From Poor Tone – to Brainpower for Innovation

Luckily we can overcome our brain’s default for ruts that foster poor tone as evidenced in many conflicts – to create instead – tone for an innovative world order forward.

From Poor Tone to Brainpower for Innovation

1.       Affirm another person’s thoughts before sharing your views on the other side – to show that you really heard, sorted, and valued them. (Notice I did not say agree with them)

2.        Thank people for different ideas presented and show how you’ve tried or considered them further. Toss your own ideas into the ring to show and explain differences you see.

3.       Share personal experiences respectfully as another angle to think about together – rather than as a need to replace the original ideas that were presented. Remember you are looking to stir and learn from diverse sides of the issue.

4.       Ask two footed questions,  rather than offer your own opinion too quickly.  For instance… Have you thought about…? What if…? Could another possibility be …?

5.       Add unique ideas to the mix – to inspire with confidence – more as part of a good discussion – than a need to top the original points. Make sure you support your best ideas with concrete examples to help people see possibilities presented.

6.       Avoid meta messages – that suggest for instance,  I regret that your ideas stink! That message masks poor tone and would be better stated, by a sincere, question such as: Have you considered…? Or ask a person to elaborate and suggest ways you are considering the ideas. Better still learn from the ideas by trying them out, and then share the results as a way of tweaking how you roll out the person’s ideas so they obtain better results.

7.       Welcome opposing views so that people can trust they will not get attacked when they use good tone to  offer opposing views for consideration.

8.       Support others by cheer-leading  more than criticizing what does work well, more than attacking parts you disagree with,  in any exchange. If you have developed ruts for demanding opinions, try staying silent when you differ  and offering encouragement where you agree.  That practice in the opposite direction of needing to be right, allows for tone that engages many views without attacking people who differ.

9.       Collaborate with different people, in ways that bring in different beliefs, backgrounds, genders, and ages. Use a tone that offers inclusion for differences, rather than one that prioritizes top voices that agree with yours.

10.   Facilitate goodwill among those who differ, by adding ideas of value from both sides of people on opposite poles of controversial issues. Think of it as the skill that would help political leaders to focus more on shared ideas that build a finer future together, than wasted energy given to fight one another – in order to come out on top – while avoiding the shared insights that help people they serve.

Could tone become the top new smart skill that ensures an innovative future? One where genius talents can rise to the surface as tools forward together!

What do you think?

8 Comments

  1. [...] been trying to tap into better tone skills in difficult settings, and find I still have a  distance to go to snip that amygdala before it snipes back. It’s [...]

  2. Conrad says:

    “Could tone become the top new smart skill that ensures an innovative future? One where genius talents can rise to the surface as tools forward together!”

    Ellen, I think it has always been so and I think you are adding more dimensions to our understanding of it. What’s cool about the use of tone is that it is equally valuable to leader and follower alike. It can build a harmony that eases tension and – at an even higher level – it can build a resonance that exceeds what any could accomplish as individuals alone.

    Good stuff, Ellen.

  3. eweber says:

    Thanks for your kind comments and ideas here Conrad, as I have been researching and observing this tool called tone for years.

    If it is the new missing tool in exchanges that could build forward innovatively, they I’d like to see it become part of leadership courses everywhere.

    Case studies for tone that acts as silent killers or refreshing tonic can be recorded in exchanges at every level. Then strategies can be developed by communities that wish to leave the stalemates of “me-first” games to enter into joint efforts to build innovative communities where talents and ethics are highly valued.

    Imagine the world we’d help to create for the next generation. My question is: What would it take to cultivate such “neuron pathways” forward so that good tone became as commonplace as good hygiene?

    What do you think?

  4. Hi Ellen, great post as always. I would personally add more emphasis (even though it is included within your main points) on listening for understanding. I’ve found that most/many leaders could improve their listening (which of course means that they need to talk less!) skills. And when they do – magic can happen! Like tone, a simple thing in principal that is very hard to do.

  5. eweber says:

    Thanks Mary Jo, for your thoughtful addition – which you model more than most:-)

    What impresses me with your suggestion is that when we listen more we also see more issues through other people’s perspectives. That’s the beginning of learning and innovation as an integrative mix forward!

    I’d love to see a blog titled – NEED TO TALK LESS SKILL, and sense it would inspire us all!

  6. Jeff Hurt says:

    Great tactile steps Ellen. Since so much of our communication occurs online today, I’m thinking about your suggestions about tone in a digital context. I think there needs to be a balance between too much text in our responses and ensuring a good tone. That’s challenging. Brevitiy is so important yet often lacks tone.

    I like what Mary Jo said as well on listening for understanding. I like to say listening for what is underneath and also for what is not being said. Sometime the omission of something not said speaks louder than the actual words.

  7. eweber says:

    Jeff — what an interesting insight — the line between brevity and tone. It still seems that would should be able to hold up measures for a brief or a long post online, to assess the tone, would you agree?

    Folks who use bad tone, and create conflicts or cause divisiveness often complain that good tone means we all agree. Just the opposite is the case in good tone exchanges. Voices are no longer silenced – and so amazing views will surface, that are otherwise lost.

    What do you think?

  8. Hi, Ellen. To me, “tone” equals “respect” — and I find that good tone is often lacking, or somehow not apparent, in both face-to-face and online communication situations. In my classroom, I try to always use a positive tone. My students often comment that our classroom environment is “so different” when compared to their other classes.

    Great post (as always)!!
    - Kathy

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