A manager asked me to speak to a couple of his employees to find out what they think about how he communicates. In speaking to these two employees, I uncovered a minor problem which had to do with tone and how the manager comes across occasionally. Here’s what we discovered about how some employees perceive his communication style.
1. His approach to communication is practical: simple and direct. The simple and direct approach to communication is not always friendly.
2. His approach to communicating can seem to be too formal or even rigid from time to time.
3. His choice of words, in combination with his tone, can make people feel as though he might not be pleased with them. Because he is an executive manager, this might make certain individuals uncomfortable from time to time.
4. The manager says “you” and “I” a little louder than usual sometimes, which can make people believe that he is being unnecessarily critical or is displeased for, what seems to be, no apparent reason.
After I reported to the manager what his employees told me, he was both surprised and glad to be aware of something that he had not known about. And what is that? Some employees do not always find communicating with him to be a positive experience.
Does he want his employees to view communicating with him as a negative experience? Of course, he does not. He wants communication to be a positive experience. The manager had never known nor suspected that his communication style was something less than a positive experience for some people at the company. Let’s take a closer look at the problem. Here are two statements and three questions that the manager’s employees told me they’ve heard the manager use:
1) Maybe I didn’t explain myself correctly.
2) I didn’t hear that.
3) What do you mean?
4) Did you hear me?
5) Have I made myself clear?
How do these questions sound to you? How could they sound? How do they sound if the words “I” and “you” are emphasized? There are different ways to say different things. With the wrong tone, these questions might not sound good. In fact, they did not sound good. But the manager did not know that the way he asked these questions sounded, in a way, negative. To him, they were just questions.
- This manager recognized that he should change something about how he communicates. He recognized that tone of voice has everything to do with the quality of one’s communication.
- The manager is aware that emphasizing certain words, or giving added stress to certain words, affects the tone of what he says and how people understand his communication.
- The manager has been practicing how to use tone to communicate and come across in the positive way that he wants to.
- We thought that the problem we wanted to solve had only to do with “accent reduction”. Accent reduction and good pronunciation will allow someone to speak clearly and be understood. However, tone will allow someone to communicate more than just the meaning of the words themselves. Tone is not something separate from accent and pronunciation.
- The manager’s tone is better and his employees feel better about communicating with him. Communication with the manager is now a positive experience. And that’s how the manager wants it to be. > The Manager’s Tone of Voice Follow-up
It’s not always easy to speak about tone in a concise way or a precise way. Tone requires awareness, practice, and communication coaching.
English at Work Boston Blog
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- Accent Reduction Conceptual Awareness and Practice
- Speech Skills Coaching and Accent Reduction