning professor at McGill University. He teaches negotiation at the bachelor, MBA, PhD, and executive levels.

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