Tone Of Voice

I Can Change How Reactive I Am To My Partner’s Tone Of Voice


Couples argue about:
  • cleanliness
  • punctuality
  • not feeling significant
  • not feeling cared about
  • not feeling respected or acknowledged
  • sex & intimacy
  • child-rearing
  • fairness
  • in-laws
  • responsibilities & chores
  • & other subjects


Partners have legitimate differences in the areas.  But, it is ‘THE WAY YOU’RE TALKING’ and the tone of your voice that really gets under people’s skin.   You might think your partner was talking to a child, or an employee from his or her tone of voice.  Or, you are completely unaware of how your voice and your face can intimidate your partner.  In my anger management group for men I’ve asked them to repeat after me,
I am a man who can broadcast rejection, contempt & disrespect; without even knowing it.
Then, when my partner reacts to that, I look over at her and think to myself,
“Why is she wanting to start a fight with me?
That’s their honest experience!  They are sincere when they dismiss their partner’s reference to their voice.  They just do not consider sweeping their side of street to see ‘what part they played’ in the conflict.  In this case, the part their tone of voice played in why a partner became upset.
If you find yourself being told once a month by others that they are offended by your tone of voice, you will benefit by taking this seriously.  You may simply make an effort and by dint of will you might successfully eliminate most of those instances of being disrespectful.  The people that I see in my office for anger management have not been able to change their verbal and non-verbal controlling behaviors.  They are unaware of the part their tone of voice plays in the dance of conflict.  Most of them come in to therapy for a relationship issue, and it evolves into an exploration of the individual client’s inability to be aware of their own behaviors, and how that affects the relationship.  A tone of voice can convey disgust, disrespect, contempt, rejection, dismissal or indifference.  These disconnecting moments have a lot to do with why there is a lack of intimacy, sex and fun in a relationship!
Some people cannot tolerate listening and responding to comments about their tone of voice… at all.  They become argumentative and oppositional.  It is common for men in our group to take 3-6 months before beginning to see their part in the conflicts they have with others.  Usually, because it feels black and white to them.  It seems that if they accept any responsibility, then they are accepting all the responsibility for the problems.  So they continue to blame their partner.  It takes a while for these men to learn to partialize.  This is the quality of seeing that two people play a part in couples’ problems.  To be able to partialize responsibility means that each partner is able to see their part in how a conflict began, or got worse.
I make two points in this blog post-
  • One- You can learn to improve the way you express feeling offended in a more respectful way.
  • Two-  You can allow people to comment on your tone of voice, without punishing
Be curious about what your voice made your partner think and feel about him/herself, about you, and about the relationship.
If you, or your partner, feel disrespected that fact is not debatable. 
Say, your partner tells you that you had an edge of contempt or intimidation in your voice.  You might respond with comments such as, “You shouldn’t think… ”  Or, “You’re wrong about the meaning of my voice… ”  Or, “That’s your problem.  You have issues from your family, or your ex.”   Saying these things are more demonstrations of your controlling, insensitive nature and is a continuation of the disrespect.  If you were the one feeling disrespected, would you tolerate someone telling you that you could not express your experience because you were judged wrong or crazy?  I think not.

In late summer I will be planning a couples weekend seminar.  It’s less than $200 a day per person and is an extremely efficient way to possibly avoid ongoing expensive marriage counseling.  The workshop is educational in nature.  Men like the ‘rules & tools’ quality of the class, and women just love that there’s more respectful communication happening.  FIND THE PERIOD to those unnecessary arguments that don’t seem to end; and don’t end well.  The skills and agreements are a proven path to finding the period to conflicts.

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Click ‘Learn More’ button or HERE to get notified of this late summer Los Angeles seminar/class.

 Anger Management skills can be helpful for people ranging from the mildly miffed to the violently vengeful.  You do not need to be in a physically violent relationship to benefit from understanding and learning about communicating anger and hurt feelings constructively.

I’m just expressing my feelings.   Isn’t that O.K.?

VulnerabilityGood15People think they are expressing their true feelings by being aggressive or hostile.  That’s partly true.  But, they are missing what is making them so agitated and controlling.  Like a pained, sad face underneath a clown’s mask; most aggression and hostility is a defense and protection against feeling vulnerable feelings such as fear, shame, pain, weak or powerlessness.    I’ve worked with men who are violent or hostile for 28 years and these men improve their relationships as they learn how to tolerate these vulnerable feelings in themselves and in their partner.



This blog is dedicated to helping people communicate better and improve their relationships.  There is so much unnecessary suffering and conflict and I believe the information, skills, agreements and resources I’ve developed can help.  Folks can use these skills to improve, or even to save, their relationships.


Marc Sadoff, MSW, BCD


If you are scared of your partner’s angry behavior then reach out to your local shelter, to me, or call the National Hotline at 1 (800) 799-SAFE (7233)   You can read about abuse at their website-

Or, read a little more on my site about abuse HERE. 


