Do you like it when people talk AT you?
Perhaps it’s the rebel personality in me, but I don’t. From a very early age, if you talk at me and tell me I HAVE TO do something, I’m probably going to do the exact opposite.
Thinking of this because on Wednesday I did the keynote for the inaugural meeting of the St. Croix Valley Optimist Club in Stillwater, MN.
A small group with BIG positivity (as you might guess!) and many of the people in the crowd I’ve known for years.
One woman, in particular, first heard me speak about eight years ago when I was just starting out. She came up to me afterwards to tell me how much she enjoyed the speech.
I put her on the spot and asked what the biggest difference was between then and now.
She paused, thought about it, and said:
I feel like years ago you talked AT people. Now I feel like you talk WITH people.
She meant it in the nicest way possible and I didn't take any offense to it. In fact, it made perfect sense.
We're all born on a continuum in our strengths and weaknesses, and "Command" has always been one of my strengths. It comes easily and naturally to me.
But if you clicked on the above link, pay attention to the second line:
You feel no discomfort with imposing your views on others.
Sounds authoritarian, doesn't it?
Like anything, strengths are great in certain situations and up to a point, but too much of them can be counterproductive.
In my world, I don't know that a lot of audience members sit down and think, "Gee, I cannot wait for the speaker to impose their views on me today!"
I'd argue that talking WITH, instead of talking AT, is a nuance of communication that all great leaders have.
They may have extremely strong conviction in their views but they find a way to present them in a conversational way.
When this is done, the connection and impact goes to another level.
It doesn't matter the circumstance: speaker to audience, parent to child, leader to direct report, or salesperson to prospect.
Talking at someone is easy. But it's one-sided.
Talking with someone means you have some amount of empathy, understanding and curiosity about people.
And, in my humble, semi-imposing view, this is sorely missed in our current society.