It is amazing how powerful the tone of our voice can be. We can repeat the same words with a different tone of voice, and it can change the meaning completely.
Take asking your kid to take the trash out. They may say “yes, sir” or “yes, ma’am”, but they can mean it so many ways. There’s a respectful affirmation, a sarcastic one, a begrudging one, a frustrated one, and so on.
Often the cause of arguments (and corrections of teenagers!) is not over the words themselves but the tone we use. How many time in your marriage, or in conversations with your kids, has it turned into an argument just because of the tone?
The tone is so important. That’s why we need to control it.
Control yourself to control your tone
The first step to controlling our tone is to control ourselves. When we get angry or frustrated, we need to resist reacting. That’s when the frustrated and angry tones often come out.
Take deep breaths, count to 10. Take a minute to yourself if possible. But do not say anything until you can control your words and your tone. If your kids are making you angry, tell them you are going to take a minute to yourself to calm down before continuing.
With your spouse, let them know you need to calm down and think about the discussion before continuing. By doing that, you can save yourself a lot of pain, and you will be able to control your words and tone better so that you will not come across in a way that is more harmful than good.
How are you coming across?
If you are talking to people and they seem to have a reaction you don’t expect, one easy step is to stop and ask, “I get the feeling that I may be coming across in a way I don’t intend. How am I coming across to you?”
You can also ask family members and friends to help. Ask them how you come across to people and what tone of voice you normally use.
You can also record yourself and see for yourself how you sound.
Sometimes people come across in a tone that they don’t intend (though sometimes they do). One easy way to know if the way they are sounding is the way they intend is to ask.
You could also reflect their feelings: “you sound like you are frustrated/angry/upset about that.” If they are coming across an unintentional manner, they likely will appreciate you letting them know.
With your younger kids, you can make it into a game. Play with different tones with them. See how it sounds to them. Help them understand what is appropriate and when. Then when they come across that way later, remind them about the game and ask them if that is one of the appropriate tones when talking with you.
Make the effort
Our tone can often be more important than the words we use. It’s worth the effort to know how we come across and to tame any rough tones. Our relationships and conversations depend on it.
Do you have any other tips on taming our tone?