Manage People Who Give You ‘The Tone’ – Tone of Voice Communication

Manage People Who Give You ‘The Tone’ – Tone of Voice Communication

You know when someone gives you ‘the tone’, like when people roll their eyes at you? When you get ‘the tone’ you are told that the other person is very angry.

Tone of voice is one of the hardest things to teach because we can’t hear ourselves. People who give people ‘the tone’ rarely know they are doing it. One of the best ways I know to effectively teach tone of voice is to ask tone givers to tape themselves on phone calls. Then listen to the recording together and ask the speaker, “If your grandmother called and someone said that to her, would you be happy?” You can also read the written letter aloud, add the tone you ‘hear’, and ask the sender how he or she interprets the message.

When given the tone, most people feel judged. And when people feel judged, conversations are stifled.

The way to avoid setting the ‘tone’ is to come from a place of curiosity. When you ask the question, “What were you thinking when you approached the customer that way,” you can be either curious or judgmental. Being judgmental breeds defensiveness, which shuts down conversations. Being curious creates discussion.

Consider asking questions like these to invite discussion:

• Tell me more about… • Help me understand what happened here… • What are your thoughts about… • What is the history behind….

Any of these questions will lead to a good discussion, if you manage your tone.

If you want to get information or influence someone, ask questions and talk to the person. We often try to persuade people by giving them information. It rarely works. Instead of overloading people with data, ask questions that spark discussion. Through discussion, you can get to a different place. And if not, you’ll at least learn why other people think the way they do, and you’ll be able to share your perspective in a way that’s appealing as opposed to unbelievable.

It’s easy to give people the ‘tone’ when we’re tired and frustrated. Try to avoid difficult conversations when you are tired or stressed. Wait to have important conversations until you know you can manage yourself and your tone.

About Shari Harley

Shari Harley is the founder and President of Candid Culture, a Denver-based training company that puts honesty back into the workplace, making it easier to give feedback at work. Shari is the author of the business communication book How to Say Anything to Anyone: A Guide to Building Business Relationships That Really Work. She is a keynote speaker at conferences and trains across the US Learn more about Shari Harley and Candid Culture’s training programs at

Tags: business communication, interpersonal skills, managing people, personal brand, tone of communication, tone of voice