Has anyone ever told you that your tone of voice is upsetting? Researchers at the University of Southern California recorded conversations of couples in marriage therapy and found that tone of voice was more accurate in predicting marital success than the actual words expressed. The conclusion being that what you say matters, but how you say it may be equally as important. This study used a computer algorithm to determine whether a couple will have an improved or worsened relationship based on the tone of voice. Finding an objective measurement to discern the health of a relationship based on the way couples talk about and discuss problems is very exciting. So what do we do with this information?
We often don’t pay attention to the way we communicate unless someone points it out to us. Maybe we need to pay closer attention to our volume, pitch, and other non-verbal forms of communication and recognize that it has greater impact than we might realize. The old cliché, “think before you speak,” may provide us with a checkpoint before we react poorly. Often our emotions contribute to our non-verbal communication. For example, we may make a sarcastic remark out of anger or hurt and avoid dealing directly with the underlying emotion. When we inwardly identify and confront our feelings before speaking, we can take out the poor attitude we might inadvertently express orally.
Often we communicate in a way to be heard and overlook the impact on others. We may alienate others with our condescending or angry tone and don’t realize or care how this affects others. Some people use their tone to keep others at arms length and protect themselves from being vulnerable. Whether your motivation is conscious or not, decide to pay closer attention to how you say things and watch the improved response from others. Remember the old EF Hutton commercial, soft-spoken, direct, and intentional can be more effective and prevent others from reacting poorly. Our tone can make a big difference in our relationships, so take ownership to respond constructively and reap the benefits.