“Talking to” is a lecture. “I need to talk to you” is rarely good. Even worse is to give someone a “good talking to.” There are some urgent situations in which “talking to” is necessary, but what I can never condone is “talking at” another person.
My Recent Experience
Over the past several months, I experienced the constant frustration of being talked at – and, in some cases, feeling screamed at. The source has not been direct contact.
It started as we neared our primary election which each day brought to my mailbox 3-5 candidate mailers – that’s 18-30 each week! I did not read them. They came out of the mailbox and into the recycling bin in one continuous action. It continued with the general election, and I supposed it will start again soon with the next cycle.
I watched my frustration grow into anger. Trees gave their lives for this?! And now candidates text me, which enflames me all the more. They are talking “at” me – not communicating and not offering value to either of us.
When I reflect on what it feels like being “talked at” in this way, I question if it has always been like this. Maybe I am just more sensitive now. Fortunately, I have a happier memory from an election cycle a few years back.
I was approached by a man outside a store where I was shopping. He introduced himself and told me he was running for a position as a judge in one of the NYC courts. I was immediately curious and we chatted for several minutes.
He was delightful! I was touched by his commitment to the law and his calling to take this step in his career. I sensed his authenticity and trusted that – and kept his marketing material as a reminder for election day. I voted for him and was happy to see that enough other voters agreed. He won!
The election cycle is my current reference, but my pain point goes back to childhood. My parents waffled between talking to me and talking at me – “with” was rarely a consideration. School was my refuge – the first place I was invited into the conversation. At school, I was encouraged to think independently and to share my opinion. It was a place in which I flourished.
It’s so simple, isn’t it? Invite someone into a conversation. Speak “with” them. Open to the opportunity to learn from each other and reach new understandings. Ah, the joy of it!
4 thoughts on “The Degradation of Communication”
Well said! Too many people think a few rehearsed lines are the key to all doorways! Taking the time for good communication brings the discovery that a doorway can open on its own; no key is needed.
Thank you for the perfect metaphor, Barb! The door to good communication is always open, waiting for us to walk through.
Excellent distinction. Words matter, as do active listening and eye contact (when in real life or on video calls!).
Active listening is a critical component of being in conversation “with” others – I’m so happy you mentioned it, Ellen! Eye contact has become a challenge in virtual calls as we try to look in the eyes of those we speak with only to find the camera records us looking away. I believe the mindset of being “with” others in the conversation can move us through any visual disconnect – or so I hope.