“Where are you coming from this late in the night” The difference in tone may distort the meaning or the intentions of the sentence above. Depending on the tone, this may be a question from a spouse showing genuine concern about the welfare of a spouse who returned home late. It can also be a very angry and probably suspicious question from a person directed to a spouse who returned home late. The response you receive from your spouse is largely dependent on your tone. Two people may ask this same question using different tones, one friendly, the other harsh answer and judgmental. The former will receive a well detailed explanation and an apology if necessary while the later will prompt your spouse to switch to self defence or attack mode and become defiant, this will lead to further arguments and possibly a fight.

From my interaction with people, I have observed that they do not take kindly to harsh or commanding tones, being polite usually does the magic. The issue of tone or approach to issues has been the genesis of some of the most frequent misunderstandings in marriage. A woman asks for money and it leads to serious quarrel and argument, the second woman asks and either receives without questions or the husbands explains why he can’t give now and promises to give later. The difference is simply because of the difference in tone, attitude and body language.

No matter who has been offended, you achieve more by subtly talking to your spouse, shouting and raising your voice will only achieve the opposite. When you lower your voice and talk in a calm tone, except your spouse has mental problems or deep rooted anger issues, you will pass your message across and in the process avoid an argument. Even when they appear to ignore you, be rest assured they have heard your complaint. Using the right tone also ensures that your spouse will respond positively to your concerns. While it may not magically get them to change a bad habit, it will prevent further escalation of the issue at hand.

Your spouse may not be as stubborn and as difficult as you think, your inability to get across to them may be as a result of of your approach, he/she may just be reacting negatively to your tone. I have seen situations where a man for one reason or another comes home late, and his wife decides to ask the question at the beginning of the article, this simple question may start a civil war in their household if the tone is not right. If the man feels she is asking in a demeaning way or senses a hint of suspicion in her tone, he will in most cases either ignore her or complain about her tone, rather than get the answers she deserves, an argument ensues totally diverting attention from the matter at hand.

Using the wrong tone makes it easy for an offender to avoid the issue on ground, rather than listen to you, they will be scanning your voice for a hint of sarcasm, or harshness, once you give them the opportunity to change the topic by raising your voice, they will gladly take advantage of your blunder and the argument changes to your tone, completely leaving your concerns unresolved. Once my wife starts a complaint with a high or harsh tone, my response is usually “why are you talking to me like that, come talk to me when you learn how to talk, this statement will be made as I move to disappear from the scene. Once she starts with “darling I want to talk to you” I know I am finished, I will have no choice but to listen and defend myself in a civilised manner.

No matter the provocation, learn to control your tone and body language when you ask or answer questions from your spouse, this may be the reason he or she flies off the handle at the slightest attempt to engage them in a conversation. Learn to consciously watch you tone to get the answers you want and avoid arguments or violence at home – Sir Stanley Ekezie