It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.
Ok, fella’s, how many times have you heard your lady say to you after a heated argument, “It’s not what you said, it’s how you said it?” Quite a few times I imagine; based on the countless times I have heard it, thought it, and said it myself! Ah, tone, that’s where it all begins. If you’ve ever wondered where the saying, “and then the fight started,” came from – wonder no more!
The primary cause of disharmony in any relationship is communication, more specifically, a lack thereof. A healthy, considerate, authentic communication style is necessary to maintain … you guessed it … a healthy, considerate, authentic relationship. A no-brainer, right? Wrong.
Now for the plot twist. After sitting across from men, women and their families for several years now, it just wouldn’t be fair, or accurate, to pick on only the men; as tempting as that may sound. As it turns out women seem to talk more openly about how something someone says makes them feel. Big surprise I know, but wait for it. Men tend to, well, not talk about it.
In reality, we can be just as guilty, of being tone deaf to others. Many men and women are at times, sadly, and undeniably oblivious to how we are speaking to one another, especially to our mates, and sadly, yes, at times, our children. This unhealthy communication style spills over to the workplace as well, and any other nook and cranny of our lives. The negative effects of this mindless chatter are endless, hurt feelings, resentments, and needless arguments.
So what’s so powerful about the how anyway? Many women report at times feeling disrespected, and made to feel stupid, but who are we kidding? Men are taking the same cruel, and (not-so-unusual) punishment from us. A certain tone can take a seemingly innocent statement to a heightened state of …”Ouch, really?” It can sometimes sound a bit like this, “Babe, (the initial endearing reference used to disguise the sucker punch aimed at, and only seconds away from, hitting you right between the eyes) You missed the exit…again.” Thanks for that, by the way.
It’s time to stop the madness. Listen up ladies and gents. Begin to take notice of how you are speaking to the people in your life, especially those that you love. It is crucial to be mindful of your tone of voice, and it is not as easy as it may sound. Changing a behavior that you are not aware of is difficult, to say the least.
Here are five ways to become mindful of your communication with others:
- Ask for feedback from family and friends regarding your communication style. It will be important to survey those that will provide you an honest answer. Be sure to let them know you are working on improving your communication with others.
- Sometimes a code word can be used as a quick reminder; use caution with this change tool, as some might begin overusing it, and it may become more annoying than helpful. Some find it helpful, and some do not.
- Ask family and friends to report back to you when they have been “struck” by your tone of voice, talk about it. This can be difficult to acknowledge, but if you are serious and ready to make changes to your communication style, you must be open to the constructive feedback.
- Think before you speak! Make a concerted effort to become mindful of what and how you say things. Take it to the place of “digging deeper,” into the reasons why you do this in the first place. Becoming more self-reflective on what we are thinking has many other relational benefits, allowing for more healthy, and fulfilling relationships.
- Be honest with yourself and others. When you know you have used a negative tone with someone, own it. Apologize, and try, try, again. Behavior change is challenging, especially when you don’t even know you’re doing it!
The “tone of shame” is not gender bias, and men are not the enemy, not in this arena. At the end of the day, practicing mindful communication is key; let’s go back to the basics, “
Before you speak ask yourself if what you are going to say is true, is kind, is necessary, is helpful. – Bernard Meltzer