Go up to any random person and ask them to finish this quote “it’s not what you say its…” When I’ve tried this I always hear the answer “how you say it”. “How you say it” refers to the voice tone, inflection, volume and body language we use when communicating.

“It’s not what you say that matters but the manner in which you say it; there lies the secret of the ages”
~ William Carlos Williams, American writer

If we all know that it’s the “how you say it” part of communicating that is so important, why don’t all of us focus more on saying things in the right way? Why do so many conflicts arise from miscommunication? Quite often it is because we speak from emotion without thinking first.

Everyone has a need to be understood, treated fairly, and respected. When these needs aren’t met because of situations we experience or trigger words we hear, our emotions may take over our communication.

Do any or all of these situations trigger an emotional response for you? An employee does not follow instructions, your manager criticizes your work unfairly, a client doesn’t return your calls, the children don’t complete their chores, a spouse spends money without consulting you first.

Instead of lashing out and possibly impacting the health of your long term relationships, consider these tips for improving “how you say it”:

  1. What happens when you jump to conclusions? Can you think of situations where you made an incorrect conclusion about what had happened? The results of your communication exchange may have been different if you had given the person the benefit of the doubt and gathered facts before communicating.
  2. What is your voice tone conveying? Does your voice tone sound annoyed? Angry? Disgusted? Condescending? Ask yourself if this is how you want to sound and the impact your voice will have on your communication and future relationships.
  3. How is your “poker face?” Do all your emotions or thoughts appear on your face? Studies have shown that in less than a quarter of a second your face may display one of seven expressions including happiness but also disgust and contempt.

In summary, excellent communicators know how to phrase their messages by focusing on both the words they use and how they say those words.

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