Here’s what appears to be a no-brainer. Who was the better communicator – John F. Kennedy or Lyndon Baines Johnson?
It seems like no-contest. I can quote line after line from speeches by President Kennedy. I don’t think I can quote a single line from an LBJ speech. In fact, I think the line I know best from him is this line, from an address to the nation – not quite a “speech” in the traditional sense: “I shall not seek, and I will not accept…”
So, JFK – the better communicator? Right.
I’m not so sure. Maybe LBJ wins that contest. He just gave his “speeches” to one person at a time – over the telephone. Lyndon Johnson was the Grand Champion, Super Bowl Champion, Gold Medal winner phone communicator of all time.
He was charming, direct – he could be ruthless, unyielding – all over the phone. Over the last few years, as more and more of his phone calls have been released to the public, we learn that he would call anyone, anytime, and make his points clearly, and his demands known. And, from all appearances, he never hesitated to make that phone call.
Now, the rhetoric of President Kennedy was soaring, hope-instilling, almost at times awe-inspiring. LBJ was more “get things done, nuts and bolts” in his phone calls. And, as many observers have noted, he knew how to move legislation along. The accomplishments were breathtaking: the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Medicare.
But, the question is… how did President Johnson get so much much done?
The answer: The telephone. One phone call at a time.
He called practically everybody who could help him, one person at a time. And he did not hesitate to call those who disagreed with him, even those who opposed him, again one person at a time.
He cultivated relationships, he gave voice to his arguments, he appealed, he cajoled, he arm-twisted. One person at a time, phone call after phone call.
To become a better speaker, study John F. Kennedy.
But to become a better communicator, you might want to listen in on more of the phone calls of Lyndon Baines Johnson.
And the next time you think an e-mail and/or a text message is good enough, well… maybe it’s time to remember the value of words spoken, and heard, over the phone.
Professional Speaker & Writer
Co-founder, First Friday Book Synopsis