When communicating with someone else, style and tone affect information delivery. As the saying goes, “You can be right, but wrong at the top of your voice.” In essence, when communicating with someone else, the person doing the talking/writing needs to construct their wording in such a way that the receiver accurately processes the information. Failure to do this is known in business English as incompetent communication, because valuable information was not delivered successfully due to the method of presentation.
Failure to communicate competently can take many forms, but one egregious error is communicating not simply aggressively (which can at times be necessary), but with a tone of hostility or combativeness. Being bellicose can undermine one’s attempt to, say, convey an idea about a needed change. Why? When we, as humans, feel that we are being attacked, whether it is subtle or not, the fight-or-flight response often kicks in. Catecholamine hormones, such as adrenaline or noradrenaline, are secreted, and facilitate immediate physical reactions associated with a preparation for violent muscular action. Our digestive systems actually shut down, along with the parts of our brain associated with cognitive deliberation. We lose the ability to calmly reason. In effect, we truly lose our senses. We lose our minds.
People from ancient times realized this; it’s not just a modern understanding. The epistle of second Timothy, which is estimated to be written around AD 67, says the following about interpersonal communication,
“With gentleness correcting those who are in opposition…that they may come to their senses and escape from…”— 2 Timothy chapter 2
Even stripped of a religious context, there is valuable insight in that passage. Gentle words (which are not necessarily soft, as one can be gentle but also firm) often facilitate our ability to communicate and affect needed change.
With love, always,