I was sitting in the salon, getting my hair done, when my stylist's phone rang.
"Hullo." She was clearly not happy to be speaking to the other person. She frowned.
"Yup." The conversation from this end was monosyllabic, monotone answers - and I thought maybe somebody had died or something.
She hung up without a goodbye, and I was worried about her.
"Everything OK?" I didn't want to pry, but it sounded so serious.
"Oh! Everything's fine. That was my fiance!" She smiled and started telling me about her wedding plans...but by now I was worried about her poor fiance. If that's how excited she was to talk with him now, I could only imagine what their conversations would be like in five years...or ten. I couldn't imagine that he felt much love coming his way, simply from the tone of her voice.
Most of us know that we can set the "thermostat" of our homes - the level of joy and sanctuary - by our own attitudes. When mama chooses to be joyful, it's pretty amazing how that feeling spreads.
But the tone of your speaking voice is another powerful tool for creating an atmosphere of love, joy and belonging. It's not just the words you say - it's HOW you say them that matters.
Here are five ways to change your tone:
1. Pay attention to how you emphasize your words.
"I love you." Mumbled quickly, it's a sweet thing to say.
"I LOVE you." Puts the emphasis on the action of love. OH MY HEART! It's overflowing!
"I love YOU." Puts the emphasis on the person who is the object of the love. YOU! YOU SPECIAL, WONDERFUL YOU!!!
Hey, did you say the above sentences out loud? I did...just to try it out. Go ahead and try it, too. We'll wait.
2. Smile while you speak.
Now try saying those same sentences above WHILE SMILING.
Speaking while smiling changes the sound of the words ever so slightly. Can you hear it? Studies show that people can hear a smile over the phone, or on a commercial voice-over. A smile softens your tone immediately, and makes you slow down in your diction. It is irresistable to the hearer, and makes the listener receptive to your message.
Hey. Smile when you say hello to your husband on the phone. Act like you're happy to talk to him. Just saying.
3. Turn down the volume.
Are you shouting to your kids/spouse from the next room? Um, hate to say this, but you sound shrill. Be honest: Have you ever heard a woman shout attractively? Me neither. Plus you have to screw up your face and put your hands on your hips....not how you want to be remembered.
Make a habit of speaking face to face whenever possible. Don't let your kids/spouse shout to you from the other room...make them physically come and speak to you. And give them the same consideration by taking your little legs and walking to where they are.
This is how you build respect, and a tone of honor.
4. Take a deep breath first.
Before you launch into your mom-monologue or your rant or your scolding...take a breath. Choose your words. Cut them in half. Say them kindly. Pausing will never hurt your relationship. Lashing out with "how you really feel" cannot be taken back, and those harsh words may wound for a lifetime.
Ask for a time out, if you know you're going to explode. Walk away and say a prayer. I know this is hard, but your children need your words to be life-giving and affirming, even in discipline. You can say something like, "Please go to your room and wait. Mommy is too angry right now to talk. I'll be there in 15 minutes and we'll discuss it then." It's OK for your kids to see you angry, but it's not good for them to bear the brunt of your unbridled words.
Ps. 141:3 Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips.
5. Talk less.
"My kids don't listen to me," is a common complaint from moms. And, "My husband doesn't listen to me," is one as well.
Maybe, perhaps, could be.... they've tuned you out. If you are taking ten sentences to say what could be said in two, they've tuned out eight of them. Unfortunately, they may have inadvertently tuned out the most important ones. Darn it!
Most of us simply talk too much. And sometimes our message just gets lost in all that verbiage. We think we are making it better and clearer by talking more...but actually the opposite is true. Learn to state things clearly and succinctly. You really don't have to say every single word that comes into your head.
Today's Small Thing is to change your tone.
Let the tone of your voice reflect the love you have for the people around you. Use the five tips above to radically change your home, without doing one other thing. You will be amazed at how conflicts can be diffused, attitudes can be changed, and the atmosphere can lift - simply by altering your tone.
Is this a challenge for you? Do you have trouble with any of these? What changes do you see when you pay attention to the tone of your voice?