Target Tone Skills for Tough Times

I’ve 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 often a matter of reflecting on tools to move forward with respect rather than frustration. Did you know, for instance that stressed brains rely more on habits and ruts?

Tone tips allow you to live like Einstein. Positive tone skills inspire the kind of gentleness that can shake a world, and help others to deal ethically with stubborn problems they face. Sadly, you’ll find few examples of good tone skills in most political circles.

Do strong tone skills carry you peacefully through sticky situations such as bullying, in a consistent and professional way? Given pressures from a tough economy, there may be weeks where you may feel like more than your share of conflicts cross your path. And we all know that to run or ignore tension, tends to merely add more discord to its encounters. Tone, on the other hand, offers a way to rev up brainpower in reverse, or offer an olive branch to enemies, or to engage voices on the other side of issues in spite of thorny issues you face.

Tone kills or cultivates brainpower. Many people hold useful insights that could dynamically improve their own lives and enrich other people’s conditions in spite of conflicts. Yet why do we see so many brains left behind when controversy strikes? Perhaps more than most people realize, it takes targeting good tone skills to become a force for life-changing advancement when the chips are down.  

Research shows how tone allows you to choose between awaken angel or devil parts of the brain. Unless people deliberately target effective growth, poor tone will likely rise up like a viper and spew toxic chemicals that work against you and an entire network. Have you seen it happen?

Not surprisingly, the brain  hardwires for healthy or horrid reactions to stressors. You may have noticed especially poor tone skills used in online forums, where open comments are encouraged. People show astonishing anger or hatred over slightest differences in view. Or perhaps you’ve encountered negative tone that flashes quickly into angry words when differences arise.  As the body language of communication across diversity, tone ripples beyond its origins within seconds. Frustration triggers lack of respect, or  intimidation sparks toxic silence in public and then downgrades into venting in private. Even social media can help or hurt tone. Poor tone slips into communication in a flash, while brain based approaches calls for time and reflection that result in brain powered tools to disagree. Yet few people realize the power of tone to move their lives forward or backward in an instant. Tone will either prosper productivity, or will isolate you and weaken any efforts to upgrade a difficult setting. Fortunately, it’s a matter of choice.

Sure, some gene pools come with a stronger proclivity for good tone, against cynicism. Others, like me, will want to target key tone skills, like other brain based tools. Either way, watch tone’s brainpower add goodwill across differences. For each barrier met, successful people target learned tone skills that counter that negative force. It’s a deliberate choice, and like other brain based skills positive tone grows dendrite brain cells for more of the same, with each use.

People who learn and use good tone, rarely get hung up on the tone ten barriers to tone. They simply act on a barrier’s opposite. In other words they choose to communicate tone over heated or deceptive barbs. What do your tone skills say?

Do you target tone skills when:

1. Meta-messages fashion words other than speakers really mean. Sarcasm and cynicism run rampant, for instance,  in circles where a person says one thing and intends the complete opposite. Dr. Deborah Tannen found that mothers’ relationships with their adult daughters suffered needlessly because of meta-messages. Listen to an NPR interview about her book on this topic. It doesn’t have to be that way. With each insincere exchange, tone offers back an opportunity to target respectful, clear speech. Consider it a chance to express what you mean with integrity and without sacrificing truth that fuels well articulated honesty.  Rather than say you’re OK with issues that disquiet you, good tone skills offer you courage to suggest alternatives for any idea out there. Do you agree?

2. Hurtful humor often comes at times when people can least absorb the barbs without feeling their amygdalas heat up. Yet use of good tone in light of hurt feelings through careless comedians, calls into choice tools that diffuse difficulties, and that build goodwill. Tone models the best of laughter since it laughs quickly at self, while at the same time refusing to make others the butt of jokes. Have you seen good tone used in humor that finds more listeners laughing? If so, you will have also experienced the enzymes and healthy chemicals that surge through the brain in response.

