Conversation Tip #4: Carry a respectful tone

Pair your words with a respectful tone

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons

“Beautiful tone, beautiful heart.”
-Shinichi Suzuki (1898-1998) Japanese violinist, creator of the “Suzuki Method”

Proper tone is essential for the effective conversationalist and communicator, after all, having a good conversation seems unattainable without clear, mutual respect. A student’s conversation partner may find them impolite or insincere if the tone isn’t appropriate!

Different situations also demand different tones. A happy occasion calls for enthusiasm while a sad one calls for sympathy. Using the appropriate tone lets the other person know that you’re paying attention and that you care about the conversation at hand.

Tone also acts as a clear indicator of meaning, more so than words. For instance, carrying a sarcastic tone alerts the listener the statement should not be taken literally. Native English speakers especially tend to use sarcastic more frequently than what English language learners expect!

Ask More. Know More. Share More.
Create Compelling Conversations.

Jessica Lu, a first-year student at the University of Chicago, interned for Chimayo Press and the Compelling Conversations blog through the summer of 2014. Over the months, she has perused ESL textbooks, analyzed newspaper articles and tested out mobile apps, seeking out ways to inspire discussion. During the fall, the Compelling Conversations blog published her top 10 tips to create compelling conversations outside of the English classroom.

Photo Source: “Tennis shake hands after match” by kance – Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons –

One comment

  1. Hank Rosenfeld

    Tone is important in how it can denote respect or disrespect. And I think RESPECT as a topic is extremely important. In American culture, you never want to “dis” the other person. “Dis” is hip-hop slang for “disrespect.”
    You may hear the phrase: “Don’t dis me!” This is a response given when the listener thinks he is being disrespected. He finds the person speaking is lacking respect toward him.
    Thus, this is another reason for a respectful tone. In a conversation, in the give-and-take of ideas and stories, each side wants to be respected.

    If words are taken the wrong way, the whole experience can go badly.
    Two other popular phrases come to mind: “up beat” and “down low.”
    Keeping conversations “up beat” means they are fun, enthusiastic, showing a communicator’s good listening skills and interest.
    Keeping conversations on the “down low” means they are private, just between those two persons.
    Both show respect in tone and practice. So keep practicing!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *