Feeling a little sour?
Drop tart tone.
I remember times I felt frazzled or aggravated and then said something with an edge to it that just wasn’t necessary or useful. Sometimes it was the words themselves: such as absolutes like “never” or always,” or over-the-top phrases like “you’re such a flake” or “that was stupid.” More often it was the intonation in my voice, a harsh vibe or look, interrupting, or a certain intensity in my body. However I did it, the people on the receiving end usually looked like they’d just sucked a lemon. This is what I mean by tart tone.
People are more sensitive to tone than to the explicit content of spoken or written language. To paraphrase the poet Maya Angelou, people will forget what you said, but they’ll remember how you made them feel. And we are particularly reactive to negative tone, due to the negativity bias in the brain (written about in previous JOTs).
Consequently, tart tone hurts others. This is bad enough, but it also often triggers others to react in ways that harm you and others.
On the other hand, paying attention to tone puts you more in touch with yourself, because you have to be aware of what’s building inside – which also promotes mindfulness and builds up its neural substrates. Containing negative tone prompts you to open to and deal with any underlying stress, hurt, anger. It reduces the chance that the other person will avoid dealing with what you say by shifting attention to how you say it. Cleaning up your style of expression puts you in a stronger position to ask people to do the same, or to act better toward you in other ways.
As the Buddha said long ago, “Getting angry with others is like throwing hot coals with bare hands: both people get burned.” Much the same could be said about throwing tart tone. [Read more...]