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Tune up your tone

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in Office Communication,Workplace Communication

“Can I help you with that?” asks your colleague as you struggle to load an ink cartridge into the printer. If your co-worker says it in a sincere tone, you’re grateful for the offer. But that same question delivered in a sarcastic or exasperated manner leaves you feeling irritated, and eager to minimize interactions with that person. If you want clarity and connection, pay attention to the following four vocal components.

1.  Tone. Your tone of voice conveys far greater meaning than the words spoken. If you find yourself saying to your upset co-worker, “I don’t know why you’re angry, I only said (fill in the blank),” chances are your tone did the talking. If you’ve ever had someone end a conversation by saying “whatever” it’s usually their tone that signals their frustration.

2.  Inflection. One annoying habit is turning statements into questions by ending sentences with an upward inflection. The unfortunate consequence is not only are you seen as less self-confident, but listeners can be confused. Is she asking me or telling me?

3.  Pace. Speak too rapidly and you leave your listener dazed. Take a deep breath before you speak as a reminder to ease your pace. If you talk too slowly, you’ll also lose your listener’s attention, as they’re silently urging you to get to the point. Finding the “Goldilocks” pace of just right can take some practice.

4.  Volume. Just as irritating as the soft-talker who practically whis­­pers is the booming loudmouth. Either way, your volume needs some adjusting—unless you’re in­­ten­­tionally altering the volume of your voice to create impact in a presentation.

You have a number of options for improving these vocal tendencies. Start by simply being aware of the role these four play in how you communicate. Next, ask a trusted friend for feedback. I also suggest recording yourself speaking, so you can easily find out how you sound to others.

Finally, practice speaking in front of a mirror. This gives you an opportunity to pay attention to your facial expressions as well as your voice.

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