See more free tips & resources HERE.

When you know better, you do better!

‘Talk About Difficult Subjects Without Interruption’ – and other Free Podcasts HERE!

Loving couples argue too!

My next Los Angeles
‘Power And Compassion Couples Communication’
Weekend Workshop

is HERE.

Answer: Take turns, show some respect, make time for each other to speak and mean what you say, and do what you say. While those words are easily said, they can be hard to follow when your partner says or does something that just makes you crazy with frustration.AsianCoupleDistant

         Imagine driving in city traffic and there were no traffic signals working at any of the intersections. We would all be on hyper-alert at every signal. When the stop signals are working we basically trust that other people in cars will respect the rules of the road, we The Real Hope Couples Course consists of five agreements between you and your partner; and learning two skills. Are you in control of yourself, or not? If you make an agreement, and it turns out that you cannot keep your agreements then you must be out of your own control. If you still want to gain control over the behavior, professional help is probably needed.

The five agreements are:

  • Time Out: Either partner can stop a conflict and leave the room or house when arguments feel overwhelming. I will stop talking and let you leave the room when you say, “I need a Time Out, I’ll be back in an hour.”
  • Listening Exchange: To take turns listening to each other, reflecting what you hear.   There is less conflict when we are clear who has the floor as a speaker.
  • Weekly Meeting Time: To spend weekly time together to speak safely about the relationship, or any other concerns.
  • Respect: Commit to allowing your partner to say when your tone of voice feels disrespectful.
  • Integrity: What if I can’t do it? I will seek help if my behavior is out of my own control and my agreements are not reasonably kept. 

The full agreements used in the RealHope Couples Course, are included for free in the link HERE.  

These five agreements assure that there is a structure to move through conflicts. Someone who makes these agreements is interested in assuring that his, or her, partner feels safe to express their thoughts, feelings and needs without ill consequence.        

The Two Skills central to the RealHope Couples Course are:

  • How to respond to somebody who is angry, hurt or disappointed with you.
  • How to express your thoughts, feelings and desires when you are angry or hurt.

The result of practicing these two core skills is that whenever there is anger, disappointment or hurt in your relationship; there is a simple path to listening and speaking that is most likely to be successful. And, you also have an agreement and path to handle the moments when communication is not being successful.

“If change is to happen….Let it begin with me!” – Al-Anon slogan

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”     – Mahatma GhandiAsianCoupleHappy

See more free tips & resources HERE.

When you know better, you do better!

‘Talk About Difficult Subjects Without Interruption’ – and other Free Podcasts HERE!

Loving couples argue too!

My next Los Angeles
‘Power And Compassion Couples Communication’
Weekend Workshop

is HERE.

pour-gas-on-fire2   The phrase, “That’s like pouring gasoline on a fire.” absolutely describes what happens when defending and explaining yourself are your first words used to calm your partner.

The more you explain, the more trouble you seem to be in with your partner.  The more you say your point of view, the more angry your partner seems to become.

Just think of how you respond to someone you are upset with when that person immediately begins explaining and defending the behavior.  It does not calm you.  In fact, it usually makes you more mad.

Explaining and defending your behavior

In medicine they call it an ‘iatragenic effect.’   When the attempts of the doctor to heal actually become the source of a new symptom or illness.  For instance, you go to the doctor for a pimple.  She prescribes a medication that then causes you to break out in a rash.    There was no bad intention.  The doctor did not mean to cause more symptoms, but nonetheless is responsible for having done so.

When your partner is upset with you, and you’ve got adrenaline pumping through your body, and you are angry, hurt, scared or confused; the first response most people think of is a self-centered one.  That is the view of the situation that I see.  Not the view of the situation as my partner may see it.  Well, at that precise time the partner is trying to get his, or her, thoughts and feelings across.  If I interrupt that effort by bringing in my experience and point of view and my thoughts and my feelings; then the dialogue necessarily becomes a conflict.  My view or your view.

It is your first response, and your FIRST WORDS, that will show your partner what is most important to you.

Are you more interested in defending your good name than

in dealing with how you have affected your partner?

            Do my first words convey that:

          A) My highest priority is defending myself.  Or do my first words show that-

         B) I care about how my partner feels and how I affected him or her.    

As long as I think that defending and explaining myself is the solution for conflicts that I get into with my partner I am ensuring that the conflict will continue.  If I insist that you understand me before I’ve given you the experience of feeling understood by me; then I will continue to find myself at odds with my partner.  St. Francis to the rescue!  “Seek first to understand others, before seeking understanding for self.   Seek first to comfort others before seeking comfort for self.”  This means addressing the concerns of your partneras if they were true.’    The truth is simply that your partner thinks and feels these things.   So, it is true by definition…. that is what your partner thought and felt.  This does not define or convict you of anything.  Listening all the way through and trying to see what you can agree with and have some empathy for the partner’s experience is going to allow your partner to calm down and eventually hear out your experience, thoughts and feelings.

