“Whenever and wherever possible, always try to assume positive intent when looking at the actions and behaviors’ of others” - Gary McDougall

Gary McDougall

Conflict Resolution, Communication and Negotiation Expert

Gary McDougall is a retired police officer who served with the Calgary Police Service for 25 years.  For the last nine years of his career he was a member of the Hostage and Crisis Negotiation Team.

Gary McDougall served as both a Team Leader and Training Coordinator for the Calgary Hostage Negotiation team and was a frequent Instructor at the National Canadian Police College in Ottawa, delivering both basic and advanced hostage/crisis negotiations courses to police officers from across North America.

Additionally, McDougall served as an Instructor at the FBI Training Academy in Virginia, assisting in the training of new FBI Hostage Negotiators. After retiring from law enforcement in 2006, he became a frequent presenter at hostage and crisis negotiation conferences and seminars and is an internationally recognized subject matter expert in the area of negotiations, having presented at over 70 conferences across North America in the past decade.

Gary McDougall is currently a Lead Instructor for an organization called the National Tactical Officer’s Association, and travels throughout North America teaching both Introductory and Advanced training courses in Hostage and Crisis Negotiation strategies and techniques. He has parlayed the experiences he gained through his hostage negotiation career into the corporate world and now applies those training concepts into the presentations he offers. He specializes in the area of interpersonal conflict and engaging in conversations and interactions with difficult people. Additionally, he offers presentations in the areas of interest-based negotiation strategies, workplace violence, situational awareness to enhance employee safety and constructive conflict management.

Gary McDougall is a certified Mediator and holds a Certificate in Mediation and Negotiation, receiving that certification through the Alberta Mediation and Arbitration Society and the University of Calgary. He also holds a Certificate in Personnel Management through the University of Calgary. He received the Senior Police Administration Certification while serving with the Calgary Police Service. He is also the holder of the Alberta Centennial Police Service Medal as well as the Canadian Long Service Medal for his commitment to law enforcement in Alberta.

Topic Presentations

Gary McDougall's engaging and powerful keynote presentation entitled Communication Skills; Because Every Word Matters, will invite you to look at the way you have traditionally communicated. Effective communication seems to be a dying art in North American culture as people seem to have become socially isolated. Given this degree of social isolation, when we do find an opportunity to communicate with others, we need to maximize the value of that communicative investment. This presentation will assist you in conveying your message, managing assumptions and ensuring that the message intended was the message received.

Some of the communication strategies we have historically subscribed to may not be effective in terms of message delivery and there is value therefore in looking at, not only what we are saying, but also what we mean.

Some of the key learning outcomes included in this presentation are:


  • How our individual perceptions, assumptions and mindset affect our thoughts, behaviors’ and attitudes and ultimately the outcome of our personal interactions;

  • The impact our tone, emphasis and body language have on the message we are trying to convey.

  • Understanding that some very simple words that we commonly use can derail the effectiveness of our communication and ultimately our interpersonal and business relationships.

  • Recognizing the fact that, in many cases, we judge other people by their actions whereas we often judge ourselves by our intentions.


McDougall shows how these factors are crucial to understanding why some conversations and relationships fall off the rails.

Negotiation is defined as a discussion between at least two people, in which at least one of the participants has a desired outcome or agenda.

If you had any interaction with your children this morning, it likely involved negotiation - Get up and get dressed, it's time for school.  The conversation you had with your co-worker this morning may also have been a negotiation - Where do you want to go for coffee?

Most people learn negotiation skills at a very young age and have been practice them through childhood. Some of those strategies are effective and others, less so. The focus of this presentation is to underscore the value of the negotiation strategies you already employ and to offer suggestions on how to be more effective during your negotiations. Whether you are negotiating over the sale price of a new car or negotiating a multi-million dollar contract on behalf of your organization, these skills help to create value.

Gary McDougall is a firm believer that the negotiation tools and strategies he learned as a hostage and crisis negotiator are interchangeable with negotiation strategies used within the sphere of business negotiations. In this presentation, he will share the strategies that worked well during his negotiations as well as those that did not work well and those lessons learned can offer powerful insights for the attendees of this presentation.

Some of the key learning outcomes included in this presentation are:


  • Understanding the concept of the “Negotiator’s Dilemma” - finding the balance between achieving our substantive outcome while maintaining or improving the relationship we have with our counterpart.

  • Recognizing the pitfalls associated with the “Negotiator’s Mindset” whereby we often make assumptions when we perceive we are engaged in the process of negotiation.  This includes the common assumption that the other side is going to try to take advantage of us and are not to be trusted.

  • Comparing and contrasting the differences between “Traditional Positional Bargaining” with the concept of “Interest Based” negotiation.

  • Examining the “negotiators toolkit” which includes exploring options with the other side, looking at alternatives and identifying the Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement.

Functional interpersonal relationships are at the core of business success, and in some cases interpersonal conflict is a significant impediment to a successful relationship. Conflict is defined as a state of tension, opposition, or an expressed struggle between two parties who perceive incompatible goals, scarce rewards and interference from the other party in achieving their goals. One aspect of conflict is related to “perception,” as, in many cases your perception drives your thoughts, your feelings, and your behavior.

