Our tone of voice carries powerful non-verbal communication. Communication that is more powerful than the words we speak. Often others don’t respond to the words we ‘say’, they respond to ‘how’ we say those words. Your tone reveals more than you can imagine about who you are, and your intention in the moment.
For greater alignment in your communication the conscious influence of your tone is important. Your tone of voice is influenced by the physical state of the muscles of your face and around the vocal chords, your psychological state including your attitude and your emotions. This provides you with three ways to start conscious management of your tone.
There are a number of factors influencing the physically state that impacts on your tone. Most importantly is being relaxed with a good air supply. This allows you to speak from your true centre or heart.
Diaphragm breathing supports a fuller richer tone of voice. More air allows smoother speaking, without running out of breath; you are able to express yourself fully. Make diaphragm breathing you go to breathe for a smoother calmer tone. To do so:
Sit or lie comfortably, ensuring your spine is extended and your abdominal region is free to move. As you breathe in consciously push your upper abdomen out, as your breath out pull your upper abdomen in squeezing all the air out. Repeat this cycle, extending the duration of each breath to develop deeper and slower breathing. Ideally with each out breath a 'little' longer than your in breath. With practice diaphragm breathing will become your norm. This provides comfort for your basic physiological state, as your body is obtaining the air it needs. Leading to relaxation away from its opposite, tension.
Tension makes a big difference to your tone. Tight muscles do not move freely preventing the richness of who you are from being experienced in your tone. Two simple practices, along with diaphragm breathing, are:
1) General relaxation and
2) Vocal exercises.
There is an abundance of general relaxation exercises available. These include mediations, visualisations, progressive relaxation techniques, walking in nature and playing. Remember doing your favorite activities also rate high for relaxation. Your uniqueness is important, so find activities that work for you and use them.
To relax your face, neck and open your chest, specifically for improving your vocal tone, try three depth breathes using your diaphragm, slowly stretching your neck side to side and in circles. Follow up with shoulder rolls, then opening your chest area by bringing your arms up to shoulder height and gently pulling them back as far as you can. Finish off with stretching your face, by opening your mouth as wide as you can and then scrunching your face up as tight as you can. Repeat each stretch a number of times, this alone will make a difference.
In addition there are a wide range of vocal exercises you can chose from. Julian Treasure and Robin Kermode provide great exercises on youtube. A couple of simple ones are making ahhh sounds,
humming with your lips closed and jaw dropped and sounding out the vowels, a e i o u.
Key psychological influences, on our tone of voice, are attitude, memories and emotions.
Attitude is the dynamic behind thoughts and beliefs you hold about what is happening. It is of value to become aware of your thoughts and beliefs and check to see if they are really serving you. Two key disrespectful beliefs that regularly come through in ‘tone of voice’ and cause problems in communication are that ‘others should do as I want them to’ and ‘they are wrong, I am right’.
For example in our society there is a lot of myths around the idea of what people ‘should’ do. Shoulds imply no choice of action and steals an individual’s autonomy and uniqueness, while invalidating the person they are. As a consequence ‘shoulds’ in your thinking puts your communication at risk, especially if you are aiming for Respectful and authentic communication.
Similar thinking the worst of someone puts blocks in your communication, as it is easily detected and generally triggers a defensive reaction, often on a subconscious level. Reactivity tends to create an escalating spiral of increasingly ineffective communication.
To build your ability to speak from your heart, about what you truly want, consider your beliefs and see if they are really serving you and the intention of your communication. Start with do you want Respectful conversations with constructive out comes, or do you desire dictatorial communication regularly resulting in problems due to natural resistance.
Emotions powerfully influence your tone. Consider the difference between the tone of someone who is anger, fearful, or tender. The messages conveyed by emotion in your tone are important. Others need to know ‘you mean’ what you say, and that sincerity comes with the emotion colored tone. Yet too often our emotions are ruling the communication rather than reinforcing it.
Three keys to assists with useful emotional reinforcing of our message are:
1) Being present paying full attention to the current situation including your emotions.
2) Self-regulate, not suppression, of your emotions. Suppression effectively is denying the emotions. As emotions have important messages it is important to listen to and acknowledge them. That way they more likely to reinforce what you are saying.
Memories are attached to emotional states. They draw us away from being ‘present’ in the moment and often have little or even nothing to do with what is happening. This natural tendency highlights the importance of being ‘present’. Being present enhances your ability to ‘respond to what is happening in the moment’, rather than reacting to past incidences or future concerns.
Mindfulness and meditation are common practices to build your ability to be present. In addition try regular ‘check ins’, where you ask yourself: what am I experiencing right now? In my body, in my environment, what can I see, smell, feel, hear?
To speak from your heart
Get clear of your intention, beliefs, speak with clarity of your purpose, focus on being present, centered and relaxed, acknowledge your emotions and speak the truth of your message and intention.