People hear tone in vocal inflections, but some people are more sensitive to it than others.

Flowing_Water

In a story, tone comes about because of connoted understanding around allusions, diction, imagery, irony, symbols syntax and style. Tone also comes about because of a shared understanding about the general character and attitude reflected in figurative writing.

People are both good (making accurate assumptions based on a shared history) and bad (making inaccurate assumptions based on a shared history), at interpreting and reacting to tone of voice or a nonverbal facial expression. People are also good and bad (and getting better and worse all the time because of social media) at interpreting and reacting to tones reflected through writing.

People hear (and interpret meaning) from tone in the sound of silence as well.

In a conflict situation, what is stated (presence) is almost as relevant as what is not stated (absence). People are sophisticated communication machines and they pick up instantly (or miss terribly), the meaning (both figurative and literal) behind presence and absence.

Emotional literacy in a conflict situation requires people to set aside assumptions and reactions about what tones may mean (presences) and about what silences may mean (absences) and instead do the hard, unsexy work of actually asking the following starter questions:

  • What do you think?
  • What are you feeling?
  • What do you need?

Then sitting back and engaging actively with the sound of listening.

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT: jsorrells@hsconsultingandtraining.com
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