Every conflict, every difficult interaction, every difficult situation—has three different components, which include: the issue at hand, each party’s position and their underlying interest. The key to managing these kinds of interpersonal conflicts is to shift from engaging in a positional conversation and instead, seek to understand what is important to each side (Their underlying interest and yours).

In this presentation, Gary McDougall will explore strategies and techniques for navigating through these difficult engagements and strive to arrive at an outcome that meets each parties needs. He will share techniques to ensure that both conflicting parties feel they have been heard, listened to and validated. For those high conflict situations, McDougall will share the strategies he used to manage difficult engagements in his former career as a hostage and crisis negotiator.

Some of the key learning outcomes included in this presentation are:


  • Understanding the need for professionalism, strategies for managing our own anger during difficult interactions and strategies for managing strong emotions in those difficult people we interact with.

  • Strategies for defusing angry people and dealing with verbally aggressive subjects.

  • An examination of the concept of “response expectation” and the “emotion/reason equilibrium”. This provides some understanding of why people act as they do in conflict.

  • How to set boundaries for people to let them know how we expect and deserve to be treated during hostile or emotion laden engagements.

Recent changes to Canadian Legislation place a significant burden on employers to ensure that they maintain a safe work environment for their employees. Ensuring employee safety is a legal requirement since the proclamation of Bill C-45, which is now addressed in Section 217.1 of the Canadian Criminal Code. Employers are legally bound to ensure employee safety and there are significant criminal and civil ramifications for non-compliance.

In this presentation, Gary McDougall will provide you with an insight into how, in many cases violence follows a pattern of escalation which creates a need for employers and co-workers to recognize these indicators of escalation. Additionally, attendees will gain an understanding of the classification of risks which include the risk associated with an unknown person (not associated with your workplace) entering to commit a crime such as robbery, assault or theft.

Other risks include the risks that can be posed by co-workers and former co-workers, the risks associated with clients or former clients and finally, the risks associated with a domestic situation spilling into the workplace. Gary McDougall will offer information in relation to how, in many cases violent people are purposeful in their actions; dates, methods and locations are significant and often drive the violent actions. He will also explore the similarity in patterns between suicidal subjects and homicidal subjects. The session will also offer strategies to employ in the unlikely event a violent situation arises in the workplace and what actions to take to ensure your personal safety.

Some of the key learning outcomes included in this presentation are:


  • As a society, it seems the focus is on mitigating the risks associated with fire at our workplace when perhaps more consideration should be on addressing the risks associated with workplace violence.

  • Understanding that, in some cases, people contemplating violence, illustrate or display warning signs, which is helpful in preventing an escalation.

  • Recognizing the key warning signs potentially violent people sometimes exhibit when escalating toward violence.

While the law requires that employers create and maintain a safe work environment for their employees, when a violent event occurs in a workplace setting, each individual employee is responsible for their own safety. That said, in some workplaces, there are employees that operate in a state of oblivion, with no recognition or understanding that situations and circumstances may arise that are a risk to their personal safety. In this presentation, Gary McDougall will provide information designed to to create situational awareness and encourage people to match their level of awareness with the potential risks that may be present in the workplace.

This session will also outline the route potentially violent people follow as they move toward violence. Understanding this escalation pattern is critical information for anyone that may work in an environment in which there is a potential for violence. The session will also include information relating to human intuition and our need to pay attention to the subtle warning signs that sometimes lead to violence. People attending this presentation will walk away with tangible strategies for creating their own personal safety plan, using the information offered during the presentation to create their own plan.

Some of the key learning outcomes included in this presentation are:


  • Understanding the indicators of concern that may suggest a person is escalating.

  • A familiarity with the five various levels of situational awareness, including: tuned out, relaxed awareness, focused awareness, high alert and comatose.

  • Discounting our human intuition is both dangerous and imprudent. Responding to our intuition is not about over-reacting, rather about paying attention to, and adjusting the level of awareness.

  • An awareness of the three most common stages of response to crisis; flight, fight or freeze and how to select the appropriate response.

  • An examination of the psychology of evacuation in the event of a crisis. Perhaps following the crowd may not be the most appropriate response.

This course is designed to deliver an understanding of why difficult people act as they do and to provide you with tools for addressing those difficult situations. When you encounter a reasonable person acting unreasonably, there are several highly effective strategies for restoring the relationship to a productive and functional state. This course will give you the tools to control your own emotional responses and also show you ways in which you can manage the other person effectively. If you have frequent interactions with difficult people, this course is for you.This course can be structured to be delivered as any length from a 90-minute “Lunch and Learn” session, a 4-hour interactive training session, or a full 8-hour day. The full day session contains the following material while the shorter presentations are tailored to contain components from the course of specific interest to the client.

