Wednesday, April 24

The unspoken part of Communication called Intonation.

Technically it is spoken, because we see the reactions people have to intonation they hear. What we don’t see often, is the clear realization of intonation spoken… by the speaker. (What they are communicating in addition to the words they are using)

I have a fascination with intonation, so that being the case, I notice it all the time, in my words, in the words of others, and in the conversations I just happen to overhear.

Another word for intonation could be manipulation. I don’t mean manipulation in the cruel sense of the word, I mean manipulating words to be more than just words, to be FEELINGS.
Some people just talk… without any intonation, others, use intonation as a whole ‘nother way to say something more… More, as in, I’m happy, I’m frustrated, I’m skeptical, I’m disappointed. It seems most people are keener to HEAR intonation, than they are to realizing they are speaking with it.

This is most obvious when you happen to be a bystander as a fight breaks out in front of you. Like with married friends. The next time you are in that uncomfortable situation, take the opportunity to hear the extra communication going on through the intonation they have, and also see if you can tell if the person hearing the most severe intonation is not also the one getting the most offended or upset.

I’m not sure what it says about me that I happen to be privy to married friends arguing around me, and me just standing around as witness, but, fact is, it happens, and I am always so fascinated how a person can go from total frustration with someone, then turn to me and speak with a pleasant intonation, or intonation that says they know I understand them. I hope it means I have communicated myself clearly as someone who wants to be understanding and comfortable to be around. (This doesn’t mean that I am comfortable in that situation… in fact I know it gives me a headache.)
This situation always makes me hypersensitive to MY intonation toward both parties. I don’t get pulled into “fights”, but I end up being spoken to immediately after upset…
Because of this, I then have to make sure my intonation is one of respect for both parties and one of not taking sides. I also try to convey though my intonation that I am paying attention, being respectful, and all those things. The intonation of a bystander to arguments is going to easily be misconstrued since people are often looking to be agreed with and validated in their upset.
NOT necessarily validating negative emotions, or seeming to take sides, is one of the trickiest, but most beneficial exercises you can have in intonation.
(I say this assuming you are willing to not play judge or jury in the argument, but just be friend.)

I’m trying not to use specific examples, because I wouldn't want to upset anyone by my ‘talking publicly’ about them, but I feel like there is much to say on this subject.
(I will not try to convey all my thoughts in this one blog post. Saving most of it for a “Chat” -in person)

MY intonation goals in life:
I know that many people aren't walking around paying attention to intonation the way I am, however, I am walking around noticing how people react to my clear intent with intonation.

I REALLY want the people I talk to –to feel understood. Whether it’s a teenager, a 5 year old, a friend of my same age, or a total stranger. I put effort into this, and I am rewarded by feeling others are comfortable in my presence. Maybe this isn’t a reward for everyone, but it’s like candy to me.

A Tangent: I just thought of something, so I’m going to psychoanalyze myself for a minute… Ignore this paragraph if you want to stay on topic.
I grew up in a home where one parent was always getting upset. Was always uncomfortable in their own skin, and forever made the rest of us uncomfortable. I think this was a really good bad example for me; one that I took to heart and must have used to develop a core value. Being: I want people to be comfortable around me!
At this late age in life, I’m finally seeing that much of what I experienced before the age of 15 determined who I am at 40. Oddly… much of that is only being realized now.
This whole finding words for emotions thing I’ve been doing the last couple years has been invaluable for my personal growth.

An example of people being comfortable:
At the supermarket, paying for groceries, the lady at the till inevitably wants to know “How are you today”. (they are most often women, so I say lady)
I know she doesn’t care how I am, it’s her job to ask and be friendly, however… Her job is dealing with people. I want to be ‘people’ that makes her enjoy her job, not hate it. So I let my intonation in my reply “Good, Thank you”, insinuate that I am happy, I am grateful for her time, and I will be an easy customer.
What do you think happens with those three words, containing loaded intonation? She reacts in a very pleasant manner towards me. I suddenly have the sweetest assistant in the store scanning my food. Not because she has decided to be fake… but because she has just realized I am one of the customers she looks forward to having. She likely will ask me another question, which gives me the opportunity to convey further attitude that makes her comfortable. And ultimately, do you know what this does? I become someone who has supermarket employees recognizing me, and waving a hello to me when I enter. In a city with a population of around 36,000, do you think me and the person working at the supermarket enjoy a friendly hello wave? Yep. We do.
I also benefit from “Oh, there’s a coupon for that in this weeks ad” type of service.
I know this sounds like I’m saying that being friendly is rewarded with friendliness, yes, I guess I’m saying that too, but what I want to express, is that even in the most unremarkable everyday things, you can pay attention to intonation, and your life can be nicer because of it.
And in contrast, your intonation in upset or frustration, will convey negative things that won’t help you, or make you feel good.
Worth Remembering!

Something I have not spoken about, but carries just as much weight is facial expression and eye contact… With so much to say on this, we will go there another day.
For now… go test intonation… and use one word: “Hello.” You decide how you want it heard, and notice the reaction you get. 

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