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Effective Communication--Tone

Last week I continued to write about communication and interpersonal skills, a topic that was triggered by a discussion I was having with our programmer manager regarding the applicants we were seeing that were applying for the numerous positions we have available at Pathways Training & eLearning. As I also mentioned last week, while “excellence in communication” is usually a hi-lite of most resumes we see, we do not always share the same understanding as to what this really means. This week, to conclude the topic I would like to offer a few thoughts on “Tone”

Looking at the “official” definition, tone can be defined as… “a particular quality, way of sounding, modulation, or intonation of the voice as expressive of some meaning, feeling, spirit, etc.


I mention all the time to my students that communicating with passion, speaking quietly, speaking too loudly or speaking angrily can have a great impact on how you are perceived by others. Tone of voice can demonstrate your warmth, expertise, sense of humour, or any other attribute that you want to get across to the people you communicate with. How we say the words, our tone, emphasis and pitch and the quality of our voice are important tools in communication.

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.

Here is a simple example on how we use pitch, emphasis and tone to add meaning.

Say “That’s it.” putting equal emphasis on both words. Typically, this would be taken as the person has had enough, is frustrated and is not interested in hearing more.

Now say it again, pitching up on the word “it”. This sentence now is a question – "That’s it?” You could also increase tone from one word to the next, so now your question becomes an “I’ve got it” statement.

Remember, be aware of your tone and ensure it reflects your true meaning, and

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

If you’re interested in learning more about communication training for your organisational needs, or would like to learn more about the open positions we have, please contact us at or at 1-888-961-6011.

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