Posts Tagged ‘William Henry Seward’

Nourish humor and tell stories, so people say — “I felt like I had known him/her my whole life and we had long been friends.”

Thursday, April 26th, 2018


“From the first moment of my interview with him (Abraham Lincoln) I seemed to myself to have been acquainted with him for years. For while he was among the most solid of men I ever met he was among the most transparent.” Frederick Douglass, author and orator.

“I really think that Mr. Lincoln’s propensity for story-telling has been exaggerated by his enemies. I had once the honor of conversing with him, or rather of hearing him converse, for several minutes, and in all that time he only told four little stories.” Sarah Jane Lippincott, author.


If, like me, you are a stammering Neanderthal when it comes to small talk, the best way to connect with people is to tell a simple humorous story that reveals something about your life. That allows the other person see that you are open and friendly, and they feel comfortable responding to us with openness and friendliness.

The New Girlfriend

My son invited his new girlfriend over to our house for dinner. I made a batch of my heralded spaghetti. When we welcomed her into the house, her handshake was as limp as a wet fish. She only made eye contact with the spaghetti and responded with one syllable answers to the softball questions my wife and I lobbed to her.

To break the ice, I told a story.

I said, “I work as a substitute teacher in an elementary school. Wednesday I was walking my first grade class, in single file, to the library. Everything was going fine until one boy bent down to tie his shoe and all the kids behind fell over him, to the sound of bowling pins falling (in my mind).”

The girlfriend chuckled and the ice started to break. She smiled more, shared information about her family, and was more engaging. At least until our exceptionally friendly dog, Blackie, unexpectedly snatched the spaghetti off her plate.

Nobody saw that one coming.

Blackie, the Wonder Dog

Willie Lincoln – The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From the Tree

Of all Lincoln sons, 11-year-old Willie Lincoln’s magnetic personality was most like that of Lincoln himself. Following Willie’s untimely death in 1863, Poet Nathaniel Parker Willis wrote the following article about Willie for The Home Journal. It provides a brilliant example of the prototypical friendly personality. I underlined key phrases.

Willie Lincoln

This little fellow had his acquaintances among his father’s friends, and I chanced to be one of them. He never failed to seek me out in the crowd, shake hands, and make some pleasant remark; and this, in a boy of ten years of age, was, to say the least, endearing to a stranger. But he had more than mere affectionateness. His self-possession—aplomb, as the French call it— was extraordinary.

I was one day passing the White House, when he was outside with a play-fellow on the sidewalk. Mr. Seward (Secretary of State) drove in, with Prince Napoleon; and, in a mock-heroic way—terms of intimacy evidently existing between the boy and the Secretary—the official gentleman took off his hat, and Napoleon did the same, all making the young prince President a ceremonious salute.

Not a bit staggered with the homage, Willie drew himself up to his full height, took off his little cap with graceful self-possession, and bowed down formally to the ground, like a little ambassador. They drove past, and he went on unconcernedly with his play: the impromptu readiness and good judgment being clearly a part of his nature.

His genial and open expression of countenance was none the less ingenuous and fearless for a certain tincture of fun; and it was in this mingling of qualities that he so faithfully resembled his father.

The vivid lessons we learn from Willie Lincoln are that he:

1) greeted others by shaking hands and making a pleasant remark;

2) displayed a graceful confidence;

3) had a genial and open countenance; and,

4) mixed fun and formality together.

Political Humor

There is a distinct difference between the self-confidence of Willie Lincoln and the self-centeredness of politicians. Yet, making fun of the excesses of their fellow elected officials, is a proven way that politicians connect with constituents. Senator Mo Udall, no exception to the rule, (Too Funny to Be President) illustrates this technique in his story about two congressional colleagues.

George Smathers was running against Claude Pepper in a Senate race. In a speech in rural Florida, Smathers did a euphemistic hatchet job on Pepper. Smathers said,

“Are you aware that Claude Pepper is known all over Washington as a shameless extrovert? Not only that,” Smathers went on, “but this man is reliably reported to practice nepotism with his sister-in-law, and he has a sister who was once a thespian in New York. Worst of all,” Smathers said mournfully, “it is an established fact that Mr. Pepper, before his marriage, practiced celibacy.”

Everybody can relate to the pompous and self-absorbed nature of politicians. Like the kitten that attacks its own image in the mirror, it is reliable approach to share humor and to connect with others.

As Will Rogers observed,

“About all I can say for the United States Senate is that it opens with a prayer and closes with an investigation.”


Upcoming Pesentations:

June 5, 2018. How Abraham Lincoln Used Stories to Touch Hearts, Minds and Funny BonesArizona Society for Professional Hypnosis. Scottsdale Senior Community Center,1700 North Granite Reef Road, Meeting Room 7, Scottsdale, AZ, 6:30 pm.

