The following is a useful and very typical example (and analysis) of what can go wrong when communicating.
A client came to me with an issue that troubled her.
It went like this… She was telling him about a work situation that she wasn’t sure how to handle.
After a few moments consideration he came up with what he thought was a helpful suggestion.
He was taken aback by her response, “What are you talking about! What ARE you talking about!” in a raised and rather agitated voice.
It was fairly obvious that he had gotten the wrong end of the stick and had misunderstood the situation she was relating.
But he felt belittled by her tone of voice, feeling she viewed him as stupid and therefore reacted defensively by angrily asking her what she is getting so uptight about.
She, in turn responds defensively, that she is NOT uptight! And the argument escalates…
Does this sound familiar?
What are the possible reasons why this dialogue got out of hand?
How could this have gone so differently?
A number of elements are at play here. Let’s consider how the dynamics of communication contribute to its effectiveness.
Tone of Voice
It’s not what you say, but how you say it.
When assessing the meaning of what your partner is saying, only 7% of that meaning comes from the spoken word, while 38% comes from tone of voice and speech patterns. Words that may seem neutral can become incendiary if spoken with a sarcastic, demeaning, or contemptuous tone of voice, causing the listener to feel hurt and disrespected.
Your tone of voice is an important part of clear communication, but just how critical are things like vocal inflection, volume and pitch when it comes to the health of your relationship?
Your tone of voice may be a key indicator of your relationship success.
Research data has proven unequivocally that effective communication is not just about what you say, but how you say it. And the data showed that studying couple’s voices, rather than their behaviors, better predicted the eventual improvement or deterioration of the relationship.
Your pitch is how high or how low your voice goes.
An overly high-pitched voice can suggest immaturity and defensiveness. And if you end a sentence using a higher pitch, that can sound more like a question that an affirmative statement, creating doubt in your partner.
How quickly or slowly do you speak when you and your partner are in the middle of an argument?
Be mindful of your pace. When you slow down, you can help your partner understand what you are saying and they will be better able to absorb your message.
Going too slow, however, can be construed as demeaning and offensive.
To really get your message across, focus on articulating and conveying your message as clearly as possible, speaking at a steady, even pace.
This should go without saying — yelling at your partner will just fire back at you, either causing them to yell back or retreat.
Instead, if you want to emphasize something, try slowing the pace. Pause to highlight major points or to give your partner time to take in your point.
This is the emotional quality of your voice — the attitude you bring to what you say. Your partner will use this to build their understanding of what you are saying.
Practice managing your voice and taking note of how you sound (I.e., frustrated, rushed, happy, sad) and becoming more aware of the way your attitude is filtered through your voice.
Awareness is the key. You may not be able to master this overnight but being aware and making the effort to control these tonal aspects of your voice when communicating will go a long way to enhancing your loving relationship.
The next article will delve into the second aspect, which is the dreaded ‘Baggage’
To your success…