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Verbal Judo – Harmonizing Your Tone of Voice




Some time ago, we wrote about the importance of being aware of the Tone of Voice we use with our spouse. The gist of the post was that our Tone of Voice is the key culprit that begins most disagreements, hurts, and fights between spouses. We want to revisit this important topic and provide some additional helpful hints we’ve learned along the way.

Paul: One of the most important resources for us over the years has been “Verbal Judo” by George Thompson. I first learned about this remarkable man during my law enforcement career. Dr. Thompson completely rewired my thinking as a police officer and how best to communicate with people. Because of his influence, I learned how to de-escalate volatile situations peacefully. I wondered – could I apply Verbal Judo at home with Stephanie and our children? Of course, the answer was yes. One critical lesson was learning how to “harmonize my role with my tone of voice.”

Steph: Our role in any given conversation can vary. It might be friend, parent, guide, mentor, judge, mediator, boss, or countless other things. What matters more than the role we are called to assume at any given time is the tone of voice we are using. If our tone of voice suggests we’d rather not assume the role (we sound agitated, disturbed, annoyed, distracted), then the person will not believe us and therefore will not cooperate.

Paul: Let me give you an example. If I want our teenager to clean up his room, I may choose the role of guide/mentor and give him reasons why it’s in his best interest to accomplish this task. If my tone of voice, however, is sharp and suggests that I’m disappointed in him and exasperated with his procrastination, then he will not believe my role of guide/mentor and will instead key in on my tone of voice which is communicating something entirely different than my desire to help him along life’s path. His response will most likely be resistance versus compliance.

Steph: So, Dr. Thompson teaches that we must adjust “our tone to maximize our effectiveness.” If the role we have with our beloved is “friend” and “soul mate,” then our tone of voice must match that with patience, empathy, care, and concern. If we harmonize the tone of our voice with our role, we have instant credibility with the person with whom we are communicating. And if that person happens to be our spouse, the more awareness and control we have over our tone of voice, the more trust and empathy we develop between us.

Paul: The above quote is worth memorizing: “Adjust your tone to maximize your effectiveness.” This one lesson has made more of a positive difference in our marriage than almost anything else. One sure path to peace between us is to be mindful of harmonizing the role I’ve assumed with a tone of voice that is kind and loving. 



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