Use your inside voice: 5 Thoughts on Your Marital Tone

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” – Romans 12:18

“Use your inside voice” has been a parenting tactic for years. For some parents, it’s an attempt at telling a child to “quiet down” but in a nicer way. Randomly, I hear parents tell this to their kids in the grocery store and, every once in a while, I hear a kid say back, “this is my inside voice.”  For other parents, there is a greater lesson they are trying to teach: tone stewardship.

Let me explain.

In most of the pastoral counseling I do, I can trace most issues back to communication. It’s why I talk constantly about the 3 “Ts” of communication (time, tone, and technique). But of the three, tone seems like one that is the “game-changer.”

I’ve heard it said that “10% of conflicts is due to difference in opinion, and 90% is due to wrong tone of voice.” (Na Mariz) Your tone can create urgency or foster peace. It can bring passion or it can communicate displeasure. A forceful tone can speak of a lack of sensitivity just as much as sarcastic tone can miscommunicate indifference. Just a change in the fluctuation of your voice can make or break what needs to be said. What if, what you are trying to say, is getting lost in your tone?

What if the tone you’ve chosen isn’t as effective as you think it is? What if your tone is destroying everything your trying to communicate? So I thought I’d give you some “tone” thoughts.

You possess more than one tone.
It almost sounds overly simple. Yet I see so many marriages that do not adjust or manage their tone with each other. I hear statements like, “This is who I am” or “This is how my family talks to each other.” You you may be correct from one point of view, those statements are either ignorance of what your tones are doing to your spouse or you are giving yourself permission to not work personally on something. Tones can make or break a symphony. Your tone can add to the harmony of good communication or completely disrupt it.

Be a better listener. 
Many issues I come across are misguided reactions to misunderstood information. Listening isn’t waiting for your turn to talk. It’s engaging in someone’s context (their situation) and request (what are they really asking for). I often wonder if we seek to understand, rather than be understood, we’d have a better tone to our communication.  Your tone signifies what you are really listening to. For example, your spouse may be trying to tell you how hurt they are. If you don’t listen, your tone can be defensive over assuming you are the cause to the hurt. Where you’re busy defending yourself, you spouse may have needed a softer tone of understanding than a reactionary tone of defensiveness.

Learn to hear what people hear. 
I don’t like what I sound like. It’s one of the reasons why I struggle listening to my sermons the next day for evaluation. I’ll sit back and say, “Is that what I really sound like?” What you may hear coming out of your mouth may not be what people hear. Ever had a “fight within a fight”? This is one of those moments. You’re fighting over something, then a tone comes in, and now you’re fighting over the tone you used that your spouse took the “wrong way.”  If the people in your life are hearing what you are not hearing, it’s time to step back and realize: If I am the common denominator, then I may have a common problem. Self evaluation is more than the identification of issues. It’s a an understanding that you have more to grow in.

Stop giving yourself permission to be offensive. 
I grow weary of hearing the excuse “If people get offended by the truth, well, that’s their fault.” I partially agree with the statement. As a preacher, I have no problem confronting people with God’s Word but I don’t have to be a jerk about it. Being “truthful” has become the excuse to blast people all in the name of Jesus. Don’t leave a wake of mess behind you. Your mouth and it’s tone are gifts for you bless not curse; a vessel to be managed not to be enslaved by.

Keep conversations that demand tone offline.
I tire of messages from people who’ve decided to engage in conversations online that have blown up because it was a dialogue that demanded tone. For example, you type a message of apology to help convey your heartfelt request for forgiveness but also want to help the person understand why you reacted in the way they did. The person on the other side of the message reads: “I’m sorry. But my reaction was your fault but I’m going to be the bigger person and apologize first.” I’ve learned that I can emoji the crap out of a message in an attempt to develop some “tone,” but it does not replace the inflection of a voice and the gentleness of a humble heart that can only be conveyed in an audible tone.

I go back to my opening scripture,

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” – Romans 12:18

How often are we to point the finger requesting that your spouse step up first? How often to we demand him/her to change before we’ll offer any more change? This simple scripture points to our hearts and says, “Stop blaming others for not being the source of peace. Go after peace as if it all depends upon you.”

Your tone is your responsibility. And your tone can make or break your communication.

Love you all. Praying for you.

Encourage effort.
Celebrate progress.
Feed hope.

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

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