Lynn sent me this great question and I thought I’d share it with you as it’s an important question.
Hi Sharon, I have no problem saying ”No” most of the time, but I find myself using the ‘wrong’ words and tone of voice. So I’m often told, I come across as being uncooperative and not a “team player!” I don’t communicate as eloquently as I would like when choosing to say ”No”. Any tips you can share?
Thank you for your question. Ah, the infamous tone of voice… that action starts in your brain and the tone/sound released from your mouth is the sound that all too often mirrors your immediate emotions. That is perfect for reflecting on my How To Say No Rule #3:
Their Ask/Trigger/Event + Your First Emotional Reaction = Outcome*
If you are feeling positive, your voice will naturally sound upbeat and energetic. If you are feeling annoyed, put-upon, frustrated, or <insert your favorite negative response> your voice will reflect those energies too.
A couple of tips:
First, know that it is your voice, but the listener’s response is most often not about your voice. It really is the other person’s immediate emotional reaction to your current emotional reaction – the voice pattern was just the delivery method. My friend Laurie once was dating – what we all thought was a cool guy; the next thing you know, he’s gone! When asked, she said every time he got the slightest bit annoyed with her, it sounded just like her own critical dad. A lot of voice non-verbals and our reactions to them are habits and leftovers from childhood.
A little story ~ My friend Laurie once was dating — what we all thought was a cool guy — the next thing we know, he’s gone! When asked, she said every time he got the slightest bit annoyed with her, it sounded just like her own critical dad. That happens a lot, a most of our voice non-verbals and our reactions to them are habits and leftovers from childhood; also known a ‘triggers.’
Now, that doesn’t mean we don’t care what others think or how they react to what our voice is doing – you should!
Try this eye-opening experiment, go grab a stopwatch and an audio, or better yet, video recorder. For 30-seconds (about 100-120 words) record your voice while reading a passage from a favorite book.
Then take 30-seconds to think about that biggest “button or trigger or person” that gets you annoyed, hurt, frightened or frustrated. During this next 30-seconds formulate a retort or response in your head. Now, pick up your favorite book at that same passage and record yourself again. Listen to both recordings for your non-verbal voice habits. You will be surprised at what you hear!
I know I was… years ago I was in a relationship where, with some regularity, the other person would say, “Don’t use that tone of voice with me!” Every time I heard that I was shocked and would work hard to minimize the other person’s response and reaction. “Who me? What tone? What’s your problem?” would go through my head and all too often out my mouth….
When I did this exercise, it was eye-opening for me to hear how much my instant emotional response would come roaring through.
Now, for an in-the-moment tip: Count to ten as you take four counts to inhale and six to exhale. The exhale is when the body relaxes. Inhale fully again and share your thoughts with as little as preamble as possible. Remember to take a full breath every place there would be a period if what you are saying was in a written format. Full breathing and pausing wherever there would be a comma or sentence period makes you sound more intelligent, emotionally together, and self-confident.
As to the words you choose, always start with a question, or a curiosity/wondering statement, or two for clarity and to get the other person more engaged in the conversation and disengaged from the moment. Then work to match their tone and intensity of response and slowly bring both you and them into a slower, more relaxed state. As they begin to match you in a more relaxed state, continue to breathe fully as you slow your breathing down. Slow, full breathing will calm most situations.
If matching doesn’t seem right in the moment, strive to use what I call the “Please pass the butter” voice, the one without any emotional attachment. (Just don’t blurt out “Please pass the butter” in the middle of a heated debate – that always causes a bit of a weird reaction – then again, it would cause a “break state” and could just cause everyone to bust out laughing….)
Quick summation: *Pause and breath through your first emotional reaction if negative. Pausing and breathing fully will most often change the outcome.
Have a great day whatever your adventure,