Game of Tones: It Really Is about How You Say It

This past week I watched a very funny video entitled, “If Couples’ Fights Were Honest”.

The situation depicts a couple having a hideous fight – a fight during which they never use words to describe what’s occurring. Instead, the tone they are using conveys what they mean to say without the need for specifics. (Don’t worry: watching it is a lot more fun than reading my description of it.)

As you can imagine, I loved this. While the statistic is sometimes called into question, the Mehrabian study claims that 38% of your impact comes from your tonal quality. Whether or not this is 100% accurate, I think we can all agree that meeting someone who says, “It’s so nice to meet you,” while sounding like Eeyore doesn’t brighten your day.

Similarly, if you were to—for instance— call your telephone service provider freaking out because you had just put your telephone into the washing machine, you would not feel their “I’m sorry that happened,” was sincere if they sounded like they were checking their Facebook page while speaking with you.

So what are a few easy ways to ensure your tone is working for you?

1. Stand for important telephone calls and/or to record your voice mail greeting. Standing automatically gives your voice more energy and enthusiasm.

2. If possible, stand in front of a mirror for these important telephone calls. It’s impossible to look at yourself in the mirror and not smile—not amuse yourself—and your voice will follow along.

3. Speak from your diaphragm: doing so puts your voice into its lowest possible register. If you don’t know if you are doing this (or are uncertain where your diaphragm is) put your hand on your upper abdomen and talk for a minute. Was your hand moving while you were speaking? If not, your diaphragm wasn’t engaged. To engage it, lie down on the floor with something heavy on your stomach and breathe until you see it going up and down. When you stand up, your voice will have dropped about an octave.

FYI: this is an excellent time to record your voice mail greeting.

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