3. Unfair competition or disagreeable settings that diminish some people to favor others, often stir outright fights. In such situations emotional intelligence can run low, and passions rage, to further blur any calm responses. Competition that gives access to some yet locks out others, due to unfair or unclear ground rules, calls for unique tone skills. No question, rivalry in our fast paced world can becomes an uncomfortable mishmash of inequity, or even brutality. People with good tone skills need not feel daunted or uncomfortable when battles heat up, or antagonism gets out of hand. Likely they’ve already practiced tone skills in personal and professional relationships, and so they’re far more ready to speak out calmly, ask for rationale and hopefully help to improve the playing fields.

4. Excessive critique is taught and tossed into professional circles to the detriment of good tone. Think about it. You step up to offer an idea, when the criticism starts flying faster than bees to honey. Leaders and learners often tell us they feel criticized from the time they enter certain circles, and some add that critical people find justification in flawed systems they frequent. Critique can be a good thing when tone affirms the good at times, thanks people who differ, shares in others’ experiences with respect, and finds courage to build on mistakes in ways that bring resolve errors and move on.

To target tone is to practice its calm in tough times, such as financial loss. Why so? Because in doing any act of good tone, the brain rewires for more of the same – when further conflicts arise. That may mean laughing when you feel tears well up. It may mean deliberately looking for delight in tasks that once brought fear. Showing reasons for hope where media reports on despair. Reaching for divine help when human simply cannot offer answers. Shifting to strengthen a positive belief when faced with cynicism. Looking for concrete proofs rather than remaining in doubt. Tone takes different shapes in different settings. That said, it often meets its finest opportunity to create life-changing respect and caring that leads to more success. Yes, even in flawed or broken exchanges.

What will others hear in your words today?

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27 Comments

  1. Matt says:

    Excellent post. An area which needs HUGE amounts of attention within organizations.

  2. eweber says:

    Thanks for stopping by Matt. Yes, I agree – and what’s rather shocking is that these skills are learned and can prosper people, but so many are unaware that tone skills could give them promotions, and many other advancements. It’s amazing what difference I notice when I face conflict with good tone! Now to remember this whenever the amygdala heats up:-) Happy 2009 tone Matt!

  3. Folks may not think of meta-messages, sarcasm, unfair competition, and excessive critique necessarily as poor tone. You do well to show us how poor tone can be subtle at times.

    To add one to your list – poor tone can also come through “cold shoulder” techniques, too.

    Robyn McMasters last blog post..10 Triggers to More Brainpower

  4. Conrad Hake says:

    Ellen, as usual, your entry is spot on. My most recent entry, just delivered, was before I read your entry. And, my situation demonstrates the values of good tone skills in action. They dovetail perfectly.

    In some ways, tone skills may have also been Barack Obama’s strongest tool in seeking the presidency this past election.

    Conrad Hakes last blog post..Yesterday, I Met the Fockers!

  5. eweber says:

    Thanks Robyn, LOVE your extension! What do you see as the alternative tone tactic for the cold shoulder reaction from another. Looking forward to even more on that one that so few discuss.

    Would you agree that “cold shoulder” might also be a person’s running from conflicts in that person’s mind?

  6. eweber says:

    Conrad, I loved your story of meeting the Fockers! What a wonderful expression of tone, and of humanity, and leadership tied into a well written narrative over at Leveraged Intelligence http://www.levintel.com/?p=177

    It’s a real keeper!!! Thanks for sharing it here, Conrad.

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  12. Fashekia Williams says:

    I really love the article about “Meet The Focker’s” it was very interesting movie and yes I love to watch it but that was a great idea to talk about.

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  16. linda jackson says:

    it is all in the tone that makes a situation what it is. when asked a question its all in the way it is asked just like in the way a question is answered, it is all in the way the question is asked and or answered. i think a person with a more powerful tone has more of a mangerial position because of the type of attitude that comes along with it.

  17. linda jackson says:

    tones are reflected by situations, which is a challenge daily because situations change. i believe tones can be congrolled if we took the time to think first. this is a form of training your attitude. if your having a heated argument and someone says something that really touches a nerve, thinking first before you react can stop alot of negative, maybe fatal outcomes.

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