It was a Saturday morning, and I was sitting in a nail salon letting my gel manicure soak off. A young woman walks in, “I need a pedicure,” she bluntly states to the entire nail salon. The manicurist instructs her to pick out a color and sit in the pedicure chair. After a minute of sitting in the chair she again bluntly states, “Uh who is going to do my pedicure? I’ve been waiting. Also, what’s the WIFI password?”  

We’ve all encountered someone’s tart tone, whether it is with a friend, in the workplace, with a stranger, or even via email/text. Maybe we’ve asked someone a question and they squint their eyes and respond with a sharp, “what?”  Typically we develop a negative impression and might have a hard time connecting with that person. We might think, “are they deaf to their own tone?”

You could be playing a beautiful Mozart piece on the piano, but if your piano is not in tune, then your audience will be focused not on the remarkable piece, but on how poorly it sounds. Similarly, you could have something important and valuable to share, but if the way you say it is acidic, then you will not foster open, trustworthy communication that leads to strong personal and professional relationships.       

According to a brain-imaging study, as explained by Emma Seppala, PhD, “When two people talk and truly understand each other something quite spectacular happens: Their brains literally synchronize. That’s the kind of communication we should all aim for — and one that may not lead to only better relationships, but more compassion.”

The way we say things is the foundation for our interactions. Sometimes we get wrapped up in our mental bubble, and it’s easy to react based on our inner chaos. The more introspective we are of our tone and mindful we are of how it might effect someone else the more successful we will be as leaders, communicators, and authentic relationship builders. Our voice is a powerful tool, and it is key to be aware of how we’re using it.