Toward the end of the cuban missile crisis in 1962, tensions were rising and nuclear war was becoming a near certainty. Russia and Cuba were constructing a nuclear site on Cuba with a firing range that could devastate over 80% of USA’s land.

Russia famously denied any such plan at the United Nations Meeting that year, but USA had spy photos confirming the activity.

Public threats, navy blockades, back channel communications. Kennedy vs Khrushchev.

But also behind the scenes the Kennedy brothers were battling their own military brass who were itching to fight the communists.

On day 11 of the crisis, Khrushchev telexed the White House agreeing to pull out of Cuba. After all the meetings and threats the crisis was over.

On the morning of day 12, the Kremlin sent another telex contradicting their telex from the night before: they were proceeding with the Cuban site and threatening war.

What do you do when you receive a mixed message from someone? How do you handle contradictory signals?

The White House was at a loss of what to do. Had Russia experienced a Ku de Tat overnight? Was Khrushchev still in power? Were both messages from him, or did two different people send two different messages not knowing about the other?

When you’re in cold war with someone, you cannot simply pick up the phone and ask. The White House was in a dilemma and the stakes were as high as can be.

Bobby Kennedy suggested what appeared to be an absurd solution:

act on the message you like, ignore the message you don’t like. Proceed as if you never received the second message. It worked and has since become a literal textbook case in human communications.

We receive mixed messages from people all the time and they cause anxiety in us because they put us into cognitive dissonance.

The Bobby Kennedy solution is effective: proceed with the preferred message. Ignore the contradictory message.

The reason this little dynamic works is because of the simple reality that most communication is fluid, not rigid, yet we often receive communication as rigid. Very rarely does someone communicate rigid, fixed unbending message.

Often times, people do not even realize they are sending mixed messages. By proceeding with one, ignoring the other, you place the burden of clarity where it belongs – back onto the communicator.

The communicator can then clarify what they really mean or as often happens, passively do nothing. Amazingly, that is what Khrushchev did. When JFK took his brother’s advice and proceeded to act on the preferred message, Russia complied and the crisis was averted.


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More from @stevecusswords

29 Mar
Ways you can identify a 'usual suspect' critic vs a 'garden variety critic' or a 'helpful critic.'

1. No matter what you say, how often you meet, etc, they never come around. They don't want resolution.

2. They weaponize your insight against you.

3. As much as you try to resolve, they never land, they just keep shifting the target.

4. They continue to embrace their own POV over the objective facts of the situation.

5. You give them too much real estate in your brain.

Once you identify a usual suspect over other types....

1. Move them out of the corner office of your brain. They are usually tiny fraction of % of all your people, but you give them a large % of your mental energy and time.

Read 5 tweets
20 Mar
One aspect of Family Systems Theory that I think is at risk of being lost is 'playfulness.' Students of FST like Friedman and Whittaker actually measured anxiety through the lens of playfulness, the opposite being earnestness.

Playfulness doesn't mean you don't take matters seriously. Sometimes the more serious, the more important 'play time' is.

Playfulness is not only for people of privilege, it is a human need and a true antidote to anxiety's grip.

In the 1950, Murray Bowen, founder of FST coined the term 'societal regression.' It became one of his 8 core concepts.

As he studied the way anxiety spreads between people, he kept moving his view wider and wider from couples to families to groups to an entire society.

Read 14 tweets
12 Mar
I continue to explore tools and ramifications to decrease the grip of our Inner Critic.

It recently occurred to me that the message of the inner critic often fall into broad categories of:

- you must do it perfectly
- you must know the answer
- you must always love well.

Wait a minute there, Inner Critic.

Are you suggesting we should be:

All knowing
Unconditionally loving?
Always there for people?

Does that sound like anyone you know?

The very first temptation given to humans was:

'you can be like God.'

No. We cannot. We will never be like God. We can worship God and love God and follow God.

Most scandalous of all, we can enjoy God.

But we will never be like God.

Read 7 tweets
3 Mar
Pastors, let's talk about 'usual suspects' critics.

There are all kinds of critics, some of whom are an absolute gift.

Then there are the 'usual suspect' critics.

Helpful: they're in it with you, they're for the cause, they see things in you that you don't see, they help develop you as a leader.

Sometimes their feedback hurts, not because of them, but because we pastors tend to take our ministry so extremely personally.

Then there is the 'garden variety' critic. They don't have malice toward you, it just hasn't occurred to them that maybe you and your team have put 100 hours into the decision and looked at every angle.

Because they go to church, they think they know how to lead a church.

Read 10 tweets
2 Mar
Chronic anxiety is present any time the false self is demanding attention.

What do you think you need that you don't really need?

What are you in the grip of that God is rescuing you from?

Jesus died to free me from needing ______ anymore

For me? Thanks for asking.

Gold standard sermons everytime.
Having the answer always at the ready.
Everyone approving me, no matter what.
More insight from me when you don't understand me or misattribute my motives.

and plenty more.

I recommend you write them out. It is crazy what you live for and how tightly you are in the grip of these false needs.

Pay attention to superlatives and exxagerations.

'always' 'everyone' 'must' etc. These words are evidence of being in anxiety's squeeze.

Read 5 tweets
1 Mar
What are the top four ways relationships get into trouble quick?

1) Unspoken expectations.
2) Unspoken values.
3) The meaning we make out of what we don't know.
4) Assumption of motive in the other.

And then we spin in the '4th space: the space inside the other' and we spend inordinate amounts of time wondering, 'what were they thinking, why did they do it that way.'

Spinning ensues.

It takes courage, clarity, calm and curiosity.

Sorry for the litany of Cs....old preacher syndrome....

But you can speak the unspoken and move into a posture of curiosity with the person to regain human connection.

Read 7 tweets

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