In celebration of the birth of two founding fathers, here are some communication tips from one of my personal favs--Abraham Lincoln. We all think of him as an amazing writer and speaker, but he's also a "go to" for tips and tricks for influencing people. In addition to his leadership legacy, he was an outstanding conversationalist.

Communication skills are linked to our overall effectiveness in ways that are difficult to quantify. However, we all intuitively understand that moving people, whether that's a large group or one on one, is a highly desirable skill that should be studied and practiced.

Many of Lincoln's communication principles are as applicable today as when our country was deeply divided and struggling with a number of social, individual rights, and role of government issues.

  1. Listen first, speak second. Nothing is more compelling then demonstrating a thorough understanding and respect for the views of your audience. No communication tip or trick will overcome a fundamental misunderstanding of your listener's issue.
  2. Use plain, easy-to-understand and remember language.
  3. Take every opportunity to speak. It's great practice and opens doors to new audiences and supporters.
  4. Continuously refine your work. Nothing is ever finished until it's delivered--either the speech given or the piece published.
  5. Weave in stories that illustrate your point--either demonstrating why this is important now or how your solution might work.
  6. Pair written documents with verbal discussions. The ability to flexibly articulate an idea helps increase interest and understanding.
  7. Be your organization's best stump speaker. Let your passion and personality shine through.

Lincoln on Leadership by Donald T. Phillips is one of those "go to" books many of us keep handy. I periodically open it for a little perspective and inspiration when facing a tricky communication challenge with a client. Many of the principles listed above came from Phillips' research and writing.