Showing posts with label Tone of Voice. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tone of Voice. Show all posts

Monday, April 8, 2013

Don’t Use THIS Tone of Voice…EVER

My company had just completed a survey of our customers using our 20/20 Insight software, asking them to give us feedback about our product and our technical support staff. I was studying the results to identify areas we could improve the program and our service.

These two comments grabbed my attention.
“I hesitate to call because I don’t like the way Sue talks to me.”
"I avoid calling unless I’m desperate for help. Sue uses a condescending tone whenever I call.”
Since almost all the other ratings and comments were stellar, I was puzzled about these outliers.

I knew Sue to be a dependable, conscientious worker who promptly returned calls and knew our software inside and out. She was competent and courteous, based on my personal observations. What had happened to trigger this negative feedback?

That’s the question I posed to Sue when I met with her to discuss these comments. I showed her the report and waited for her to respond.

Her reaction was not what I expected. I thought she’d apologize and say she’d had a bad day or have some other reasonable explanation.

Instead, she nodded her head, sat back and looked at me with a smug smile.

“Oh yes, that’s accurate. There are times when a customer calls with a question that I've already explained to them multiple times in the past. So I use an irritated tone of voice on purpose. I want them to know I’m not happy that they’re asking me to go over the same procedure again.”

Oh. My. Gosh.

After I recovered from the shock of hearing her rationale, I spent time coaching her on the reasons why she could no longer take that approach. Like the importance of having customers delighted with their experience after they call us, not annoyed or upset. And how it makes someone feel when that tone of voice is used. And how not calling for help was the opposite of what we wanted.

To her credit, Sue “got” it, and we never received any other complaints like that again.

But I realized this sort of thing happens all the time in life.

People use a condescending or sarcastic tone of voice to make a point or teach a lesson. A parent wants to get his kid’s attention. A manager wants to set an employee straight and let her know who’s boss. Family, friends, coworkers – you can find examples everywhere.

But what the speakers of these messages don’t seem to realize is that NO ONE likes to be talked to this way. It’s demeaning and hurtful. It serves only to put the other person down.

If you’re ever tempted to speak to another human being in a patronizing way, stop and ask yourself: How would I feel if someone spoke to ME that way? 

Then think about what you could say instead that would preserve the other person’s dignity and still express your thoughts and feelings in a way that promotes a meaningful conversation.

You have the power to uplift another’s spirit…or crush it, depending on your choice of words and tone of voice. If you want to make a positive difference in the lives of those around you, choose kindness and tact every time.

"Kind words do not cost much. They never blister the tongue or lips. They make other people good-natured. They also produce their own image on men's souls, and a beautiful image it is."  - Blaise Pascal
“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” - Plato
"You will find as you look back upon your life that the moments when you have truly lived are the moments when you have done things in the spirit of love." - Henry Drummond

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Your Tone of Voice Matters

In November of 1998 I received a phone call from “Sharon,” one of our 20/20 Insight software customers. She had some basic questions that were clearly explained in our documentation, but apparently she hadn’t read the information or simply didn’t understand it.

Earlier in the day, I had dealt with some unexpected problems, and I was behind schedule with a project I was working on. So I was a bit distracted when she called, and I wanted to get through the conversation as quickly as possible.

When I responded to the questions Sharon was asking, there was an edge in my voice. I didn’t realize this, of course. In my own mind I was simply responding efficiently to her questions.

Later I received a phone call from the value-added reseller, Bill, who had sold the software to this customer. Bill said Sharon had called him and complained about me, saying that I had been abrupt and impatient.

I was stunned. One of my core values is treating others with respect and consideration. I had no idea that I’d come across this way until it was brought to my attention.

It wasn’t the words I’d used that offended her. It was the way I said them.

When I got this feedback, I immediately called Sharon and apologized.

This experience taught me a valuable lesson. It didn’t matter what my intention had been.

What counted was her perception of my attitude and behavior. 

More than a decade later, I still monitor this aspect of my speech during conversations. When someone is talking to me, I try to set aside whatever thoughts and emotions I may be feeling at the moment so I can tune in to the person and respond appropriately.

Clear communication is a challenge in the best of circumstances. You’ve got a lot on your plate; and when you’re busy, you may not want to worry about how you come across.

But if you care about your relationship with the person you’re interacting with – whether it’s a customer, a co-worker, your spouse or one of your children – you must consider the potential impact that your tone can have on that individual.

You have to be self-aware and self-monitoring. Because it’s very possible that others won’t tell you directly how you’ve come across. You can do lasting damage and not even realize it.

Let this wisdom from Maya Angelou be your guide.
“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou, American author (1928- )