Are You an Abrasive Communicator?

Has anyone ever told you have an abrasive style of communication? Want to change how you communicate?  Lisa B. Marshall, aka The Public Speaker, answers a reader who asks how to have a friendlier voice, especially when interacting with her children.  

Lisa B. Marshall
4-minute read
Episode #327

Today's episode is my response to a reader question about how to change her abrasive communication style. Here's her email. 

Hi Lisa,

I am looking for your help to communicate better with my kids. I believe (and my husband confirms) that I do not use a compassionate, friendly voice when communicating with my kids. I have had this issue for all my life, even when I was younger, talking to my parents. I assume this is more with the people who are closer to me.

I believe I heard in a podcast of yours something about directive/decisive voice or personality. I think that refers to me. I am open to any advice.


And here's my reply: 

Thanks Sheryl for sending your question.  Sheryl, have you taken the free communication style assessment I offered? (limited time offer).

Take the assessment—it only takes a few minutes. Upon completion of the assessment you will receive a report on your communication style. The report is 22 pages long and is quite detailed. It will help you to understand your style of communication and how to better flex your style. Many people find it extremely helpful, and I use it regularly with my clients. 

If you need more help than that, I would suggest you record your voice when interacting with your children. I would record short snippets at different times of the day. You can just use the audio memo recording app which is on most smart phones by default. Then after you have several samples, listen back to the recordings a few days after you have made them. It is important to let time pass and not listen to them immediately.

Then when you are ready, listen to each of the recordings pretending as if you are a scientist listening to someone else. Ask yourself if you were on the receiving end, how would you feel listening to your messages? Do you notice any patterns? Do you notice that certain situations cause your voice to be react differently? To sound differently? At first, you simply want to listen and observe—don't judge. At least not yet. Write down anything you notice. 

You don't really mention what quality of your voice that gives the perception that you are not compassionate and friendly. Is it that you speak too loudly? Do you answer with short terse sentences? Is it that you choose words that are harsh? Is it that you tend to focus on your children's negatives or problems instead of praising for the positive? Is that you don't smile?  Is that you are impatient with responses and answer to quickly or interrupt your child? You will need to identify the behavior or behaviors that lead to the negative perceptions.

You may want to share your observations with you husband and see if he agrees with your "findings." You may want to ask your husband to help you identify the key behaviors that are the most problematic. 

Depending on how old your children are, you may even ask them to help you understand your behaviors by also presenting them your findings. That is, you are trying to confirm that what you discovered is really causing the negative perceptions. It is likely to be a combination of behaviors that are causing your unwanted results. 


About the Author

Lisa B. Marshall

Lisa B. Marshall Lisa holds masters with duel degrees in interpersonal/intercultural communication and organizational communication. She’s the author of Smart Talk: The Public Speaker's Guide to Success in Every Situation, as well as Ace Your Interview, Powerful Presenter, and Expert Presenter. Her work has been featured in CBS Money Watch, Ragan.com, Woman's Day, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, and many others. Her institutional clients include Johns Hopkins Medicine, Harvard University, NY Academy of Science, University of Pennsylvania, Genentech, and Roche.