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How’s Your Tone?

By:  Donna Martin

Have you ever had the misfortune to hear a musical presentation where the person singing is off pitch?  If you are even a little bit musically inclined you know that the sound of an off-pitch singer can be very irritating and unpleasant to your ears.  Or maybe you have heard someone try to play an out of tune guitar.  It can really get on your nerves.  You can’t wait for the presentation to be over.

Just as musicians need to make sure their tone is in tune, in a marriage husbands and wives need to make sure that the tone of their voices are pleasant.  The tone of your voice can make the difference in whether you have an adult conversation or a major conflict.

During our younger days of marriage, we had to learn to improve the tone of our voices when speaking to one another.  If I was busy working on something and Mike asked me a question or interrupted me, the tone of my voice sometimes made him feel like I was in a bad mood.  Many times I did not realize what my tone was like.  There were times that he told me that I was talking to him like he was one of my students.  And then there were times when I told him he was talking to me like he was my father instead of my husband.  Usually by the time we made these statements our discussion had already escalated into a conflict.  And that conflict could have been avoided if we had only controlled the tone of our voices.

Many times couples do not realize that the tone of their voice is the reason that their conversations change from discussion mode to conflict mode.  So it is important to think about what kind of tone turns on the conflict.  There are many tones that are unacceptable when talking to your spouse. Defensiveness, accusing, belittling, sarcastic, hateful, rude, and overpowering are some of the tones that should be avoided.

Proverbs 15:1 states, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (NIV)  When we return a gentle answer, we can tone down someone’s anger, but if we answer angry words with more angry words the conflict escalates.  It takes a strong and wise person to remain calm in conflict, but if one spouse can remain calm and keep the tone gentle, then the lines of communication can remain open and conflicts can be resolved more quickly.

This week surprise your spouse by keeping your words gentle even in conflict.  You may be surprised at how your communication improves.

“Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”  Proverbs 16:24 (NIV)

The Martins currently present “Happy Together” Marriage Enrichment Events for churches and organizations.  To schedule an event call Michael at 940-735-1515. They are certified “Prepare/Enrich” Facilitators and are available to work with couples on an individual basis using the “Prepare/Enrich Assessment.”  They publish a weekly “Happy Together” Blog about family and marriage issues.  You can order copies of their new books Dancing With Death and 366 Tidbits We Have Learned in 14,610 Days of Marriage, read, and subscribe to their “Happy Together” Blog by logging onto the Martin’s website at

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