Friday, August 13, 2010

Are You Tone Deaf?

August 13th, 2010

About 10 years ago, I discovered that I like to sing and made the decision to take voice lessons. The sole reason I stated for this was so that people would not turn around when I sang aloud in the pew in church. My fear was that I was tone deaf. And like many self proclaimed, I-cannot-draw-a-straight-line non-artists, I imagine there was plenty of reason for concern. While I maintain that the artist is inherent in each of us - that we can all draw, music impresarios will also say that we really are not tone deaf.

But what if we are not talking about singing? What if we are talking about the way in which we communicate to one another in our work/life relations? What happens when we are tone deaf?

Many pundits have suggested that we communicate only 7% of what we say with our actual words; 35% is our body language, and a whopping 58% of what we say is in our tone. 93% of what I say is not with my words, yet in my intonation, my visual landscape, my expression. Wow.

One of the exercises I often times do with my children is this: at the height of my vocal range, I yell: “[name of child] Come here immediately!” They show up very fast, with very concerned facial expressions. I continue in a very high-pitched voice: “I just want to tell you how very, very, very…” (they are somewhat cringing at this point)…proud, I am of you.” My words really mean very little. My tonality is everything. It usually takes a few moments for the after effect of the words to settle in, and then they usually smile with relief.

It got me to some mindful thinking about how others both perceive and receive us: do they give their attention to our words or our body language? Our facial expressions or our tone? Let’s give our attention to the broad scope of relations with whom we engage, and really hear the totality of all that they have to say. I’ll be listening in church this Sunday.

Mindfully yours,


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