Drink From The Saucer

There’s a story, that I can’t find much evidence of, and therefore maybe apocryphal, but is too good not to use anyway…

The story is about empathy and Presidents (perhaps unsurprisingly not the current one).

One day during Abraham Lincoln’s time in office a group of his country friends dropped by the White House for coffee in the late afternoon, assuming that they would stay on for dinner. Abe already had a table set for him and a load of politicians. Lincoln, being a right gent, had the table rearranged to accommodate his friends and the politicians and country folk all sat together. During the meal one of the country friends poured some of his coffee into his saucer and drank it from there. Considering it to be a bumpkinish thing to do, the politicians guffawed and grinned at the faux pas, and watched for Lincoln’s reaction. The President, noticing the response from the Washington types, proceeded to pour coffee into his own saucer, blow on it, and drink the coffee.

The politicians, with smiles duly wiped from faces, fell into line and did the same. Both city and country types drinking their coffee from saucers together.

What can this little ditty teach us, apart from coffee thermodynamics and how it cools faster if sipped from a saucer? Well, several things actually. First, the countryman who drank from his saucer. Who gives a shit. That was rhetorical. Just do you and other people will just have to deal with it. But don’t be a dick. Second, Lincoln. What a legend. He demonstrated great emotional intelligence, empathising with his country friend, recognising that it wasn’t a socially acceptable thing to do in the big city, then he acted. He didn’t advise his friend to not do that nor did he tell the politicians to stop sniggering, either would have offended. Instead, he took decisive action, made his friend feel comfortable, gave the city types a way out from causing offence, and diffused the whole situation through a simple act, and demonstrated brilliant leadership. Lastly, even the bad guys in the story – the politicians – bent a knee and acknowledged the kindness in what Lincoln had done, and followed suit. They compromised on what they believed to be true and were willing to change their ways to become more accommodating.

There’s something for us all to learn from this tale.

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