How many arguments between couples and friends start because someone misinterpreted what someone else was saying? Have you ever considered that maybe the miscommunication came from how something was said, not what was said?
Some estimates say verbal communication–what you actually say–can be as little as 7% of the conversation. This estimate means that body language and tone of voice may account for the majority of communication between people. Understanding and watching your tone and other nonverbal language may be the key to bettering your relationships with others.
What Is Your Tone of Voice?
Your tone of voice is the way you speak to others. The words are what you say, but your tone is how you express them.
The tone of voice often transcends linguistic barriers, as we learn many of the subconscious cues in tone and body language through conversation with others. Your tone consists of pitch, tempo, volume, and attitude.
- Pitch: Pitch is how deep or how high your voice is. While men tend to have lower pitches than women, the pitch of your voice may give some insight about you. For example, if someone’s pitch begins reaching high notes while speaking, they may come off as defensive, immature, or even unsure of themselves.
- Tempo: Tempo is the speed at which you speak. Speaking too quickly may make people sound nervous. Speaking too fast may also make it difficult for listeners to follow your thought pattern or understand your speech correctly.
- Volume: Volume is a powerful tool in communication. Volume may affect the flow of the conversation, the participants’ emotions, or your words’ meaning. Without volume control, a proper dialogue is challenging.
- Attitude: Attitude is the foundation of what you say, and it affects pitch, tempo, and volume differently. Often, attitude is a conscious decision, but it may sometimes be subconscious. Understanding the attitude you want to convey is a significant part of sharing meaning in your words.
How Does Your Tone of Voice Affect Your Relationships?
The tone of voice you use when speaking to others is an essential part of communication. While trying to say something positive, you may seem angry, arrogant, sad, or even lewd, if you have a mismatched tone. This can lead to confusion and misunderstandings.
How you speak to others affects your relationships with them. For example, if someones’s tone makes them come off as condescending, they may not have many friends. By contrast, people may be more engaged in conversations if your tone is a positive one and you sound encouraging to them.
Strategies To Help Improve Your Tone of Voice
We often don’t notice that our tone of voice is incorrect until someone tells us about it. When that happens, pay attention to the way you speak. Watching your tone is the first step in improving your communication with others.
Once you pay attention to your speech, you may notice what others have already heard in your communication. After that, the following strategies may help change the way your tone of voice.
Vary The Pitch of Your Voice
High-pitched voices may sound defensive and immature, while low-pitched voices may sound more strong and authoritative. People who speak in higher pitches may appear as if they are not confident in the words they are saying. However, you can’t always talk in a lower pitch either. Nonetheless, be aware of your pitch – varying your vocal pitch throughout a conversation may help engage your listeners and relay the message you are trying to get across in a beneficial manner.
All of the best speakers in history learned how to speak to others by pausing, speaking slowly, and letting the space between words do the talking for them. Speaking too quickly makes your listener feel like you want to finish the conversation. If you speak too fast and want to slow your speech a little, some sources say that slowing it down by about 50% may be beneficial. Speaking at a slower pace may help your listeners pay more attention to you and absorb your words better.
Use Appropriate Volume
The wrong volume can destroy a conversation before it ever gets started. If you speak too softly, your listener may have to guess what you’re saying. If you start yelling at someone, they may shut you off entirely.
Instead of yelling or whispering, speak with a moderate volume. Trying to breathe from your diaphragm will help your volume control. Also, speaking at a soft, even volume will make you sound more calm and collected, especially in an argument or disagreement.
Use Appropriate Vocabulary
Vocabulary choice is another critical part of voice tone. While some words have identical textbook definitions, they may not mean the same conversationally. For example, there is a difference in describing someone’s smell as a “fragrance” or an “odor.”
Also, try not to use excessive profanity. It makes you seem aggressive and exponentially escalates arguments. Laying off the curse words will keep discussions healthy and agreeable.
Boost Empathy and Understanding
The best way to manage your conversational tone is to understand to whom you are speaking. Some mannerisms or conversations won’t work with some people. Be kind in your conversation.
Understanding the other participants’ points of view may help you convince them of your point of view if that is your goal, but you may also learn that their way of thinking is also perfectly valid. Also, opening up the conversation will help others share their point of view and provide you with opportunities for watching your tone.
Learn the Power of Your Tone with Dr. Carolina Raeburn
Dr. Carolina Raeburn a Florida Licensed Clinical Psychologist, specializing in neuropsychology and helps patients boost their relationships and communication skills. Contact Raeburn Psychology at (786) 788-8506 or fill out the contact form to schedule a session.
*All the information published in this article is for informational and educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment. Any information provided here is offered in generic form. Please consult your healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns.