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Interpersonal Communication Skills Part III

For the past few weeks we have been discussing the importance of interpersonal skills, with the most recent discussion on the filters we use to interpret a message.

As previously mentioned, the first thing to recognize is that messages are not sent directly from your brain to the receiver’s brain. As you deliver your message, it goes through a set of filters that can impact its meaning. These filters are Words, Tone and Body Language. This week, we will focus on Tone.

Look up a definition of “tone of voice” and you will probably find something similar to…

” a particular quality, way of sounding, modulation, or intonation of the voice as expressive of some meaning, feeling, spirit, etc.... a tone of accent peculiar to a person, people, locality, etc., or a characteristic mode of sounding words in speech. 6. stress of voice on a syllable of a word..."

Tone is not just how we say the words, but also what words we emphasise, the pitch and quality of our voice. It is said that only 7% of meaning that we take from what people say comes from the words they use but 38% of the meaning we understand is from their tone of voice!

For example, when something goes wrong in our life, we often say things like “Well that’s just GREAT!” Our words say that we are thrilled about a flat tire, missed bus or spilled coffee, but our tone tells the real story: we are upset!

As well, the emphasis and pitch we place on different words within a sentence can change the meaning dramatically. Careful consideration of what our tone is saying is critical to achieving clear communication.

We use pitch, emphasis and tone to add meaning. Here is an example you can try now…

Say “That’s it.” putting equal emphasis on both words.

Now say it again, pitching up on the word “it”. This sentence now is a question – "That’s it?”

We use pitch emphasis and tone to add interest...

Here is another example you can try. Read the sentence below, keeping the emphasis the same on each word.

“It was the worst accident I’d ever seen,”

Now, try it again, adding emphasis where it should go in your opinion to add meaning. See the difference?

If you were telling a story, which version do you think would be more interesting and engaging for the listener?

As a final summary…consider the following:

Use tone wisely.

  • Be aware of your tone and ensure it reflects your true meaning

  • Use pitch, tone and emphasis to add clarity and interest to your communications and engage your listener.

Next week we will conclude this discussion as we look at the third filter, body language.

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