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people at work
Oct 3, 2017

This One Aspect of Your Communication Is Likely Hindering Your Communication

Is your tone turning people off?

When I talk about tone, I mean that tone a parent uses to get their children to stop dead in their tracks, or the snippy tone of your spouse, or even the authoritative tone of your boss.

Here’s a scenario that I think many of you will be familiar with:


Setting: Mary, a mother of four, forgets to moderate her tone when she is at the office talking to her assistant, Jessica. She speaks to Jessica in the same manner as when she wants her kids to obey…

Mary (exasperated tone): I’ve told you at least a hundred times, Jessica, how important this client is to me! Oh God, why do I have to repeat everything!

Jessica: You did tell me he is an important client. I’m not stupid… But I had to leave for my dentist appointment.

Mary: You must tell me what did not get done before you leave. I INSIST, Jessica!

(Mary walks back to her office. Jessica follows meekly.)

Jessica: Shall I call him now to apologize?

Mary: God, no! Just get him on the phone! NOW! I’ll fix it!

Jessica (thinks to herself): She thinks I’m stupid! But it was just a mistake…


Mary obviously could have used a better tone to talk to her assistant. Mary actually does not even realize what is wrong with her communication style, as she is firmly in the habit of repeating her orders at the office, just like she does at home. She has no inkling that her terse and condescending tone puts people off and that this is the reason she can never keep an assistant! She believes the fault lies with Jessica.

When any conversation starts with that specific tone, it will render us deaf to their words… especially when the person is family, or someone we are very familiar with because we don’t want to listen to that nagging tone. The tone of our words is often more important than any syllable we utter. So it really does not matter what you said; the words become irrelevant!

For example, when you ask a young couple what the argument was about, they might not know but they will be able to tell you that the nagging feeling of the tone is what they remember! Even more than the words, the feeling of what was said will stay with you for a lifetime…

When tone is involved, it is really difficult not to react… and most of us are often left wondering why someone walked out or why they are suddenly mad at us. This is a good moment to ask yourself if this happens often to you. Do people walk out when you talk to them, at work or at home? If the answer is yes, your tone will have played a huge role.

When someone’s tone has made us feel inferior, we cannot listen to the words! So think about your tone before uttering the first syllable.

(Book excerpt from Watch Your Delivery. Follow the blog for more communication tips!)


Gabriella van Rij [pronounced “Ray”] began her life as an orphan in Pakistan and without the determination and kindness of two strangers she would not have been adopted into her new family. Today, Gabriella relentlessly champions the Kindness movement and tackles the social issues that plague our society. With a brave and compassionate voice, she speaks at businesses, universities, corporate training events, school assemblies, community centers, places of worship, and on network shows. Her uplifting talks motivate, challenge, and provide the groundwork for lasting progress. She is an acclaimed author of three books. With All My Might is her mesmerizing memoir of one of the first cross-cultural adoptions. I Can Find My Might is part self-help, part practical resource for students, parents, and educators. Gabriella’s personal experience creates a boots-on-the-ground approach to bullying and self-acceptance that is nothing short of magical. Watch Your Delivery is Gabriella’s third and latest book on secrets to effective communication. Gabriella has been seen by millions on Dr. Phil, ABC, CBS, NBC, and FOX. She also writes for the Huffington Post and the NY Daily News.