Tonal Moods

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In writing, tone is the way an author approaches their subject. Like music, words are characters on a page. In Bill Bryson’s new book: The Body, his tone is one of wonder and curiosity, perfect to fire the imagination. On the other end of the spectrum, Delia Owen’s book Where the Crawdads Sing has the tone of a slow, lush, North Carolina marshland. Tone creates mood.

When speaking, your intonation determines the impression you want to convey. Interestingly enough, if you speak with little or no affect, your audience may not recall much of what you said. It’s up to you to engineer the feeling of the material you’re delivering. Motivators have a bright, sparky tone. Visionaries an uplifting tone. And Trusted Advisors have an approachable and steady tone. Consider your audience when figuring out your role and the corresponding tone.

In a longer presentation, you can also change your tone-- as in starting with a light touch, and then morphing into a more somber feeling when telling a serious story. The brain loves variety, so you can play upon the heartstrings of an audience and hold their attention. In Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink, he cites a study that focused on which doctors were sued for malpractice. The ones who were admired and seldom sued were the ones who used a warm, empathic tone. The ones who used a commanding tone populated the sued camp. Let your feelings infuse everything you say, and you will find the perfect tone.

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