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“what does this guy really want?”

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Lyndon Johnson obviously made many mistakes. Nevertheless, he was often brilliant in organizing and using power to get what he wanted. Robert Caro’s multi-volume biography of Johnson is a must-read for anyone serious about wanting to make social change.

Caro was interviewed this morning on NPR. Here’s an excerpt:

“Everyone says that Johnson talks all the time. But when he wants to, he’s listening. I’m thinking of one call — I think it’s the night after the assassination. He calls George Smathers, who’s a very pragmatic senator, and Johnson has always used him to find out what’s really going on. … Smathers is talking, and every few minutes Johnson says ‘Uh huh,’ you know, just to keep him talking, until he gets from Smathers the information that he wants. And time and again, you hear him listening for the words — what does this guy really want? I mean, it’s almost palpable. You can hear what he’s doing. And, of course, when Johnson finds out what a guy really wants, he will work to give it to him. Or he can be very, very tough.”

Listening to identify a person’s self-interest is critical to successful organizing.

We’ve got to lead with our ears….

I’m adding this post to The Best Posts & Articles On Building Influence & Creating Change.

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Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.

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