Chances are, you’ve heard that tone of voice. The one that sounds demeaning to you…aggressive…just short of an insult and a put down…the tone that puts your teeth on edge.
Chances are also good that you’ve not only heard it, but used it yourself…and your partner hates it.
Not only does using ‘the tone’ so irritate your partner that it’s likely to shut down your conversation, but neither one of you needs the disrespect that ‘the tone’ communicates. It’s a serious problem that needs to be tackled and eliminated from how you converse. Here are five tips for ridding your relationship of that tone forever:
Partner up to become aware – it’s likely your partner is more aware of when you are using ‘the tone’ than you are. Create an agreement that when s/he hears it, your partner will gently let you know. When s/he does, take note and back off. Then think about what situation you were in to see if you can gain insight into why you were using the tone in the first place. Over time, and with effort, you should be able to identify when you are using 'the tone' yourself, and not need the reminder to move so something different.
Practice ‘redo’s’ – If your partner notifies you of the tone, go back and repeat the exact sentence you just said…but in as nice a way (and that does NOT mean sarcastic!) as you can manage. If you do this right you’ll open the conversation back up again, rather than shut it down. And you'll set the stage for using the better wording in the future.
Make yourself aware of anxious feelings – in our household, I can fall into using 'the tone' when I'm feeling anxious about not being heard, or about something not getting done. Identifying feeling anxious as a contributor to using a poor tone of voice has helped tremendously. By connecting a specific feeling to an increased possibility of speaking with ‘the tone’ you can short-circuit your instincts and choose a different approach whenever you start to feel that way.
Use a third party’s help – if you are working with a counselor, enlist his or her assistance in pointing it out whenever either of you dips into a disrespectful conversational pattern.
Apologize – there may be times when you drop into ‘the tone’ even with your best efforts. In that case, make a good apology. That’s one without a ‘but’ or ‘because’ clause in it. For example, “I’m sorry that I yelled at you, but I’m just so frustrated that you didn’t take out the trash” is not an apology. “I’m sorry that I yelled at you” is.