There will be some readers that will insist that the OTHER partner starts this process first.  Those readers are waiting for their partners statements of apologies, empathy, responsibility and amends.  The attitude seems to be, “You first!”  For these folks I can only reference Ghandi when he said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”  Or another saying that goes, “If change is to happen, let it begin with me.”  To these people that are still waiting I ask, “Do you want a fuller, compassionate and responsible dialogue with your partner over a contentious issue to happen sooner…. or later?”

If you do decide that you want to be instrumental in calming your partner during conflicts then you are ready to learn the 3 Step technique of addressing three things before you talk about your point of view.  It’s all about the sequencing and the order with which you respond to someone who is upset with you.   The RealHope Couples Course uses a metaphor to help remember to do a few things before you try to do another thing.  It just works better that way.


See more free tips & resources HERE.

When you know better, you do better!

‘Talk About Difficult Subjects Without Interruption’ – and other Free Podcasts HERE!

Loving couples argue too!

My next Los Angeles
‘Power And Compassion Couples Communication’
Weekend Workshop

is HERE.

balance_13780Being able to balance focusing on your partner’s thoughts and feelings with your own is an emotional intelligence skill.  Sometimes the problem is that you may not put your needs or requests out there to your partner, until you’re so upset that you blow up or withdraw.  Other times, it is because your partner just will not give you the space, or time or attention to what you think, feel and want.  The RealHope Couples Course can help with both of these problems.



Surrender your right to be heard first, so that your partner becomes capable of listening to you.  It seems odd that to become heard by your partner; your best approach is to give up your need to be heard first!

The RealHope Couples Course outlines how to thoroughly listen to an angry or hurt partner, so that your experience is given the full space for expressing.



St. Francis of Assisi wrote a thousand years ago,

“Seek first to understand others before seeking understanding for yourself.

Seek first to give comfort to others before seeking comfort for yourself.”

This advice is more than simply spiritual in nature.  It is really very, very practical as a way to proceed with anyone you are having a conflict with who you’d like to eventually listen to you.    Listen to what seems important, and to what seems a problem to the other.   Address those issues and then speak your experience, thoughts, feelings, needs and requests.

Get these cards

Sounds simple, but for many people, they just cannot keep their mouths shut past the moment they think they hear something they disagree with.  The skill here is to ‘wrestle your lips to the ground.’  Couples that are easily triggered by each other may need some external structure like the popular ‘Listening Exchange’ method.  The instructional cards are shown to the left.  The cards will be provided with the full Real Hope Couples 10 Week Course available in the late summer of 2015.

Get cards with manualThis is your standard Active Listening instructions you might read about in any communication skills manual, or eventually hear at most marriage counseling sessions’ with just a few tweaks from me based on my experience.   Small changes in the protocol include keeping the speaker generally limited to no more than one minute at a time of speaking before the Listener reflects what was said.  There are specific instructions for allowing a Listener to interrupt a Speaker and there is an agreement that includes a trigger phrase that both parties agree upon that can initiate the ‘Listening Exchange’ at any time!

Just think about it.  Any time you want you can say a sentence that you and your partner agreed will allow BOTH of your points of view to be fully aired in a safe way.

Download a free .pdf of the instructions for
practicing the Listening Exchange.
Relationship Communication Skills

See more free tips & resources HERE.

When you know better, you do better!

‘Talk About Difficult Subjects Without Interruption’ – and other Free Podcasts HERE!

Loving couples argue too!

Get notified of my next Los Angeles
‘Power And Compassion Couples Communication’
Weekend Workshop


The K.I.S.S in the title refers to Keep It Simple Stupid! 

When you are given too many instructions at the same time it can be confusing.  I stood in front of that parking sign for 10 minutes and still did not know what to do.

The same is true for communication skills instruction designed to help guide you to more respectful, honest and effective ways to engage conflict with your partner.  The more emotional the conflict the more the need for simple ‘Easy Does It’ guidelines showing you almost exactly what to say when you are upset or responding to someone who is upset with you.

The first rule of my K.I.S.S. is that you can’t have a productive talk with a ‘walking lit stick of dynamite.’  That means that when adrenaline is running high and one partner is very scared, irritable, withdrawn or hostile there must be a cooling off period varying from 15 minutes to an hour.

Use Time Out when either party is unable to listen.

This is known as a Time Out.  It’s an agreement that both parties have previously made that states that anyone can call a temporary halt to a dialogue, as long as they come back to it within an hour.  The actual agreement is the first one listed in this downloadable 2 page summary of agreements HERE.

