Author’s note: this is part of a long blog series on our ability to communicate effectively and efficiently. Feel free to look back on previous blogs and explore previous material on communicating and how you can communicate better.
Part 6 – Tone in Employee Communication
When learning to use the Bible as a tool in managing your business, it is helpful to remember that the Bible is not necessarily a book about happiness, but it is a book about holiness. The Bible will say things you and I do not like to hear, but need to hear. And while it may be the words we don’t like, it is more often the context in which they are said and how they were said that we do not like.
Isn’t that precisely what tone is in our ability to communicate?
Many writers in the Bible are masters of the tone of their message. Although you cannot literally hear them say the words, through the stories and their implications you can hear the tone in their voice as they convey their messages. The first writer we will look at is King Solomon.
Do not be quick with your mouth,
do not be hasty in your heart
to utter anything before God.
God is in heaven
and you are on earth,
so let your words be few.
A dream comes when there are many cares,
and many words mark the speech of a fool.
There is an art in delivering interesting and difficult messages. In this verse, we see how the combination of words work together to convey a message of respect. This is not a verse to be said loudly or abruptly. The words convey a sense of calm, rational thinking— an older person respectfully giving a younger person, whom they love, good advice.
But the message is stern: “there is a time and a place for your opinions and now is not the time, and if you do not follow me, you will look incompetent and unreliable.”
In the workplace, the opportunities to reprimand and admonish employees occasionally surface. Your ability to select the right tone matched with the correct words will be what is needed to appropriately instruct yet encourage your employees.
A second biblical resource to reflect on about the tone of our communications is in James 3 where a main theme is the taming of the tongue. James writes we can make a large horse turn by using a small bit in its mouth and a small rudder turns a large ship. The tongue is a small thing, but it can do enormous damage. Just like a tiny spark can start a forest fire, the tongue can start a fire of its own.
Your inability to control your tongue can be the ruin of your career.
Our speech is a direct indicator of our hearts. To tame our tongue means we need to cleanse our heart. The tone we use in our speech directly reflects what is in our heart. We can mouth the correct words, but our tone will reveal what the true meaning is of what we say.
Is your speech laced with sarcasm, irony, anger, envy? Or is it caring, loving, well intentioned, and honest? Do your words match your tone?
We can intellectually select the right words. And we can train ourselves to use the right body language (most of the time). But the intent of our heart will always reveal our true nature through the use of our tone.
To set our tone, we need to focus on our heart, and to cleanse our heart we need help.