Do You Talk or Do You Communicate?

Communication is an essential element of leadership.

Authentic Servant Leaders know that talking and actually communicating are two very different things. Talking generally requires only one person but communicating always requires at least two.

As a leader you must know that that no matter how well you choose your words if no one is listening then you’re just talking, not communicating. Talking is about the person saying the words, communicating is about the person or persons hearing them.

Abraham Lincoln was the second speaker on November 19, 1863, at the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery at Gettysburg. Lincoln was preceded on the podium by the famed orator Edward Everett, who spoke to the crowd for two hours. Lincoln followed with his now immortal Gettysburg Address.

On November 20, Everett wrote to Lincoln: “Permit me also to express my great admiration of the thoughts expressed by you, with such eloquent simplicity & appropriateness, at the consecration of the Cemetery. I should be glad, if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion, in two hours, as you did in two minutes.”

Lincoln used 268 words in barely 2 minutes to express his thoughts on one of the greatest battles of the US Civil War. With 268 words in 2 minutes he motivated a nation to carry on and persevere. His speech that day is often considered to be among the best ever delivered by a US President. Most American kids still learn about it in school.

I’m sure Edward Everett had great things to say that day but he talked, Lincoln communicated.

The next time you’re preparing to speak just stop for a moment and ask yourself this question: is what I’m about to say for my benefit or the benefit of the person I’m speaking with? If what you’re about to say is solely for your benefit then it’s likely your talking, not communicating.

Great communicators talk with other people, not to them. Great communicators don’t count their words, they weigh them. I have no way of knowing this for sure but I’d bet my last dollar that President Lincoln had no idea how many words he spoke during the Gettysburg Address, but he knew with certainty what he wanted to say and what his audience needed to hear.

He choose his words accordingly. You should too!

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