Set the Tone

August 24, 2023

When I was in my early twenties, I thought it was important (and really cool) to have a stereo system with big speakers for blasting my favorite tunes. You know, the good stuff – by Journey, Styx and .38 Special.

One of the shiny, silver knobs on my stereo controlled the tone of the music being played. Simply by turning the tone knob left or right, I could change the way the music sounded.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we humans had a tone knob, and a simple twist was all it would take to sound just right every time we communicate?

When we speak in a business setting, we use a lot of brain power for our words and messages. In fact, you might be asking, “If I get the words right, does the tone really matter?”


When we communicate with our stakeholders, the words we use are ALWAYS important. But the tone, or HOW you say those words, is equally important!

Tone can be impacted by many things. Your vocal variety for starters. Your facial expressions. Sarcasm and cynicism, which can be divisive. Your goal should be communication that demonstrates genuine care and concern for your audience. And that’s especially critical when you have bad news to share.

Remember, EVERYTHING communicates a message, and people listen with their ears AND THEIR EYES. That means they’re watching you. And if there’s a disconnect between the verbal, the vocal, and the visual, your audience will believe what they SEE far more than what you SAY.

This is especially important for team leaders. The fact is good direction is sometimes overlooked or even dismissed because of tone – the way you deliver it to your team. A positive message with negative tone can leave your audience feeling confused, irritated and even angry. "If you bark orders at me, forget it."

And don’t overlook the impact a simple smile can have. A smile can make you more likable, and that’s a good thing when it comes to effective communication. Researchers at the University of Kansas found that smiling helps reduce the body’s response to stress, actually lowering the heart rate in tense situations.

So pay attention to the tone with which you communicate. Your team will appreciate it, and who knows – you might just live longer.

Blog by Jeff Johnson