Being generative: Caring for the tone in our delivery

(This article was written as the third installment of three articles on being generative in any situation where you want to be helpful. Please check out the first one: Being Generative in a Supporting Relationship, and the second: Being Generative: Ask a Question.)

How we are heard by another depends a great deal on the gesture of our delivery. There are many ways to say “okay”. It can sound excited and positive – “okay!”, or it can sound sarcastic and unconvinced – “ohhkaaaay”, depending entirely on the quality one infuses in the saying of it. It is still the same word, with a thousand different inflections possible. Tone sets the stage for how the other will listen to you.

An important pre-requisite to being heard by another is that there is warmth in the tone of your voice, and in the qualities behind your voice and manner. Warmth allows hearing in the other – the other will be receptive to you far more easily when there is warmth. This is particularly important when communicating through email, as all too easily the tone of an email can come across as cold, or – even worse – rude, without adequate care for the tone. Not quite so challenging, but still requiring care, is communication via phone and skype.

“Yes, and…” instead of “Yes, but…” or worse, “No!”

“But…” statements are dangerous because there could be an implied: “I have an objection that I am assuming you haven’t thought about”. Try watching for the temptation to say, “But” – analyze your motive behind the “but”, are there any judgments or projections? – and instead say, “and”, and in addition, ask a question.

Instead of saying, “but”, “no”, or anything else, try putting “yes, and…” in its place. As an exercise this gets very interesting because it asks that we build on what the other is saying at all times. When “yes, and…” is the only option, it forces us to be very flexible in our thinking, and provides an immediate experience of how we put up objections, assessments, judgments, etc, that put subtle rocks in the road of our intention to be helpful.

“No”. The force of that word can never be over-estimated. We are dealing with so much potential for projection, judgments, and assumptions on the part of the one who says no, that in order to protect the other from all this, we need to find another way to manage our reservations, concerns, or antipathy. Instead, try asking clarification questions to diligently check all your possible assumptions, judgments and projections, and you go a long way towards creating an atmosphere of support, positivity, safety, and generativity, even if the answer is still “no”.

One comment.

  1. Love your site man keep up the good work

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