Here is an eternal truth about human interaction: There will inevitably be a misunderstanding or an argument. We can try to avoid it, but it is futile.
“There is no way not to communicate in a conversation. Anything you do will be interpreted in some way, ”says Deborah Tannen, professor of linguistics at Georgetown University and author of That’s not what I meant!
And the culprit is often the tone of voice – as in the thing we have to look at, think or change.
Tone says a lot. We can sound warm or empathetic, and our bodies can show the same thing. Rarely in those cases do people say, “Please stop.” It is when we speak too fast or emphasize the wrong word, or when a sentence is linked with crossed arms and stares at the ground, that problems begin.
The difficult thing is that it is difficult to guess what will land wrong as many factors are involved. There are regional and cultural sayings. Some words have personal meanings. We get tired and obsessed. Some use humor to eliminate serious feelings. And as we speak, the other person tries to infer through their own filters.
“The remarkable thing is that we are understood at all,” notes Nicholas Epley, professor of behavioral science at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.
But here’s the other thing about tone. It could be something from a window. Sometimes when we get angry or dismissive, it is because we are angry or dismissive.
“Tone is really a reflection of the emotion that the words themselves do not necessarily convey,” says Leslie Doares, licensed marriage and family therapist and author of Hero Man: Build a Super Marriage with Truth, Trust and Authentic Leadership.
But speech patterns are not permanently fixed and “Well, that’s how I am” is not an excuse. We can adjust our tone, and we may want to, as communication with our spouse, friends, family, colleagues, neighbors does not disappear.
So how do you work on the tone of your voice? Some of the work is technical, some of it is to be more considerate, and some is preventative. Here’s what to know.
1. Play With Your Voice
You can change your tone by making it more dynamic. Tom Smith, affiliated professor of voice and articulation at Emerson College, recommends four ways:
- Stress, where you place the emphasis on words or syllables.
- Slide, where you change pitch within a word. Think what a trombone sounds like.
- Tempo, where you play with your tempo.
- Pause, where your silence allows the listener to reflect on what has been said and to reflect on what may come next.
No change is better than another. They are tools to experiment with, make you less predictable and less likely to be eliminated. “It attracts attention. People want to listen to you, ”says Smith.
2. Pay attention
Since each person has different temperaments and definitions for what makes “good conversation”, there is always a question about how something will be taken. As Tannen asks, “How long can a pause be before it is received as a silence?”
There is no difficult answer and you can not constantly watch what you say. It’s like walking, she says. Think too much and you will stumble, but that does not mean you can not pay attention. When you feel that something is a little off, use it as an indication to listen to yourself and consider what you have just said, and accept nothing as gospel. “It helps to step back and ask yourself how what we said could have happened,” she says.
3. But really, pause
It’s not just about creating emphasis. Sometimes it’s good not to talk right away, which is not the standard approach. “People are not particularly patient,” Doares says. And we are repeatedly told that it is authentic, which is somehow interpreted as having no filter. But take a friend and answer, “What do I want to say?” and “How do I want to be in the moment?”
“If my goal is to piss someone, I can do it handy,” she says. “But is it my goal or is it my goal to achieve something else?”
And when you have that clarity, your tone and body become synchronized. It’s like when we’re happy. We usually do not have to remind ourselves to smile.
4. Be Forgiving
Sometimes the problem is that whatever you said was vague or did not make sense at all. The problem is that we are not good at acknowledging ambiguity, because we understand what we said. But before you turn away or back down, give your partner or whoever you are talking to with the benefit of the doubt, which is one of those things that is easier done from a distance than at the moment, Epley says.
It goes back to remembering that people have good and bad days. And then realize that even if the other person misunderstood, they were we words, which could possibly have been clearer or more thoughtful. “Some of it is on you,” he adds.
You then do repairs by saying, “It did not work out,” or “Can I try again?” Only the recognition is appreciated, but when you accept responsibility, it is easier for the other person to do the same and future interactions benefit from it. “Reciprocity is a very powerful feature of social life,” says Epley.
5. Talk to your partner every day
That is, really talk for a solid piece of time. As in 20-30 minutes. It goes beyond the information sharing that indicates most parent interactions and comes in real part. And when done regularly, we notice more, are heard, and see each other more positively, needing less to simmer and adopt a less-than-loving tone. At first glance, it may seem impossible to find that time, but Doares says it exists, and it’s a worthwhile investment, similar to your bank account.
If you have $ 100,000, a $ 100 fee is annoying, but not threatening. “But if you only have $ 500,” she says, “that fee is a problem.”