What is your experience with the phrase “We need to talk”? For many of us it has served as a red-flag, used just before a love interest ends a relationship or an employer delivers the pink slip. It’s a signal there’s a problem that requires focused discussion and immediate resolution.
It’s also a great illustration of why the sound of the human voice is a vital part of excellent communication.
How does this phrase illustrate communication excellence? Why does this matter?
When we say “We need to talk“, emphasizing “talk” and dropping our tone of voice slightly as we say it, we instantly communicate a sense of urgency and a demand for resolution. Our audience can hear that this is serious, that we already know what we want to say and that we are already expecting a specific outcome.
This is the power of the human voice – four words said in a particular way that convey a wealth of information.
But what happens when we say “We need to talk”, emphasizing “need” and saying it on a slightly higher note? The message is completely different. While we are still communicating a sense of urgency, the phrase is now inviting us to explore a topic, to have a discussion, to contribute research and thought, and then form an opinion.
This is the request recently made by freelance writer Markham Heid in Time magazine. Entitled We Need to Talk about Kids and Smartphones, his article has inspired media conversations throughout North America and, perhaps more importantly, has parents talking to each other, and their children, about this important topic.
It’s no surprise that I believe “we need to talk” about our relationship with the telephone. I was clearly reminded of this during the past week as many of you reached out with comments and information on my last post. And I want to inspire this discussion, this research, so we can each make a truly informed decision about the role phone conversations will and should play in our lives and the growth of our businesses. I’ll be sharing more about this very soon.
It’s fascinating that Paul Michelman, Editor in Chief of the MIT Sloan Management Review, believes the human voice is the most important technology of 2017. I know that Alexander Graham Bell would be very pleased.
Back to “We need to talk”. If we say this phrase with each word given equal emphasis and said on the exact same note, we are expressing a universal truth. Humans need to talk to each other. It is through conversation that we express our emotions and share our thoughts, resolve our differences, inspire each other and evolve. We are social creatures and conversation is an essential part of how we engage in and grow relationships.
Without conversation, with only words typed on a screen, we can easily misinterpret each other. After all, four little words can mean three different things.