Survivor: Nicaragua and encouragement

Jimmy Johnson is a retired American football coach. He followed Tom Landry as the coach of the Dallas Cowboys.

Jimmy knows how to encourage others.

My wife and I watched the TV show Survivor: Nicaragua last night and during the show we saw Jimmy Johnson masterfully encourage a discouraged, ready to quit, player. He was incredible.

How Jimmy encouraged a discouraged player?

#1. They went off for a private conversation. The more people involved the more likely they’ll be posturing and deception.

#2. He sat down beside Holly, the defeated player. He got on her level.

#3. Holly began explaining her discouragement. Coach said, “I see it.” He never minimized or under-valued Holly’s statements. He never said, “Oh. It’s not that bad.”

#4. Coach said, “You can make it one day, can’t you?” He’s helping Holly break down the challenge into achievable components. However, Holly surprisingly said, “I can’t.”

#5 Coach never said, “Of course you can make it through one day.” He never argued with Holly’s perceptions. He accepted them completely even when they were off base.

#6. Coach acknowledged people get weak. After their conversation, Jimmy looked into the camera and quoted Vince Lombardi, “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.”

#7. Finally, Johnson said to Holly, “We need you. Your team needs you.” He made Holly feel important.


Holly remained in the game. She looked into the camera and said, “I’m going to help the team out.” Jimmy reached her.

One big lesson

How many times have you argued with a discouraged person attempting to change their perceptions?  Not coach. He found a way to encourage Holly without confronting or challenging her misperceptions.

Don’t challenge a discouraged person, accept them. Covey said, “Seek first to understand then to be understood.”

Acceptance opens the door to influence.


How do you encourage others?