The tone of your voice is important. People are more sensitive to tone than to the explicit content of what you are saying or writing. We are particularly reactive to negative tones due to a negative bias in our brain .
Consequently, a tart tone hurts others. This is bad enough, but then it also often triggers the other person to react in ways that harm you.
Paying attention to tone puts you more in touch with yourself. Cleaning up your style of expression puts you in a stronger position to ask people to do the same or act better toward you.
Shifting the tone of your voice doesn’t mean becoming phony – it is about being grounded. Nor does it mean walking on eggshells, becoming a doormat, or muzzling yourself. When people change from being snippy, curt, snarky, derisive, or contentious, they usually become stronger communicators. They’re now more grounded, more dignified when they bring up something. They haven’t squandered interpersonal capital on the short-term gratifications of harsh tone.
Be careful about “priming”: feeling already mistreated, annoyed, irritated—or already in a critical frame of mind. Maybe simply take a break (e.g., bathroom, meal, shower, run, gardening, TV) to clear away some this priming. And/or try to deal with hurt, anger, or stress in a straightforward way rather than blowing off steam with your tone.
If you do get triggered, notice what you are about to say. If it’s critical or cutting, etc., then slow down, say nothing, or say something truly useful. Give a little thought to your choice of words: Could there be a way to say what you want to say without pouring gasoline on the fire? Look for words that are accurate, constructive, self-respecting, and get to the heart of the matter. Be especially careful with an email; once you push the “send” button, there is no getting it back, and the receiver can re- read your message many times plus share it with others.
Take responsibility for the tone of your voice and its impacts, and commit to a clear, clean, and direct way of expressing yourself.
Remember people will forget what you said, but they’ll remember how you made them feel.