Every word speaks gentleness or intolerance, respect or the desire to convince.
“I can’t stand the way my husband talks to me anymore,” a woman once told me. It’s remarkable how important the tone of voice is in family life. So many arguments are fueled by the tone. I once observed a couple who had the same opinion and yet quarreled: one spoke aggressively, and the other heard the opposite of what they were trying to say! This means that even the most valid idea will be rejected if it is conveyed in an aggressive or ironic tone.
Speech has an emotional dimension
When it is necessary to say something that is upsetting and painful, it is an art to find the right tone so that the listener does not take it as a reproach but as a kind, caring correction. When we speak to someone, what they first perceive is not the content of the message, but the tone that accompanies it. For every word has an emotional quality: gentleness or intolerance, respect or the desire to convince. And it is the tone used that can make people accept or reject what is said.
This is obvious to the very young child. If his mother says to him in an angry tone: “I’m not your maid to pick up the spoon that you keep throwing on the floor!” He may not know what a maid is, yet he understands perfectly well that his mother gets angry when he does it. He decodes the tone, not the exact meaning of the words.
“Blessed are the meek!”
The family environment is a key factor in a young child’s development: they certainly need firmness, but also and above all an environment of reassuring words imbued with gentleness and love, even when the child is older. An 8-year-old girl said: “You know, Mom, when people see you like this they can’t imagine what you look like when you scream!”
What is true for the parent-child relationship is also true for the relationship between spouses. Aggression is toxic to married life. If one of the spouses shouts for no apparent reason, it may be that he or she has a deeper grievance that should be dealt with. I would say to this person, “We are often wrong in the way we are right.” In the end, we must never forget: “Blessed are the meek!” Gently expressed arguments can catch even the most tenacious aggressors off guard.