All about the tone

Words: Jennifer Dow

The tone of our voice is one of the most significant communication elements. Words that can be neutral can become hurtful in an instant with the wrong tone of voice. Altering the tone of your voice conveys different psychological information. Speak softly, and you can be interpreted as lacking in confidence but talk too loudly, and you may be seen as aggressive.

Your tone of voice is an essential element of communication and cues such as body language and eye contact. The tone you say something to another person is often more powerful than your choice of words. Tone can help you build relationships, create connections and influence others around you.

The tone of voice is so powerful that when you listen to someone talking in a language you do not understand, you can figure out what they are feeling just by their tone alone.  

There are numerous factors in the sound of your voice that give meaning (conscious and unconscious), and it is helpful to think about these. You can also interpret how another person is doing by examining the tone of their voice. Here are some critical aspects of tone to consider.


This is how high or low the voice fluctuates over the conversation.

  • An overly high-pitched voice suggests immaturity
  • Ending a sentence with a higher pitch indicates a question
  • Speaking in a low pitch can make you seem more authoritative
  • A constantly high pitch can mean you are unsure what you are talking about


This is how quickly or slowly you speak.

  • Speaking too slowly can be misconstrued as demeaning
  • Talking at a constant steady pace will get your message across more clearly
  • A slow pace can show a lack of interest and disconnection from the world
  • Fast pace indicates tension and trying to hide information
  • Irregular pace can indicate a state of confusion, anxiety and a breakdown in communication


This is how loud or how quiet your voice is.

  • Loud volume can make you seem aggressive, weak, impatient and insensitive
  • Normal volume shows self-control and an ability to listen
  • Low volume indicates inhibition and inexperience


This is the way someone breathes whilst they talk.

  • Deep and constant breathing shows energy
  • Deep, constant and strong indicates bottled up anger
  • Calm breathing is someone balanced
  • Short and quick breathing indicates anxiousness and distress.

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