Lincoln’s Tough Conversation Commitment

Some mornings, Abraham Lincoln had a sense that the day might become all too fractious. To be heard would require struggle; therefore, the need to listen would be paramount. Lincoln was good at listening because he was deeply curious to discover what impassioned arguments others would present.

When the time came for real persuasive effort, it was not uncommon for Lincoln to ask others for a critical agreement. To agree, ahead of time, to the possibility that they could be wrong. To acknowledge the slight chance that their views might be off base. 

Lincoln, as great leaders always do, made his pre-commitment first. Then he asked others for theirs.

There is something about saying out loud that you could be wrong that opens up the mind to receive new ideas and to view old ones with a newfound freshness. Lincoln knew the power of this commitment, and he asked others for it often, especially when he knew reasonableness would be hard to come by.