THE TONE WE USE
Did your mother ever say, “Don’t you use that tone with me?” I was reprimanded many more times for my tone than I ever was about what I actually said as a child. As adults, many of us still often forget that our tone matters. On paper, what we say can be defended as innocent, but we all know there is more to it!
In school and perhaps in your career, you have probably had the opportunity to present before a group of people. You carefully crafted your speech, combing through every sentence to ensure what you wanted to say would connect and be received well. The fact of the matter is, there is only a small percentage of importance on what is said if you want to make an impact. The content is important, but to make a difference, to inspire, and to motivate others with that content requires much more. The difference is in how it is presented. This is everything from the tone of your voice, volume, gestures, appearance, and the environment around you. All of these are factors shape a person’s mind in receiving the verbal content that is being delivered. This is not only true in a prepared presentation but also in your marriage relationship.
In letter #3 of C.S. Lewis’ book, The Screwtape Letters, the fictional demon, Screwtape, is writing to his nephew, Wormwood. In this letter, he is instructing him on how to misguide his “patient” to create a strained relationship. He says, “When two humans have lived together for many years it usually happens that each has tones of voice and expressions of face which are almost unendurably irritating to the other.” He uses this to create defensiveness and anticipation of frustration to ignite quarrels.
In our marriages, we must be careful not to set ourselves up for a fight because of conditioned irritation or irritation that we are predicting.
Also along these lines, we need to be careful when arguing about what we said when the offense was more likely in how we said it and the intentionality behind it. See if you and your partner find this to be true in your relationship. You say something that on paper would appear perfectly innocent and harmless. The problem is that your tone or your intentionality of saying it has a more direct hit on your spouse’s emotions or perhaps even their last nerve! You defend your position by saying something like, “I only said….” or “All I said was….” This is the double standard of tone. “I only said” for the defense is the prosecutor’s “I know what you meant.” When we put our marriages into a personal courtroom and on trial, the only judge we can choose from is ourselves or God. I’m afraid God is the one we do not want to turn to on too many occasions. Next time we begin lawyering up in our hearts to prove our self-righteousness, maybe we should think about our tone and give validation to how it was received.