Listen Before You Speak: Lincoln’s “Public Opinion Baths”

Before You Speak, Listen
By Gene Griessman

Abraham Lincoln never questioned the right of his subordinates, or the general public, to say what they thought. In fact he very much wanted to hear what others had to say. His listening skills were legendary

On a visit to the White House in 1863, Major

Abraham Lincoln

General Charles G. Halpine was surprised to find one of its rooms full of people waiting to see the President. Halpine suggested that Lincoln screen visitors the way generals did.

Lincoln disagreed with his general:
“Men moving only in an official circle are apt to become merely official, not to say arbitrary, in their ideas, and are apter and apter, with each passing day, to forget that they only hold power in a representative capacity.

“Now this is all wrong. I go into these promiscuous receptions of all who claim to have business with me twice each week, and every applicant for audience has to take his turn as if waiting to be shaved in a barber’s shop.

“Many of the matters brought to my notice are utterly frivolous, but others are of more or less importance, and all serve to renew in me a clearer and more vivid image of that great popular assemblage, out of which I sprang, and to which at the end of two years I must return.

“I tell you, Major, that I call these receptions my public-opinion baths; for I have but little time to read the papers and gather public opinion that way, and though they may not be pleasant in all their particulars, the effect as a whole is renovating and invigorating to my perceptions of responsibility and duty.”

Lincoln was right. Many of the great intelligence lapses of history—for example, Hitler’s invasion of Russia caught Stalin off guard even though his spies knew—-have occurred because those who knew the truth felt that those in power did not want to hear it.

Whether you’re selling, negotiating, teaching, parenting, arguing a case in court, or holding a political office, you’ll be better at it if you listen before you speak.


Don’t get embarrassed using a spurious Lincoln quote. Here’s a quotation book you can trust

The Words Lincoln Lived By is a stirring, inspirational treasury of quotations from our greatest and most admired president. Composed of Lincoln’s profound observations—one for every week of the year, each followed by a short commentary that provides historical context—the book offers rich material for interpretation, reflection, and spiritual guidance. In these pages, Lincoln, famed as an orator, shares his wisdom on courage and determination, compassion and compromise, tolerance and tact—the essential traits that define character. The timeless impact of his words is as powerful as the achievements that have helped to make him an American hero.

We’ve found numerous phony quotes on popular websites and quote books. Every Lincoln quotation in this book is authentic.

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This entry was posted in Arguments/How To Argue, Business Advice, Lincoln Quotes/What would Lincoln say?, Quotations, Sales and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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