Like Abe Lincoln, Be Prepared with a “Quip” or a Bit of Humor

“No matter how busy or how deeply engrossed in his work Mr. Lincoln might be, whenever anyone came in he would greet him with a pleasant or humorous remark, and before he left would inevitably tell a joke or anecdote.” John H. Littlefield, law clerk

“If a friend met or passed Lincoln (on the streets of Springfield), something would remind him of a story, and tell it he would.” William Herndon, Herndon’s Life of Lincoln

“In the midst of the most stirring and exciting — nay, death-giving — news, Mr. Lincoln has always a story to tell.” Adam Gurowski, State Department

“Mr. Lincoln’s wit and mirth will give him a passport to the thoughts and hearts of millions.” George Goutwell, Secretary of Treasury.

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Three Factors that Inspired Lincoln to Connect to People with Humor

“I like people”

1) He had a gregarious personality. He liked people and enjoyed getting to know them.

2) He knew that his appearance was intimidating to others. He was extremely tall and had a homely appearance. To compensate for that, he put people at ease with his humor.

I once worked with a guy named Frank who had a hostile face. If he looked at you, you’d think he was angry with you, but he actually had a very friendly personality. Every time I saw him Frank had a joke or a funny quip to tell. Like Lincoln, Frank used humor to mitigate people’s reaction to his stern appearance.

Leo Gordon as Frank

3) As a politician and lawyer, Lincoln’s the quickest path to success was to have the type of personality that allowed him to quickly connect with people.

Building Friendships One Person at a Time

I can’t think of anything more valuable than building lasting friendships. However, we must be subtle and have a plan when first meeting new people. Rather than just launching into a long winded anecdote or knock-knock joke, the best way to meet a new person is to keep your opening remarks short and simple.

Five Ways to Break the Ice

1) Tell an appropriate quip or make a humorous observation.

Use a humorous observation or a pithy quote, from your collection of quips and quotes as a way to show your friendliness and social grace (savoir faire).  If you don’t have a collection, now is a good time to start one.

For example if the topic of lawyers comes up, I’ll say, “It’s unfortunate that 99 percent of lawyers give the rest a bad name.”

2) Be lighthearted

Channel your tense energy into just exuding happiness. Smile. Take the attitude that, “I’m just here to be friendly and have fun.”

3) Poke fun at your own distinctive characteristics or personality

I am skinny, balding, 63 years old, incessant worrier, so I am entitled to make fun those characteristics. People quickly recognize that we have certain outstanding characteristics, and they feel more comfortable with us when they know that we recognize these characteristics in ourselves and can make fun of them.

When speaking about my job, I like to say that I do the work of three men – Moe, Larry and Curley.

4) Joke with others in ways that are complimentary to them

One comment I use that pokes fun at a person, while acknowledging respect for them at the same time, is if they say or do something insightful, I respond, “That’s pretty good, for someone who used to be (or who is) a cop.” I say it with a smile. Of course, I would substitute in the appropriate profession, such as teacher, or psychologist, or whatever job they had, or presently have. When said in a jokey way, it works.

5) Express genuine interest

This one hits pretty close to home. How do you think a guy like me, with my prehistoric social skills, ever got married? Fortunately, opposites attract, and I found a wife who had advanced conversational skills. She was able to carry the conversation long enough for us to get married. All I had to do was to act interested.

Very few people don’t open up and come alive when they sense that you really are interested in them, in what they are doing, or what they are interested in.

Practicing for job interview

A Grrrrr8 Job Interview

When I applied for a job as Border Coordinator for the Arizona Department of Water Resources, I was selected as one of three finalists. I had to go in for an interview with the director, who would select the winning candidate. Normally, I have a reserved personality. My philosophy is, “A closed mouth gathers no feet” (Oscar Wilde).

However, I knew the director was a lawyer and lawyers are usually very verbal and assertive. I made up my mind that I would respond to her questions in  the interview in the same vein, as if I too were a lawyer, and like Lincoln, I would shoehorn in some humor.

I had several little jokes and quips memorized for use during the interview. I knew it may not go exactly the way I planned, but my father always told me, ‘As you walk through the cow pasture of life you’re bound to step into the truth once in a while.’ I realized during the interview that the director was enjoying my jokes and quips and that I felt really relaxed with the way things were going.

A few days later, the Director called and said that I was hired.

Extemporaneous Quips Lighten the Workload

Sometimes a good quip will pop into your mind when a humorous situation unfolds.

The other day, I was teaching in a special education class with three other teachers. A boy named Jose, who was unable to speak, had an electronic toy that spoke the letters of the alphabet. Jose apparently liked the letter “D” because he pressed it continuously for about 20 minutes. “D!,D!,D!,D!,D!” It sounded like a jack hammer pounding into the very core of my being.

Judy, one of the other teachers, was working across the room from Jose. She said, in an exasperated voice, “Jose, can you please select another letter. That one is driving me crazy.”

I was sitting next to Jose and I broke the tension in the room by commenting, “Sorry Judy, but Jose is not taking any requests right now.” The other teachers chuckled at my quip.

Enhancing Our Posterity

If we season our conversation with quips or humorous comments, they fizz and sparkle. People remember what we say. It’s like the delicious green frosting on a Christmas sugar cookie.

As Edward Bulwer-Lytton said, “I must leave behind me the remembrance of a bon mot or I shall be forgotten.”

Upcoming Pesentations:

October 20, 2018. How Abraham Lincoln Used Stories to Touch Hearts, Minds and Funny Bones. Prescott Valley Public Library (7401 E. Civic Circle), 1:00 – 2:00 pm. Prescott, AZ.

 

NEW BOOK COMIMG SOON!!!

 

 

Related Links

Employ an Affable Lincolnesque Persona

Emulate Abraham Lincoln: Make Each Day Count

The “Secret” Daily Affirmations of Abraham Lincoln

Always greet everyone, no matter what they look like

Be a Generous Listener, as Abe Lincoln Was

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