It’s not what you say it’s how you say it!
Nina Millin is performing Beyoncé Knowles’s record winning songs as monologues. Although they are funny to watch, they are such a good reminder that how way we say things can totally change the way it is received.
My mom would often tell me when I was little that she didn’t like my tone. She would say calmly, kindly yet firmly, ‘I respect myself too much to have you speak to me in that tone of voice!’ She was right (I’ll admit to it now). It’s not always what we say but HOW we say it. I also have recall of my mom regularly reminding my sister and I when we were younger that grown up girls speak with deep voices! She would cover her ears when we squeaked and shrilled in high pitched girly tones! So I guess I have my mother to thank for my well modulated voice timbre! She didn’t have as much success with my volume control though! haha
I am teaching high school learners and have experienced this first hand. “Mam I didn’t know” can sound very different to a whiney, “Maaaaaam I didn’t knooooow!!?!”
So…. choosing our words carefully is important but equally important, is the way in which we say them. Words can either be like sweet nectar or tart vinegar.
I’m not saying that one needs to always be the sickly sweet church mouse who rarely says anything boldly or with conviction. I have never been one to shy away from speaking out boldly about what I believe is right. I guess I grew up in a home where this was modelled and I was encouraged to speak my mind and heart without fear (yes, I may later have been guided or presented with a different perspective to consider, but I was never judged or belittled for my own beliefs and convictions).
Learning to communicate effectively is a journey. I am proud of my progress and that I have managed to successfully navigate myself around some very tricky conversations. I do have those moments though where I still wish I could disappear into the earth beneath me after saying something I thought would come out differently. I am sure that you can relate to those momentary relapses of foot in mouth disease!
Sometimes I’ve also experienced being at the receiving end of someone saying something in what I deem an unnecessary and unkind manner, where I actually catch my self with an expression on my face that has the one eye brow arched in a way that indicates non-verbally, “did I ACTUALLY just hear you say that to me?!” One of my pet peeves is when someone says something harsh, critical and unkind under the guise of ‘Oh, I was only joking’. Aren’t jokes meant to be funny and make one laugh? It is certainly not a joke if what is said deeply hurts someone’s feeling. .
I endeavour to follow the following guidelines before opening my mouth to speak:
Will what I want to say add substance to the conversation?
Will my utterances uplift the situation?
Will they provide insight or bring confusion?
Is there a better way in which to say what needs to be said?
How can I get my point across without making it all about me?
How can I say what needs to be said in a way that won’t instantly offend the listener and prevent them from hearing my heart.
If someone says to me the very same thing as I am saying to them would I be offended? (This is the best one to ask…. Double standards shouldn’t apply!)
Other factors that play a HUGE role in the way we say things… (I’m probably going to sound like a TOTAL drama teacher now)
How high or how low your voice is.
How fast or how slowly you are speaking.
A pause is a powerful moment of silence. It gives the person you are talking to a moment to actually reflect on what has just been said. We often shy away from silence. Sometimes a moment of silence can be more powerful than any word. My dad who is an executive and leadership coach says that it is the silences that invite and evoke the richest replies and responses.
By putting power or weight on to certain words can change the delivery of what you are saying.
I’m so excited to see you.
IM so excited to see you.
I’m SO excited to see you.
I’m so EXCITED to see you.
I’m so excited to SEE you.
I’m so excited to see YOU.
The quality and character of your voice. It is the modulation of your voice that expresses a certain mood and feeling. Do you tend to shriek like a getaway car’s wheels or do you have a calm tone that imbues confidence? It is far easier to listen to a deeper tone (and people take you more seriously).
I guess it is risky speaking about tone in written form as you cannot see me, hear me (and my tone which happens to be friendly right now) or see my body language (I am nodding my head and smiling as I write).
Let us remember that ‘gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones’ (Proverbs 16 vs 24)