What’s in a Tone?

image  Photo by Tambacko

I’m going to say a sentence three times out loud while I type and I want you to tell me what the difference between each sentence is.

This is what my family does.

This is what my family does.

This is what my family does.

Did you catch the difference? Of course not. It was in my tone. The first time I said the sentence, I said it in an informative, helpful, suggestive sort of way, the second time I said it in a proud my-way-is-the-right-way tone and the last time I said it in an argumentative, defensive sort of tone. It looks the same on paper but the statements would seem very different if they were a part of a real-life, face to face conversation

Tone is a huge part of communication; intended on the speakers end as well as the perceived tone on the receivers end. When we speak to someone face to face, it’s fairly easy to distinguish the tone in which someone is speaking. But the written word is another matter.

The other day, in the comments of a post of a well-known blogger, I was amazed at how many different reactions there were to what she had written. Why is that? Because each reader read the post perceiving or hearing a different tone while they read it.  Some of the comments were a “thank you for sharing what works for your family, this is what we do ___” because we can glean a lot from listening to what other families do. Other comments were argumentative, defending themselves (against an attack that really wasn’t written there), while others where downright insulting. I was taken aback. I had read the exact same thing that everyone else read and I saw this blogger simply sharing {in response to many emails asking} about what worked for her family on a specific subject.

I think most posts written are pretty neutral in tone; written in a matter-of-fact informative way. There are of course exceptions, but in general, I think is is us, the reader, who adds our own tone to their words and thus what we are reading becomes negative or positive. I read once that most events are not positive or negative in themselves, but our reaction to them determines which they become. I think that is often true of posts.

Philippians 4:8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true*,

So where am I going with this? Reading between the lines has it’s place but it can be a dangerous thing. Wisdom is knowing when to take things at face value. *True = actual, genuine, real. When we read what others have written, lets make sure we read it without adding our own tone to it; for that changes it. Let’s read it, giving the author the benefit of the doubt that, unless otherwise stated, they are writing it to encourage, inspire and help others!

So tell me, do you read the comments on posts? Often, they contain a wealth of information, tons of discussion and some very interesting people!


  1. It’s true — so much can be gathered from tone of voice as well as facial expressions and body language.

    People can put their own spin on things. Maybe someone else said something similar to them once and they’re actually reacting to that person (what they wished they would have said to them!).

  2. I don’t read a lot of blog comments because of that very reason. I find that I want to defend the person when I see mean comments…and that can be very distracting for me. Plus when there are lots of comments it’s like going down a rabbit hole and pretty soon I’ve spent thirty minutes on the computer. But that’s just me 🙂

    • Nope – me too. I am selective on which sites/posts I read the comments. I find that anywhere on the internet can be a rabbit hold! LOL. I like that term. 🙂

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