The second rule is that if it is the partner who is angry and you it is really important to not defend yourself immediately.  Later, you’ll have a chance to say what you want your partner to understand, but first you must do three things

  • Own what is true about your behavior that is upsetting your partner.  e.g. “Yes, I’m late.”
  • Acknowledge what your partner is thinking or feeling. e.g. “It makes sense you’re upset.”
  • Apologize if it’s appropriate and say what you’re going to do about it.  “I’m sorry, I’ll be more mindful of that in the future.”

Do these three things BEFORE you explain or defend yourself.  Having done so, you are earned your right to be listened to fully.   Click_For_What_To_Do.mp4 then come back to this page.

Let me review the simplicity of how to respond to an angry partner.

  1. If you or your partner is too hostile or withdrawn then take a Time Out for less than an hour.
  2. If you’re partner is angry at you then help him or her feel that you’re taking them seriously and not simply arguing.
  3. You do this by Owning what you did, how it affected the other and said what you’ll do about that.

That’s plenty to digest for now.  I will explain the Easy Does It K.I.S.S guidelines for expressing yourself in a separate post.  I’ll leave you with my new signature mantra below which helps me a lot.

I have acceptance & compassion for self & others as is, in this moment.



How can I get that 2 second window of time to think before I act?

Many people know that it is crucial to take a Time Out before major bad things are said or done, but when that time comes in a passionate exchange with their partner, they seem absolutely incapable of stopping themselves.  When adrenaline runs high in your body, you’ll find that even though you have sworn in the past to take time outs, that you simply had to have that last zinger, question or comment.

Well oops, that was the proverbial last straw that broke all hell loose!  The trick it seems is to recognize when your amygdala-pituitary-hippocampal-adrenal glands are beginning to ramp up.  And, you can do that without a crystal ball, a Ph.D. or an M.D. degree.  It just takes a little re-engineering of where you direct your attention.  Even though you’re thinking, “How could he be so uncaring about how I feel?”  Or, “Why is she ruining a perfectly good evening?”, you could be redirecting your attention to your physiology, your own thinking and your own thinking.  ptdwnbinocs

You can put down the binoculars looking at your partner’s thoughts, feelings and behaviors and pick up a mirror to become aware of your own thoughts, feelings, behaviors and physiology.

By physiology I mean:

  • Breathing and heart rate changes.
  • Feeling electricity in my head or body.
  • Flushed or hot face.  Dry mouth. Headache.
  • Clenched teeth or hands.
  • Feeling frozen or numb, confused, head spinning, head fog and funnel vision.
  • Pacing, waving hands, raising voice, leaning toward partner, pounding table or wall.
  • And you’ll add more…

By redirecting my attention to my thinking such as:

  • Thinking about saying, “I’m done.”, “I’m out of here.”, “I can’t handle this any longer.”
  • Imagining how I can best lie or hurt my partner.
  • Feeling powerless.
  • Thinking about saying how my partner started this, or how he or she does it worse than me.
  • Feeling like a victim and that I am innocent of what my partner thinks.  I’m misunderstood.
  • Feeling offended because, “I didn’t have a mean intention to harm my partner.”
  • And you’ll add more…

Nothing short of an absolute surrender of your will to control the situation will allow you to take a Time Out and prevent a lot more damage to the relationship!  You will not do this unless you have some experience with the practice of taking a Time Out.   I tell couples in my monthly seminar to practice taking Time Outs on small disagreements at least twice in the next month.  It’s like a fire drill in that couples get to practice the requirements of the Time Out agreement they made with one another.

No one gives up their self-will to manage threatening situations without some level of trust that it will still work out better.  If you are willing to see that using your usual style has usually failed, then perhaps you can try something new.  For the Time Out to work both partners make the agreement out loud to each other.  If you cannot execute the Time Out agreement there are a myriad of possible reasons, some of which I’ll briefly list here: pure selfishness, alcoholism or addiction, mental health disorders such as borderline, narcissism, PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) bipolar disorder or side effects of medications and chronic lying.  For these issues one or both partners should seek professional counseling.  Using the five agreements and two skill of the Real Hope Couples Course can help couples navigate these qualities, but getting help individually is most often necessary.

I wrote the full Time Out agreement and an exercise for learning how to recognize that it’s time to stop arguing much earlier.   It’s free and it’s 9 pages of the pure practical advice for stopping arguments more quickly.


download_button Go HERE for this FREE download.


See more free tips & resources HERE.

When you know better, you do better!

‘Talk About Difficult Subjects Without Interruption’ – and other Free Podcasts HERE!

Loving couples argue too!

My next Los Angeles
‘Power And Compassion Couples Communication’
Weekend Workshop

is HERE.


I welcome and respond to any comments about the ideas or my methods.

I have total acceptance and compassion for myself and others, in this moment… as is.