Family Talk: Brevity can be powerful
Abraham Lincoln's famous Gettysburg Address was 270 memorable and impactful words. And when I think about my boyhood hero's accomplishment, I realize brevity can be powerful.
Lincoln was allocated two hours to speak that day. He took two minutes. In fact, the photographer still was getting set up to take his picture when Lincoln sat down. Despite the lack of photos, the address lives indelibly in our collective memory.
Could brevity help us achieve clarity and impact in our important family communications? Could Lincoln provide an example when we have to talk about a touchy topic? I think so.
Despite common misperception, Lincoln did not write his speech on the back of an envelope while riding a train to Gettysburg. As Ken Jennings reports, “The historical record is actually fairly clear: Lincoln spent almost two weeks on the speech. This was typical for him. As president, he often turned down opportunities to speak off the cuff, considering himself a poor impromptu speaker. John Hay, one of Lincoln's private secretaries, remembered that the speech was “carefully considered.”
It's unlikely we'll ever spend two weeks preparing to talk with our family about an important topic, but we can take a page from Lincoln's notebook and follow the four “Bs” Lincoln modeled.
Be prepared. Carefully consider and plan what you want to say.
Be sincere. Speak from the heart, as Lincoln did. The origin of the word sincere means to be “without wax.” No fake filler.
Be brief. Lincoln took two minutes, not two hours. We should likewise avoid long lectures with our family.
Be seated. When you've made your point, put a period at the end of the sentence. Don't go on and on, repeating the same thing.
In critical family discussions, Lincoln provides a model, and brevity provides the impact. Try it!
Jim Priest is CEO of Sunbeam Family Services and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.