Tone Of Voice

I Can Change How Reactive I Am To My Partner’s Tone Of Voice

Couples argue about:
  • cleanliness
  • punctuality
  • not feeling significant
  • not feeling cared about
  • not feeling respected or acknowledged
  • sex & intimacy
  • child-rearing
  • fairness
  • in-laws
  • responsibilities & chores
  • & other subjects


Partners have legitimate differences in the areas.  But, it is ‘THE WAY YOU’RE TALKING’ and the tone of your voice that really gets under people’s skin.   You might think your partner was talking to a child, or an employee from his or her tone of voice.  Or, you are completely unaware of how your voice and your face can intimidate your partner.  In my anger management group for men I’ve asked them to repeat after me,
I am a man who can broadcast rejection, contempt & disrespect; without even knowing it.
Then, when my partner reacts to that, I look over at her and think to myself,
“Why is she wanting to start a fight with me?
That’s their honest experience!  They are sincere when they dismiss their partner’s reference to their voice.  They just do not consider sweeping their side of street to see ‘what part they played’ in the conflict.  In this case, the part their tone of voice played in why a partner became upset.
If you find yourself being told periodically by others that they are offended by your tone of voice, you will benefit by taking this seriously.  You may simply make an effort and by dint of will you might successfully eliminate most of those instances of being disrespectful.  The people that I see in my office for anger management have not been able to change their verbal and non-verbal controlling behaviors.  They are unaware of the part their tone of voice plays in the dance of conflict.  Most of them come in to therapy for a relationship issue, and it evolves into an exploration of the individual client’s inability to be aware of their own behaviors, and how that affects the relationship.  A tone of voice can convey disgust, disrespect, contempt, rejection, dismissal or indifference.  These disconnecting moments have a lot to do with why there is a lack of intimacy, sex and fun in a relationship!
Some people cannot tolerate listening and responding to comments about their tone of voice… at all.  They become argumentative and oppositional.  It is common for men in our group to take 3-6 months before beginning to see their part in the conflicts they have with others.  Usually, because it feels black and white to them.  It seems that if they accept any responsibility, then they are accepting all the responsibility for the problems.  So they continue to blame their partner.  It takes a while for these men to learn to partialize.  This is the quality of seeing that two people play a part in couples’ problems.  To be able to partialize responsibility means that each partner is able to see their part in how a conflict began, or got worse.
I make two points in this blog post-
  • One- You can learn to improve the way you express feeling offended in a more respectful way.
  • Two-  You can allow people to comment on your tone of voice, without punishing
Be curious about what your voice made your partner think and feel about him/herself, about you, and about the relationship.
If you, or your partner, feel disrespected that fact is not debatable. 
Say, your partner tells you that you had an edge of contempt or intimidation in your voice.  You might respond with comments such as, “You shouldn’t think… ”  Or, “You’re wrong about the meaning of my voice… ”  Or, “That’s your problem.  You have issues from your family, or your ex.”   Saying these things are more demonstrations of your controlling, insensitive nature and is a continuation of the disrespect.  If you were the one feeling disrespected, would you tolerate someone telling you that you could not express your experience because you were judged wrong or crazy?  I think not.

In late summer I will be planning a couples weekend seminar.  It’s less than $200 a day per person and is an extremely efficient way to possibly avoid ongoing expensive marriage counseling.  The workshop is educational in nature.  Men like the ‘rules & tools’ quality of the class, and women just love that there’s more respectful communication happening.  FIND THE PERIOD to those unnecessary arguments that don’t seem to end; and don’t end well.  The skills and agreements are a proven path to finding the period to conflicts.

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