This course is designed specifically for people working in any industry in which they are required to interact with victims. Specifically, this course is applicable to the insurance industry, victim services groups and any other occupation in which their primary function is to interact with victims.Note: This course is accredited through the Alberta Insurance Council as a 7.5-hour credit course.This course can be structured to be delivered as any length from a  4-hour interactive training session to a full 8-hour day. The full day session contains the following material while the shorter presentations are tailored to contain components from the course of specific interest to the client.

This course is designed to invite you to examine your own personal and ethical “line in the sand.” During this session, you will be presented with a number of ethical dilemmas and invited to take a position on each issue. Participants are free to enter into the discussion, or maximize their ethical learning by observing the interactive discussions. The learning occurs during the interactive discussion around which position is the “correct” position, and during most sessions, many people flip from side to side based on the information being discussed.  This session will also present you with a structured model for making those difficult ethical decisions.

This course is designed to raise your awareness around workplace violence issues.  Traditional thinking tells us this is not an issue we need to concern ourselves with, however the reality is that workplace violence IS occurring in our world. This course will invite you to examine risk within the context YOUR workplace and look at ways in which you can best manage those risks. You will be introduced to the sources of workplace violence risk, pre-incident indicators you should be mindful of and strategies for what to do if you experience an incident of workplace violence. This course can be structured to be delivered from a 90-minute “Lunch and Learn” session to a 4-hour interactive training session in which we examine the risks posed by your workplace.

Workplace bullying is subtle and difficult to pinpoint.  This session is designed to raise your level of awareness to ensure this doesn’t happen to you or someone you know. Workplace bullying is insidious, but present in almost very workplace to varying degrees. In some cases, the workplace bully walks a fine line, flirting with our corporate respectful workplace policies and in some cases, the bully has absolutely no regard for these policies and operates openly.This course will identify specific behaviours, look at ways in which you can protect yourself from the workplace bully and give you a strategy in the event you find yourself the target of the workplace bully.

Any human interaction in which at least one of the parties has an “agenda” can be considered a “negotiation”. We negotiate every day in situations; either business-related or in our personal situations. Not all negotiations are limited to boardroom situations. This course is structured to provide you with an insight into how you can be more effective during your everyday negotiations. You will learn how to manage the negotiation process, manage your emotions and emotions in others during your more difficult interactions.This session will provide you with a model for preparing yourself in anticipation for a negotiation and give you a structured model to follow to ensure the best results possible. This course can be structured to be delivered from a 90-minute “Lunch and Learn” session, a 4-hour interactive training session, or a full 8-hour day. The full day session contains the following material while the shorter presentations are tailored to contain components from the course of specific interest to the client.

In many cases, the success of a work or business unit depends on the cohesinevess of the Teams that work within that area. This session focuses on taking an existing work group or team and increasing cohesion to maximize team function.The training sessions can be any duration in length ranging from a 90 minute “Lunch and Learn” style session to a full 8-hour workshop. In most cases, the training can be presented at your workplace for the convenience of your staff. The typical session includes the following information:A review of how our individual perceptions can create bad outcomes in our working relationships. In this module, we explore how our perceptions drive our attitudes and how our attitudes drive our behaviours.An examination of the process of how we sometimes succumb to our destructive “inner voice” and how our internal thoughts show up in our external behaviours. This process of “toxic thinking” leads to “toxic behaviours” which can create issues during our personal and professional interactions. An interactive discussion relating to strategies for us to manage our own emotions in the face of challenging situations as well as an examination of how we can manage the strong emotions we encounter in our team members.An examination of our own personal communication style and how that relates to the way in which we interact with other members of our team.The balance of the session focuses on highly interactive teambuilding activities in which members of the group move through a series of challenging tasks and must wok through these activities as a cohesive unit. Through this process, behaviour patterns emerge and those participating learn valuable lessons about themselves and their fellow team members.

This course is designed to offer a diverse menu of topics from which you can choose the areas within “leadership” that would be of most value to your organization. This training emphasizes the value of “leadership” over “management” and highlights the importance of relationships being at the core of effective leadership.This course can be structured to be delivered as any length from a 4-hour session to a full and interactive 2-day leadership workshop.

This course is designed to deliver a complete spectrum of information relating to suicide, spanning from motivation for suicide through signs and indicators and offering strategies for managing a suicidal person. This information is applicable for anyone that may be in contact with a potentially suicidal person from loved ones, friends, employees, co-workers or even complete strangers. Suicide touches many lives and this course will provide information relating to factors that motivate people toward self harm and illustrate the differences between a suicidal gesture and a suicide attempt,  This course will give you the tools to effectively assess and if necessary, manage a potentially suicidal person. This course can be structured to be delivered as any length from a 90-minute  “Lunch and Learn” session, a 4-hour interactive training session, or a full 8-hour  day.

This course is designed for anyone that is required to deliver presentations, speak in public, instruct in a classroom or who just wants to develop confidence in speaking in front of others. Public speaking is said to be one of the most debilitating fears for some people, and this course will offer tips and tricks to develop your confidence in speaking, instructing or presenting.This course can be structured to be delivered as any length from a 4-hour interactive training session to a full 8-hour day.

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