30 August 2005

What color is your tone?

Tone is one of those interesting and ephemeral words that refer to sound, environment, voice, color and emotion, both in a tangible and literary sense. Something’s tone is what makes it unique or distinctive; it is a physically recognizable “something” that uniquely tags a person, place or thing:
  • Sound: The bell's tone announced the arrival of the Keaggy

  • Environment: The tone of the room changed noticeably as he entered

  • Voice: As he took the podium, his voice took on an anxious tone

  • Color: He looked up at the sky, which had assumed a torpid tone of gray

  • Emotion: The general tone was one of nervous energy

Let’s talk about your emotional tone for a second. Any time you interact with another person, whether it’s by phone, by email, in meetings or in person, it’s important to know: what color is your tone?

You could think of your tone as living somewhere on a color spectrum.

VIBGYOR is a way to remember the order of the color spectrum, which is important in this case (When I was in fifth grade, a science teacher named Mr. Holt (Wish I had a link, that guy was a character) helped me memorize the color spectrum using the acronymn VIBGYOR, which stands for Violet, Indigo, Blue, Green, Yellow, Orange, Red).

At one extreme end of the spectrum, which we could call deep purple, is low energy, where you will find a tone of isolation, which might be thoughtful and contemplative, or could also be sad and lonely. At the other end, which we could term hot red,you will find a high-energy, volatile tone, which could be either angry or highly creative.

How do you gauge the tone of a conversation? Trust your instincts. What is the other person’s facial expression or tone of voice? Note the surroundings. Are they appropriate, or conducive to what you want from the interaction? If you are unsure, don’t be afraid to ask.

Generally, good communication lives in the “middle tones” of green and yellow. Green is a color of nurturing and growth, and yellow is a color that denotes warmth, happiness and contentment. But more important than your tone is the rapport between you and the person you are communicating with.

If you are both red, you might find a highly productive and creative dynamic. Both blue? You might find it valuable to sit together, but work independently.

Start matching your tone to others’ and see how it changes the degree to which you can connect with others.

As always, I very much want to hear your thoughts – and especially the tone of your thoughts!

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Anonymous said...

Ultraviolet is high energy - much more than infrared, so your analogy is confusing. Just a fact so I guess the tone of this should be neutral.

Anonymous said...

I am curious to know which color might have the most flexibilty? Even if you have to take a guess.

Anonymous said...

Funny the color spectrum I learned was ROY G BIV which is VIBGYOR backwards. Great post!

Sydney said...

What color is my tone? Ummm... not orange? I'm hoping like blue or purple or something? How about, palatable. Palatable is a good tone.

Bill Keaggy said...

Yeah, I learned ROYGBIV, too. But I didn't realize I had such dark effects on the tone of the rooms I walk into!

Anonymous said...

Great post! Over here in UK and Ireland, we learned that Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain.

Anonymous said...

Good Job! :)