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April 7, 2023

Controlling Your Tone

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Often the best thing for our self-growth isn’t to learn some new hack or strategy, but rather to be reminded of what we already know. This idea focuses on our communication and how we can be more appropriate, empathetic, and effective in the way we deliver our message.

In the book Silent Messages, Albert Albert Mehrabian, a UCLA professor, announced the 7/38/55 rule. He says that 7% of meaning is communicated through spoken word, 38% through tone of voice, and 55% through body language. Focusing on verbal communication, this ratio suggests that your tone is 5 times more influential than what you’re actually saying.

And the reason being - We are emotional. We are hyper-attuned to the emotions around us. This is evidenced in the phases of brain development both evolutionarily and within our life-cycle. First comes the instinctual hindbrain, regulating the physiological and psychological processes that are core to staying alive. Then it’s the midbrain, involved in emotional awareness and threat detection. And then finally is the forebrain that executes higher level thinking.

What this all means is that when someone is listening to you, they're listening with their emotional midbrain. They want to know how this new information impacts their safety, security, and state.

What’s equally important to consider is how your emotions then go on to influence your logical thinking. If you’re feeling motivated and inspired you will draw different conclusions than if you’re cranky and hungry. Your logical mind is shaped by your emotional environment.

So now the question becomes - How do we control our tone? How do we make sure our communication is representative of what we want someone to understand about what we’re saying?

We need to pause more often.

Emotions are reflexive. They’re unconscious. The more we can put space between the impulse and the action, the more time we give our higher level thinking to catch up and play a role. So especially if you feel yourself aroused, triggered, or agitated, give yourself some time.

Whatever it is you're feeling compelled to say in the moment, and the tone of that expression, is emotionally motivated. The best version of ourselves gets curious about those emotions, understands them, and chooses how to respond rather than reacts to how we’re feeling.

This concept may not be entirely new to you, but hopefully this helps you remember how you can be intentional about communication. If you found this valuable, please share this article with someone who you think would enjoy it just like you!

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