Talking At, Talking With, or Talking To…

There’s a difference you know.

It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it. There’s actually an art to having a good conversation.

How often do you think you’re talking TO someone when you’re actually talking AT them, because they’re not listening to you? They’ve heard you say the same thing so many times they’re tired of hearing it. You’re lecturing them without even realizing it, and lecturers don’t expect a verbal response from their audience. Talking AT someone makes you appear condescending; looking down on them. Like you really don’t want to hear their opinion on whatever subject you’re talking about, because your mind is made up; you won’t want to be confused with other ideas, because you KNOW you’re right.

How often do you talk to someone and you wonder why they’re giving you only one or two word answers? Or no reply at all. You’re talking TO them, but it’s a one sided conversation. Because you’re so convinced you’re right in everything you’re saying, you won’t really listen to the other person’s opinion, unless it agrees with yours. And if they disagree or give an opposite opinion, then you really talk TO them; about how wrong they are, repeating what you’ve already said, and not bothering to address their comments or opinions. You didn’t really listen to what they said, because it didn’t agree with your opinion.

Talking means speaking in order to express ideas or feelings; to communicate information. To share ideas.

Which is fine. But don’t you want to have dialogue with the person you’re speaking with? Notice the word I just used. With. Speaking WITH someone implies you want their feedback; their participation in the conversation. Speaking with someone shows that you want to hear their thoughts, their feelings, their opinions. It’s a two way conversation, which is the way conversations should be, in order to be meaningful. The other person may not agree with what you’re saying, but when you listen to what they say, and think about it, you’d be surprised at what type of dialogue might take place.

Although I didn’t include it in the title, there are also those who talk OVER other people, rudely not letting them say what they’re trying to say. Because they think they’re so much more important than the person who’s speaking; that their ideas are much better and more important than anything anyone else would have to say. And they’re so anxious to prove it, to get their ideas out, that they interrupt in the middle of the other person’s sentence, not giving them a chance to finish speaking.

I was always taught not to interrupt someone else when they were speaking. I think it’s still a good rule to live by. Unfortunately many people today have forgotten that lesson, or else choose to ignore it. And it makes them appear rude, arrogant, and sometimes foolish.

When was the last time you shared a conversation with someone? When you not only spoke what was on your mind, but actually listened to what the other person said in response? And thought about it before you answered.

Listening is an important part of the art of conversation, too.

All too often today we’re caught up so much in ourselves, and with our own self-importance, we don’t really talk WITH people as much as we talk AT them or TO them. Or sometimes DOWN to them. We don’t always listen to others when they’re speaking, because we want to have the last word.

It happens in marriages. It happens in the workplace. It happens among friends. And it certainly happens in politics. But that’s a whole other story.

The next time you complain that you can’t have a conversation with this person or that person, think about your conversation style. Are you talking TO them, AT them, or WITH them?

And are you LISTENING to what the other person is saying?

Try it sometime. You may be surprised

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