“Why Did You Say It Like That?”

The title of this post is a nod to a favorite comedienne, Rita Rudner, who did a wonderful bit on the importance of our tone of voice. Her future husband was proposing, according to her story. It was a delightful routine. I especially loved it because it demonstrated one of my favorite topics: the message we send by our tone of voice.

One of the reasons many of us love emojis is because most of the meaning in our communication comes from our body language, our facial expressions and our tone of voice. When we email, text, tweet or post on Facebook, we lose all of those ways of communicating. With the little pictures that are emojis, we hope to clarify whether we are being funny, witty, sarcastic, encouraging, and so on.

But when we are talking in person to our loved ones, no emojis are available, and we are back to our body language, our face and our voice. I’ll talk about body language and facial expressions in later posts. This post is all about our voice.

To feel the difference your tone of voice can make, let’s have some fun. Would you say out loud (depending on where you are, of course) “Come here.” Just those two words. First, please say it as if you are very angry. Now, say it as if it’s your honeymoon and you are inviting your new spouse to your marriage bed. Isn’t that amazing? The exact same words can have absolutely opposite meanings, based only on our tone of voice.

Now try another. Your line is “What.” First, say as if your spouse calls your name from another room, and you are thinking “Quit bothering me.” Now say it again, while thinking how Very lucky you are to have this spouse. Hopefully, those two are radically different. Again, it’s all in how you said it.

What’s the point of all this? Well, sometimes in a relationship, frankly, we get sloppy. It’s too easy to take for granted all the good in the other person, and focus on the parts that we don’t like. Pretty soon, those parts get magnified in our mind. We ignore all the things we appreciate and that they do well. Then, we start sending the message with our tone of voice that we don’t like the other person at all….and I’m sure you can figure out all the relationship disasters that can happen after that.

So our challenge for today: Listen to the tone of voice we use when talking to our loved ones. What’s the message we are sending about how we think of them. Or in other words, ‘Why did you say it like that?’


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