What we say means very little in the wake of how we say it. “You’re fired” to “I love you” can have many different meanings depending on the shear inflection of our voice. Tone communicates the real message. And, yesterday was a needed reminder.
My mother called while I was at work. We are not close and my inclination was to let it roll to voicemail. Instead I picked up. She called to ask me for my mailing address. In her tone, I could hear the confusion of her dementia, the frustration to find her words, and the will to keep living despite the challenges of aging. I gave her my address but not the way I usually would. Something about the frailness in her tone made me soften mine. The octave of my compassion surprised me and her response was palatable. Her softened “thank you” said “I love you”. My sincere “I look forward to seeing what you are sending, mom” said, “I love you back.”
Tone waves through conflict, through the thick embedded history of our words. It’s a significant aspect of the message we send and it’s the only way we communicate from the heart. From family to co-workers our tone conveys meaning. It creates the impact of our message. Something worth considering when giving voice to words.