Let’s face it…we have feelings. Our children have feelings. Our spouses have feelings. Those feelings can impact how we say what we say…and how others understand what we say. For instance, saying “Wait a minute” in an exasperated tone communicates something different than saying the same thing in a calm tone. We read into a statement based on the tone and extract meaning from the tone. The volume and cadence of what we say has a similar impact. As a result, our tone, volume, and cadence impact how others understand what we say. As you can imagine, this has a huge impact on our disagreements and arguments. So, especially when you find yourself in a disagreement with a family member, watch your tone, volume, and cadence.
- Listen to your tone of voice. Keep your tone as calm and neutral as you can. People will respond to the emotional charge in your voice. For instance, if your voice becomes emotionally charged with anger it may shut people down. Or, they may respond with similar energy, escalating the anger. Remain neutral and calm. Describe the situations that arouse your emotions in as calm and neutral a manner as possible. This will help everyone remain calmer and more able to think of solutions.
- Keep your volume in check. Have you ever noticed how a disagreement seems to get louder as the disagreeing parties talk. One person starts to get louder to make their point and the other person starts talking louder as well. And so it goes, both parties increasing in volume to make their point. Unfortunately, that loudness increases stress and pushes people toward a “fight or flight response” of defensiveness, criticism, or stonewalling. It interferes with connection and resolution. When you find yourself in a disagreement with your spouse or children, keep your volume low, soft, calm. Keep your volume conversational. This will go a long way in helping you achieve the true goal of any disagreement–connection.
- Watch your cadence. After Thanksgiving, my friend would ask me, “How was your Thanksgiving, (dramatic pause) turkey?” Now that question means something completely different than “How was your Thanksgiving turkey?” Right? The cadence, the pauses and pace of what we say, impact the meaning of what we say. Keep your cadence as steady and smooth as possible in a disagreement.
Your tone, volume, and cadence will have a huge impact on how well a potentially heated conversation ends. One of my friends compared the tone, volume, and cadence of a disagreement to football. As both teams line up at the line of scrimmage, the quarterback begins to his cadence. He calls out numbers and colors. He may slow it down, speed it up, yell some louder than others. He changes his tone, volume, and cadence in an attempt to draw the other team offsides. When it comes to our families, however, we don’t want to draw a penalty. We want to keep everyone on the same side. We want to keep our tone calm, our volume conversational, and our cadence smooth so our family remains in the line of healthy communication, connecting with one another in a healthy, loving way.