… It’s not what you said, it’s how you said it!”.
This is something Brandon and I work really hard on, all the time. In the heat of a disagreement or even in playful flirting with each other we can say something in a way which comes across as hurtful. It’s not the content of what we said that hurts but how it was spoken. The tone of our voice or the specific word we choose to emphasized within a comment can make all the difference on how it is received.
And… if we are being totally honest, most times I’m not even aware that I’m using a “tone” until Brandon gets frustrated and the same thing goes both ways. The perfect example of this is when Brandon and I are talking and he says “What”. To me his “what” sounds like nails on a chalk board my darling. In his defense, from years of being a musician, his hearing is a little tainted and he genuinely can’t hear what I said. So his “what” is because he really wants to hear me. However I tend to take it as, I’m not listening to you or that I’m questioning your judgement and thought. I base this all on the tone of his voice.
You would think that after 9 years of marriage I would know his true intent but it still gets me almost every time.
What I have learned is that navigating each others tone of voice and learning to control our own tone of voice go hand in hand. Emotion plays a huge roll in both. The Voice (voice box) is driven by systems of nerve pathways. The Limbic System is activated by emotions + environment and can take over our voice when we lack control. So when Brandon can’t hear me and says “what” the environmental effect of him not being able to make out the sound waves I am producing creates an emotional tone when he says “what”. This tone in his voice may sound frustrated, annoyed or anxious – not because he has those feelings towards me – but because he is having those feelings about himself not being able to hear properly.
I often miss interpret that as if he was having those emotions and feelings towards me. I am totally guilty of not using empathy.
Events in my past have also led me down the path of, he is frustrated with me, he is not listening to me or he is judging me. No fault of Brandon’s, this wound happened years before we ever met. Unfortunately, as I was growing up my parents divorced due to all their arguing and disagreements so at a very young age I was watching and learning, from 2 people who were arguing all the time, how to communicate with your tone of voice. Obviously it was not a good lesson. But we all have struggles to overcome and crosses to cary. Over the years I have relearn how to interpret tone of voice, how to control my own tone of voice with mindfulness and how to have empathy for someone else’s tone of voice.
I know empathy and tone of voice sound weird in the same sentence but I have found it to be so important. Many things contribute to a persons tone of voice like their geography (move from the north to the south and that will make totally sense – trust me), age and culture. When someones tone of voice does not match what we think it should be, crazy can unleash, even if we had a “perfect past”. I have to stop and ask myself, did I take in account that their tone of voice may not even be close to how I interpreted it before I let the crazy run wild?
That is where empathy comes in, the beautiful ability to understand and share the feelings of another. Over the last 9 years of our marriage we have learned that…
Tone of voice can totally effect our romantic notions of happily ever after.
5 TIPS FOR BETTER VOICE CONTROL AND VOICE INTERPRETATION
Within the epic grand adventure of marriage there is this little valley that lives inside, it is called comfortability. The valley is great and filled with lots of fruit, beautiful fields of vibrant flowers, epic waterfalls and romantic notions of grand adventure. However, there are also beasts that live in that valley. Those beasts come out when we get to comfortable and show parts of us that are not so pretty. You know what I mean boo!
As a couple Brandon and I have come up with little ways to keep those beast way – at least most of the time.
1. When we are listening too or speaking with each other we keep in the back of our mind, I love you (even if we are upset). It is very simple but helps so much!
2. Embrace discomfort, that icky feeling of I’m not able to hold my own in the conversation anymore. This feeling is not true as long as we stay calm. We breathe and think before we talk. This one has to be practiced but it is so worth it. When we pause before we speak it makes us appear to be wise, intentional, thoughtful, mindful and intelligent. Hello, those are all great! But what is more important is it gives us time to really look at a situation, to not over react, to use empathy, to control ourself and to truly love the other person.
3. No cursing. This may sound small and silly, but not cursing helps the situation deescalate. Brandon and I both feel that cursing at the other shows disrespect and total lack of self-control.
4. We welcome feedback by asking genuine questions with a genuine tone of humility (mindfulness comes in here big time). Instead of cursing and letting ourself get even more upset we will humble ourself to ask a genuine questios like:
When you said __(fill in the blank)__ with the tone of __(fill in the blank)__ what did I do to cause you to react that way?
This can really help to bring the communication to light. The other person may not have even know they had a tone in their voice that you interpreted a certain way. That single statement can take what could have become an argument and turn it into a love building moment that will then lead to real romantic notions of happily ever after!
Bonus Note: Remember the beast in the valley are sneaky so don’t hate yourself or the other person if they sneak up and you fail to defeat it, instead use that time to cultivate a culture of forgiveness.