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



Amazon Link



Amazon Link

Related Links

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

Emulate Abraham Lincoln: Make Each Day Count

The “Secret” Daily Affirmations of Abraham Lincoln

Always greet everyone, no matter what they look like

Employ an Affable Lincolnesque Persona

Be a Generous Listener, as Abe Lincoln Was

Deflect Criticism with Self-deprecating Humor

Always Say “Yes”

Be a Master of Disaster – Ponder the big picture

Awaken the Sleeping Giant Within – The Abe Lincoln Way

How Abraham Lincoln Used Stories to Win the Presidential Nomination (a lesson for the 2016 Candidates for President)

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014

In order to win a man to your cause, you must first reach his heart, the great high road to his reason.

– Abraham Lincoln


In a lesson that aspiring candidate for the 2016 election, such as Hilary Clinton, Joe Biden, Chris Christie, and Jeb Bush, could learn from, Abraham Lincoln captured the Republican Nomination for the Presidency in 1860 by not criticizing his opponents.

Of the four candidates running for the Republican nomination for the Presidency in 1860, Lincoln had the very least amount of experience. Compared to the other candidates, who were all political “heavy weights,” Lincoln was considered a political “light weight.”

A Stunning Upset

It’s like the scene in the movie Rocky, where a TV interview shows challenger Rocky Balboa pounding frozen cow carcasses like punching bags in preparation for the big fight. The Champion’s trainer is watching the TV and says,

“Hey, Champ, you should see this guy that you’re going to fight. It looks like he means business.”

The champ is on the phone busily lining up endorsements for the fight and absentmindedly replies,

“Yeah, I mean business too.”

But you could see in his demeanor that he didn’t really comprehend the approaching “tsunami-zilla” that Rocky represented, just as Lincoln’s opponents underestimated him.

Lincoln the Underdog

Wm Seward

On the surface, Lincoln’s rivals for the nomination had nothing to fear from him. Lincoln’s only political experience on the national level consisted of two failed senate races and a single term in Congress, which he had served twelve years earlier. Contrary to Lincoln, the other three candidates for the nomination were widely known and respected by most Americans.

William Henry Seward, the front runner for the nomination, had been a celebrated U.S. senator from New York for more than a decade and governor of his state for two terms before he went to Washington, D.C.

Salmon Chase

Ohio’s Salmon Chase, a lookalike of the monster (Peter Boyle) in Young Frankenstein, also had been both senator and governor, and had played a central role in the formation of the national Republican Party.

Edward Bates -“You lookin’ at me?”

Edward (evil eye) Bates was a widely respected elder statesman, a delegate to the convention that had framed the Missouri Compromise, and a former congressman whose opinions on national matters were still widely sought.

Yet somehow, Lincoln, a political unknown, surprised almost everyone, and through some form of political jujitsu, outmaneuvered his opponents and captured the nomination.

In retrospect, we can see an explanation of how Lincoln accomplished this astounding feat.

Lincoln’s Stories Neutralize the Opposition

Lincoln had a huge advantage in the crucial area of communication and storytelling. Lincoln had an easy-going personality and a style of not directly attacking the opinions of others. Rather, he used persuasion and stories to win them over, resulting in no delegates at the convention being strongly opposed to him. When the other candidates split the vote, the affable Lincoln was the runaway “second choice” of the nominating convention. Lincoln could have been the poster boy for Dale Carnegie’s book How to Win Friends and Influence People.

The Lesson

Lincoln’s proficiency in storytelling eclipsed the experience and credentials of the other candidates. He never had to resort to mud-slinging or smear campaigns. Instead, Lincoln used stories to gently show people who disagreed with his policies the logical reasoning behind his decisions.

He didn’t view his opponents as enemies. His response was to view their perspectives as being no different than his own,  if he were in their shoes. They just needed things explained in the proper terms for them to fully grasp and support Lincoln’s view.

Lincoln’s goal was never to knock down his enemies like a row of bowling pins. He aimed to convince them to fall down voluntarily. Stories were the way he reached their hearts and minds.

See Also:

Abraham Lincoln Storytelling Secret – Add Voices

Abraham Lincoln and Storytelling – The Story Behind the Book

 What Mr. Lincoln Taught Me about the Power of Stories

How Abraham Lincoln Used Stories to Connect with People

Abe Lincoln Storyteller Radio Interview with Rich Peterson

Lincoln and Storytelling – Morning Blend Interview

Feb. 4: “Abraham Lincoln and the Power of a Story” at AZ Senior Academy

Lincoln Storytelling at AZ Senior Academy and Aztec Toastmasters (Video)

Follow Abe Lincoln’s Storytelling Example

Following in Lincoln’s Footsteps: My presentation to the ALP Convention (video)

Abraham Lincoln and Leadership through Storytelling

Volunteering at Pascua Yaqui Youth Career Academy Job Fair

Review of “The Hour of Peril” – 5 Abe Lincoln Anecdotes

Upcoming Presentations

On November 15, I will be presenting a 40 minute seminar on “How Abraham Lincoln Used Stories to Touch Hearts, Minds, and Funny Bones,” at the DoubleTree Inn in Tucson, Arizona for the 2014 Statewide Toastmaster (District 3) Conference.