The tone of my voice is something I don’t normally think about when talking with other people. For instance, when I’m trying to explain something to my husband that I know I’m right about, I tend to sound exasperated…making him feel small and dumb.
Trust me, this doesn’t get my point across to him. And it can easily escalate into a fight.
My mother needed to yell. She’d dealt with a lot in her life and swallowed it until after much counseling. So for her, it was a blessing to be able to yell at my dad until she could calm down and they could work through the frustration. This is how I approached my marriage.
The problem is that my husband didn’t grow up in a house like that and to him, yelling meant far worse than just venting frustrations. (We won’t mention that it was still okay for him to yell when I pushed his buttons… How often do we dislike something in someone else that we do ourselves?)
When he finally told me what my tone did to him, it cut me to the quick – I never want to make him feel insignificant. I’m not an idiot, and I certainly didn’t marry one. 🙂
Since then, we’ve both been on the lookout for how we sound toward each other. (It helps that we’re very analytical and can discuss minutiae that would drive other people crazy.)
But now that I’m more aware, I notice it in other people. We respond to tone as humans; it’s part of the nonverbal communication that’s vital to helping us understand situations. But I don’t think we’re aware of how we sound to other people…and that a lot of conflict could be avoided if we were.