“Porter, what is that?” asked my Chinese friend Phil when he was visiting our home this last week from China.
“The moon.” replied eight year old Porter as he looked at the sky.
“In Chinese the moon has a different name.” Phil went on.
Phil told Porter the two syllable word which means moon in Chinese, but Porter struggled with the new sounds. After a minute Porter was able to reproduce the sound combinations, but something was still missing. Phil had Porter listen to him say the word again and again so that Porter could make the sounds with the correct tone. Finally, Porter said the Chinese word for moon with the proper tone, soft in one place and more abrupt in another place. From this simple vocabulary lesson, Porter learned that good communication skills require two things, the action and the tone.
When we communicate with each other we always have a tone. Without ever telling anyone directly, we understand when a person is tired, angry, anxious, or has a positive attitude. Naturally reading the tone of the other person is a basic communication skill we all possess. A person’s tone actually communicates much more than their verbal communication and actions do. This non-verbal communication is the first language we learn at birth and we never stop using it.
Often times we are even able to feel the tone of people through their emails, texts, and letters. However, if we are not careful, we are also able to apply our own tone to another person’s words or actions. This practice regularly causes relationship problems, misunderstandings, and is not effective communication. The only way to really feel the tone of the another person is to give them the ‘benefit of the doubt’ when we are communicating. Judgment or attitude problem always gives way to misunderstanding.
Applying Tone to Relationships
Relationships are drastically affected by tone. When a child cries or whines their parent immediately changes. The alteration depends on the relationship habits and problem solving skills of the parent and child. Some parents immediately pamper the child, while others begin power struggling and threatening. By contrast, more assertive parents choose to recognize the tone and identify the skill needed. They check to see if they are calm, and then effectively communicate the needed change to the child in skills-based language while focusing the whole time on improving the tone they are carrying in their own heart.
Since we feel more than we ever hear, parents change the hearts of their children by consistently governing their own tones while teaching essential skills in a self-government structure.
The first two-thirds of my communication skills training book, Parenting a House United: Changing Children’s Hearts and Behaviors by Teaching Self-Government, talks about how to create the proper tone for teaching in the home, then the last third of the book teaches the assertive communication skills needed to correct and teach proper behavior in children.
Most people come to the book looking for a quick skill to teach a child. They can read the last third of the book for those interpersonal communication skills. But, if they want their child to have a change of heart, instead of just experience behavior modification, then applying the first part of the book along with the last part is essential. All good communication techniques need to be delivered with the appropriate tone in order to take root in the heart of the person they are directed toward. The tone is what encourages the heart to be open to the communication offered.
It’s That Easy!
So, to help a person change their heart, behavior, and life all the parent needs to do is have the right tone while teaching and correcting the child. Pretty easy right?
It sounds easy to just choose to change your tone. However, changing the way you see and feel about the world, which is what your tone is, requires a lot of faith and courage. You have to trust in the power of a reformed heart. You have to choose love in stead of selfishness and judgment. You have to train yourself to know what to say so that you can focus primarily on the way you feel and the non-verbal messages you are sending.
Learning the steps to following instructions and the other communication skills taught is the structure part of self-government teaching, but the tone is where the power is.
I have spent my whole life reforming my tone, and it will forever be my greatest project. I had a controlling personality by nature, which needed to be changed in order to teach my children self-government. I knew that if I was always controlling they couldn’t ever really learn that they had to choose self-government for a happy life.
When a person learns self-government they have more power than most other people. Great leaders emerge from people who have learned how to change themselves first. Only then are these people worth listening too. And, only then, do they know the power of tone. These people inspire others just by establishing a connection with them. They have something other people want. It is a tone, a feeling. It is the product of self-government.