Effects of tone of voice

Gwen Randall-Young

“10% of conflicts are due to a difference of opinion. 90% are due to the wrong tone of voice.”

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There is more to spoken messages than the words we say. Tone of voice is just as important as the content of the message. Voice tone can communicate love, caring, respect and gentleness.
It can also convey disrespect, dishonoring, hostility or indifference. It can render an otherwise benign message threatening or abusive. The voice transmits energy, and can hit another like a warm, welcome Chinook, or like an icy Arctic blast.
This energy affects the recipient on many levels, and can trigger a variety of different feelings. Maybe you did not mean to say it that way, and you did not intend to offend, but, unfortunately, the damage is done.
It is a little like hitting someone, and then trying to erase their emotional response. Because it is ‘just words’, the speaker often feels he or she has not done anything ‘that bad’.
If there is a solid, loving relationship, often mutual understanding and forgiveness allows for some lapses. However, sometimes between partners, parents and children, or siblings, a disrespectful tone of voice becomes the norm in communication.
Some are not aware of their tone, and others think that a harsh tone makes them more powerful. Unbelievably, I still have clients reporting that they get yelled at in the workplace. Being a boss or supervisor does not mean you can treat employees like they are children, and you are the authoritarian father or mother.
When this sort of thing happens at work, it reflects on the one yelling. They are showing that they have not developed the professional skills to handle problems that arise. This behavior is mean and bullying, and shows the person has no control over emotions. No one deserves to be yelled at on the job. Period.
The same can be said of yellers at home. Some may think that in their own home they can do as they want. I suppose that is true. Does that mean those close to us deserve less respect than others?
Of course, I understand parental frustration. But if a parent is at the point of yelling they are likely angry and may say things that the child will remember forever. If children are yelled at throughout the years, is it surprising that they become teens who yell at their parents?
Clear rules and consistent implementation of consequences can modify most behaviors. Handling situations in a calm, but determined, manner garners respect from children and employees.
If we find ourselves saying, “How many times do I have to tell you?” it shows that “telling” (or yelling) without proper instruction, working out a plan to carry out expectations, and consistent consequences is not working. A negative tone will not help any situation, while a calm respectful tone just might.
Think about whether the energy you put out to others is like that warm chinook, or more like an artic blast. Which kind of energy to prefer to receive?

Gwen Randall-Young is an author and award-winning psychologist. For permission to reprint this article, or to obtain books, CDs or MP3s, visit www.gwen.ca. Follow Gwen on Facebook for inspiration.