How to use Appropriate Tone of Voice

Jane works as a human resource officer. Recently, the company decided to let go under-performing employees and Jane was assigned to break the news. She didn’t want the employees to feel dejected after receiving the news. Hence, she decided to use a slightly upbeat tone to break the news, with hopes of damping the negative impact of the news. After gathering the employees, Jane highlighted their poor performance and informed them of the termination of their employment. To Jane’s horror, the employees did not take the news well and caused quite a stir in the company. What went wrong? – Jane’s inappropriate use of tone!

Why it is important to use an appropriate tone when speaking

Tone affects how your audience perceives you

When delivering a speech, it is important to use an appropriate tone as it greatly affects how your audience perceives you.

“An interesting thing about tone is that it is one of the few qualities that are universal across human societies” – said Tonya Reiman, a renowned American body language expert and the author of The Power of Body Language: How to Succeed in Every Business and Social Encounter.

When Jane was delivering the news of termination to the employees, she used a upbeat tone to deliver the bad news. The stark contrast between her tone and message frustrated the employees as Jane was perceived to be unemphatic and insensitive to their predicament. Using a serious and emphatic tone would have been more appropriate.

Tone affects audience’s attention

The tone of your voice also affects your ability to get the audience’s attention. When delivering a speech in a monotonous voice, your audience are more likely to get bored and disengage from you.

To keep your audience’s attention on you, vary your tone at different parts of your speech. For example, use a playful tone when you are telling jokes. A serious tone would be more effective when presenting sensitive topics.

How to use the right tone of voice

1.     Match content with appropriate tone  

To use an appropriate tone, we must first understand the content of your speech. Based on the content, determine the intentions and emotions you wish to convey.

Let’s say you have a call to action in the last part of your speech, with intentions to get the audience to act immediately. To get your message across effectively, use a serious tone as it highlights the urgency of the matter.

2.     Use inflection effectively

Using inflection or modulation varies your tone of voice and prevents you from being monotonous.

Do take note to use inflection on the right key words.  Putting inflection on the wrong key words will imply a different meaning altogether.

Check out these examples below and try saying the sentences out loud with particular emphasis on each underlined word. Notice that the same sentence would differ in the meaning and implication when an emphasis is put on different words.

“I didn’t tell her you took the cookies”
I didn’t directly say it to her
“I didn’t tell her you took the cookies”
I told someone else about it, not her.
“I didn’t tell her you took the cookies”
I told her you took something else.

The next time as you are prepare for your upcoming speech, consider carefully what you want to convey to your audience, plan for the appropriate tone so as to effectively deliver the message across.

Interested to improve other areas of your voice? Refer to other useful articles here:

How to improve your speaking voice

How to project your voice and speak louder

How to memorize a speech fast and without notes

Avoid these negative body language gestures in presentation

How to use appropriate tone of voice

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