During one of my many conversations, I made a statement with words that I thought were right on. The listener became defensive and countered, “You’re being condescending.” I said, “Whoa! I didn’t mean to be!” I began to listen to his story and my attitude changed. Then, I restated similar words using a different tone. This time, my words were received in a positive way. I avoided a messy confrontation by listening and changing my tone.
As I reflected on this interaction, I realized that my tone was indeed condescending and that I needed to work on my attitude towards this person before I could be the most effective in our communication. My words mattered less than my tone, which needed to be enveloped in empathy. Changing my delivery was imperative.
It’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it. A sentence spoken in five different tones can have five different messages. Often, our tone begins in the subconscious realm. Bringing feelings of angst or hostility to our conscious mind will help manage our tone. So often, we harbor resentment that isn’t spoken with words, but yelled with the tone of our speaking voice.
It is important to have our body language match our most authentic message. Equally important is bringing our speaking voice in alignment with our message. Our voice can be an instrument of art or destruction. A biting voice stings, while a calm, loving voice soothes. With harmony in our message, we can motivate others.
In our communication skills training class, our participants do an exercise designed to demonstrate the use of tone, gestures, and facial expressions to enhance the message that we send. We begin by asking a participant to read a paragraph of written words. Without context, it is difficult to add inflection or enhance the meaning of the words. In the second part of the exercise, we hear just the voice of the author who breathes life into the message through tone and inflection. The final step is to watch a short video clip of the author as he delivers his message to a live audience. By adding facial expression and body language along with tone and inflection, his words come to life and become rich with meaning and intention.
This week, become aware of the listeners’ responses as we send our messages. If there is a negative response, pull back, listen and then, restate the message using a different tone that aligns with authentic body language. Decide to use your speaking voice as an instrument of art that inspires those around you and then begin to celebrate the ripple effects.