Thought for the Week – Unspoken Signals and the Cuban Missile Crisis!

positive-out-of-negative-situationLast week, we ventured into; Igniting Active Empathy and how Communication is not just about speaking and hearing, it’s also about two other key elements; Active Listening and Empathy. If you missed it, you can see this and all of my previous blogs below.

Last week, I mentioned how an active and empathic listener enhances communication by ensuring that messages are not only conveyed clearly, but also understood and interpreted accurately. Paying attention to others and showing understanding through verbal and non-verbal cues are crucial skills that complement clarity and specificity in communication.

So, the verbal channel is about the words we use and non-verbal cues are about our body language, facial expressions and tone of voice which all play crucial roles in conveying meaning and emotions.

Being aware of, and effectively utilising these non-verbal cues, enhances our communication no-end. I have written before to some extent on these, and in today’s World, much of our communication is remote isn’t it! How does non-verbal communication work here then?

So, this week, I’d like to share a case study of non-verbal cues in action in a most critical situation: 

Case Study: The Cuban Missile Crisis (1962)

The Cuban Missile Crisis is a well-known historical event during the Cold War when non-verbal communication played a pivotal role in averting a potential nuclear conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union.

Background: In October 1962, U.S. spy planes discovered that the Soviet Union had secretly placed nuclear missiles in Cuba, just 90 miles from the U.S. coast. Tensions escalated rapidly as President John F. Kennedy and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev engaged in a high-stakes standoff.

The Non-Verbal Cue: Amidst this crisis, both leaders exchanged written and verbal messages through diplomatic channels. However, it was the non-verbal cue that truly de-escalated the situation. President Kennedy received a letter from Khrushchev proposing a resolution to the crisis. Simultaneously, he received another, more hostile letter from Khrushchev. Kennedy had to decide how to respond, and the fate of the world hung in the balance.

The Turning Point: Kennedy’s non-verbal cue came in the form of time. He chose to delay his response to Khrushchev’s first letter and instead responded to the more conciliatory second letter. By doing so, he sent a powerful non-verbal signal that he was willing to consider peaceful options and avoid immediate military action.

The Result: Khrushchev, receiving the delayed response to his first letter and the more peaceful tone of Kennedy’s reply, saw an opportunity for negotiation and agreed to remove the missiles from Cuba in exchange for a U.S. pledge not to invade the island. This effectively ended the crisis and prevented a potential nuclear war.

The Lesson: In this historic case, the non-verbal cue of timing and response choice played a crucial role in averting a catastrophe. President Kennedy’s decision to delay his response conveyed a willingness to seek a peaceful solution, and this non-verbal communication, along with the written and verbal exchanges, helped diffuse one of the tensest moments of the Cold War.

On a lighter note …

“Mr. Bean is at his best when he is not using words, but I am equally at home in both verbal and nonverbal expression”.

-Rowan Atkinson-

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With best wishes for your success,


Thrive Coaching & Training – Empowering you to Thrive!

13 Oct 2023

Published by korinnethrive

Hello, I’m Korinne … I work with committed and determined professionals who want to master their communuac skills. Often business people believe they are doing OK and yet they know they are not getting the results they want and deserve. I’m passionate about helping people to achieve thir vision and get results. I have been working with Business Owners and Leaders for more that 25 years, helping them to realise their vision of what they truly want, overcome barriers to effective communication, so they can be the best version of themselves and thrive in their lives.

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