Pirates have kidnapped six crew members off a ship operating in the Gulf of Guinea, near the west coast of Africa. The corporate owner of the vessel and employer of the victims has called me in from England to help negotiate their release. My first step is to calm everyone down. We can’t navigate this situation from a place of agitation and high stress. My second is to choose someone from the corporate crisis team whom I trust to interact with the bad guys—a person who can communicate in the right language and dialect, who seems emotionally stable and resilient, and who, most important, will be able to listen to and connect with the people holding his colleagues. I quickly decide on John.

A version of this article appeared in the March–April 2024 issue of Harvard Business Review.