Are You Striking the Right Tone?

Last Saturday, my husband Michael and I went mountain biking at Wompatuck State Park in Hingham, MA. A mild summer day, the park was filled with cyclists, joggers, parents pushing baby strollers, and folks walking their dogs.

About half way through our ride we came upon a Golden Retriever barking at a woman riding her bike. She did not look like the dogs owner. Nor did she look happy. She sat upright and stared straight ahead. If I had to guess, she was trying to stay focused and not fall face first onto the hard, hot pavement.

Up ahead I heard a faint, “Lucy come! Come here Lucy!”

The dog didn’t notice. Instead Lucy kept barking, trotting dangerously close to front tire of the woman’s bike.

My husband, pedaling in front of me, must have sensed the danger too, because I heard a low yet stern, “NOOOO”.

The dog paused and looked at us. A second time my husband said, “NOOOO.”

And with that the dog turned back towards her owner and stopped bothering the woman riding her bike.

What do you want people to do when you talk to them?

Regardless of whether talking to one person or a group of people, voice tone has a lot to do with our ability to connect with others and move them into action.

In a Forbes article author and communication expert Nick Morgan wrote,

“…Research shows that your voice puts out more authoritative vibes at the low end of your range, and more passion at the high end. So learning to control and manage your voice is essential to successful leadership, and leadership communications.”

The tone of your voice matters.

This reminds me of a networking event I attended a number of years ago. The female facilitator was trying to gain the attention of a primarily all male group. She wanted everyone to gather in a circle so she could make a few announcements and give each person a chance to introduce themselves. Her attempts to organize the group failed.

The high pitched tone of her voice blended into the excitement and enthusiasm of the conversations going on around her.

I leaned in towards her and whispered, “Try again. This time lower the tone of your voice and see what happens.”

She looked at me quizzically and tried it anyway. Within moments the conversations ceased and the group had gathered in a circle.

Are you striking the right tone?

Whether you’re a leader motivating others, a business owner who wants to enroll more people in your programs and services, a new presenter who wants to project confidence, or trying to get your dog to stop barking, experiment with striking the right tone.

Here are two strategies to consider:

Breathe lower. To create a lower, more authoritative tone, breathe lower. A breath that starts in your chest will produce a higher pitch, (makes sense, right? It starts higher in your body.) On the other hand, breathing lower, from the stomach or diaphragm, creates a lower, more authoritative sound. (Again, starts lower in the body).  Play with the different ways to breathe while you speak.

Tap into what excites you. To create more vibrancy and energy in your communication, tap into what excites you about the message you’re trying to convey. You might be excited about a new service you’re offering or you might have an insight that can help solve a clients problem. Do the possibilities excite you? Then bring that energy so you can connect better with your clients, prospects, audiences.

(Side note: Just this morning I experimented with my cat, Luli. She likes to sit on the kitchen table. In my higher, more loving tone she stayed playful. When I lowered the tone of my voice, she jumped down.)

Bottom line.

How you say it matters just as much, if not more than, what you say. Be clear about the tone you want to set with your communication.

Know what tone is appropriate for a given situation. More conversational? High energy and motivational? Firm yet caring? Funny?

Then, practice. Experiment with your pets, your kids, your colleagues and see what happens.

Now it’s your turn. Talk to me!

  1. Do you have pets?
  2. How do you get them to behave?
  3. What kind of tone do you want to convey in your verbal communication?

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Humor, stories, and insights, delivered 2x per month, to perform without the pressure.

Topics include mental health, work, human connection, creativity and more.


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