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At The Sound of Your Tone …

While rushing about doing weekend errands last Saturday, I received an important – and tear-filled – lesson on the power of tone of voice … all while choosing between green beans or kale!

What was the lesson? And why did it make me cry?

I’m a bit obsessed with fresh green vegetables. With several recipes in mind for the week’s meals, I was standing back from the various displays looking at current pricing and thinking, thinking, thinking. In front of me were two women. At first, I thought they were together. The older, tiny woman said something disparaging to the other woman, who smiled weakly and looked confused.

As I turned to my right to move further down the aisle, the older woman moved in front of me. She was less than five feet tall and using a cane. Without meaning to, I ended up directly behind her. My instinct told me she was uncomfortable, but I couldn’t adjust my stride quickly enough. Very clearly, without looking at me, she angrily said, “You don’t have to crawl right up my ass.”

Rather than ignore her remark, or respond in kind, I simply said, “I’m sorry.” And I meant it. It had not been my intent to crowd her space.

By this time, I’d arrived at the kale and she had moved on ahead of me. Still preoccupied with meal planning, I was surprised when she reappeared beside me. “I’m sorry,” she said.

I turned and we looked directly at each other. “No worries,” I replied. “I’m a bit confused this morning and I know I got in your way.”

“Yes,” she said, “but I shouldn’t have responded that way. I’m sorry. But you have no idea how many people cut me off and push me aside every day.”

Still looking at each other, I said, “I totally understand and there’s no need to apologize.” We both smiled then … big, warm happy smiles … and she moved on.

I cried as soon as I turned back to examine my vegetable choices. It took a lot of courage for her to return to my side and speak to me. She didn’t have to do it. And yet, the tone of my first apology drew her back, allowed us to connect and share a very poignant moment.

Too often, when I’m overwhelmed, rushed, stressed, tired, cranky (I could go on), I don’t take the necessary seconds to consider my tone of voice and this has me wondering … how many other lovely moments have I missed out on? How many times have I created miscommunication, not because of what I’ve said, but because of how I’ve said it?

When it comes to effective phone communication, our tone of voice is essential to success. The best way to know how we’re doing, and to improve, is to record ourselves … and listen. Is this uncomfortable? Absolutely. Is it valuable? Try it and find out!



Where’s The Phone Lady?

October 23 – Telephone Talent: Essential Phone Skills for Everyone, NSCC Akerley Campus, Dartmouth, NS

October 25 – Client Service Excellence, North End Community Health Centre, Halifax

November 1 – Client Service Excellence, North End Community Health Centre, Halifax

November 7 – Pan-Atlantic Seed Loan Initiative Conference, Halifax, NS

November 9 – Telephone Talent: Essential Phone Skills for Everyone, Acadia University, Wolfville, NS

November 16 – Building the Future: How Mentorship Supports Prosperity in Atlantic Canada, Futurpreneur Atlantic, Charlottetown, PE

November 19 – Coffee at the Intersection of Sales and Marketing, Lunch and Learn with Daley Progress

November 21 – Essential Phone Communication Skills to Reach and Meet More Clients, Toronto, ON

November 22 – Phone Skills for Entrepreneurs, CBDC Bluewater, Porters Lake, NS

November 23 – Building the Future: How Mentorship Supports Prosperity in Atlantic Canada, Futurpreneur Atlantic, Halifax, NS

8 thoughts on “At The Sound of Your Tone …”

  1. A wonderful description of kindness and compassion from two people who have had many difficult situations to deal with in life.

  2. Wonderful post, Mary Jane. I could picture you and hear your voice as you spoke to her with kindness. I know many seniors feel pushed aside and undervalued — and are probably cranky as a result. Thank you.

  3. I shared tears with you Mary Jane as I read your story. I’ve been there, done that, as they say. You are so correct when you mention the tone of our voice when communicating. You handled the situation so gracefully, I am glad it turned out well for the both of you. At least, in a person to person situation you can see the expression on the other person’s face. On the telephone it is so different. Keep the tone friendly and the response will usually be so too. Thanks for all your tips.

    • Thanks, Frieda. It was a very interesting moment, for sure. And her courage played a big role. I was amazed by her. I’ve been paying more attention to my tone of voice since this event.

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Where’s The Phone Lady?

September 17 – Phone Skills for Job Search and On The Job, YWCA, Halifax, NS

September 19 – Telephone Excellence that Book Meetings and Grow Revenue, Desjardins Insurance, National, Webinar

September 26 - Kickstart Your Business Blog, in partnership with Linda Daley of Daley Progress - only 6 spots available. 

October 1 - Phone Skills for Job Search and On The Job, Youth Employability and Learning Lab, Musquodoboit Harbour, NS (Miriam Jobin, Facilitator)

October 1 – Telephone Skills for Today’s Busy Professionals, Desjardins Insurance, National Online Summit

October 1 – Talking to Your Customers, CBDC Hants Kings, Kentville, NS

October 2 – Talking to Your Customers, CEED, Halifax, NS

October 4 – Creating Your Sales Process, CEED, Halifax, NS

October 7 – Talking to Your Customers, CBDC NOBL, Truro, NS

October 9 – Customer Service Excellence, Bayshore HealthCare, Halifax, NS

October 10 - Phone Skills for Job Search and on the Job, Phoenix Youth Programs, Halifax, NS

October 15 – How to Make Sales When You Hate Selling (part of Small Business Week), Halifax Central Library, Halifax, NS

October 17 – Talking to Your Customers, CBDC NOBL, New Glasgow, NS