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Churchill’s Bathtub

By JemmaBlythe Alexander Shelton-Spurr (JB Shelton)

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From the perfectly heated waters of a footed Victorian bathtub, the British Prime Minister led the Allies to victory in World War II. Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, intellectual and wit, wordsmith and exhibitionist, dictated his strategies to Patrick Kinna, his wartime secretary. Kinna even spoke of the world leader as his “nude chieftain.”

“No idea is so outlandish
that it should not be considered with a searching but at the same time a steady eye.”

It was in his long and twice-a-day baths that Churchill crafted many of his strategies to defeat the Nazi onslaught, prepared his brilliant quips and created his negotiating plans that won the day with Allied leaders as diverse as Joseph Stalin, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Charles DeGaulle. Unquestionably, he was one of the most successful negotiators of the Twentieth Century.

What made him so successful?

First, of course, was the time he spent meticulously planning his approaches to saving his nation, the vast British Empire, and the many defeated nations of Western Europe. It was in the control and relaxation of his tub that he created plans to trade naval bases for destroyers with a neutral United States, encourage and ally with his old enemy the Soviet Union, and inspire his country to fight on despite the costs.

Buttressed by his planning and his certainty in goals, Churchill’s negotiating successes were also marked by his adherence to several clear the qualities outlined below:

“For myself I am an optimist.
It does not seem to be much use being anything else.”

The first phase of negotiating like Churchill is being a self-centered optimist. Where, when and how do you do your best thinking? Churchill realized his relaxed body led quickly to clear thoughts. His twice daily baths were a tradition (complete with cigar and tumbler of brandy), with members of the military and politics often in the room with him. If you usually picture Churchill nattily garbed in a suit, tie and hat, think towel instead.

“True genius resides in the capacity for evaluation of uncertain, hazardous, and conflicting information.”

Truly a man of words — spoken and written — Churchill was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1953 for his body of work, including a four-volume history of World War I, a six-volume memoir, and the speeches he delivered with such power and mastery.

Churchill’s abilities to evaluate information and transform knowledge into motivating words were unsurpassed. His selection of short, Anglo-Saxon words, similes and metaphors, were often phrased with the beautiful simplicity of a Shakespearean sonnet. On March 5, 1946, in Salem, Illinois, he mobilized America into action by intoning, “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic an Iron Curtain has descended across the continent.”

Churchill’s Bathtub By JemmaBlythe Alexander Shelton-Spurr (JB Shelton)


Copyright ©2013 JemmaBlythe Alexander Shelton-Spurr
Copyright ©   2013  The Negotiator Magazine
The Negotiator Magazine  April 2013