Over the last few episodes of Awareness That Heals, Robert has been sharing how our tone of voice can really impact us internally as well as our relationships with others. Often, we use our tone of voice to indicate how we’re feeling about something. Angry about a missed appointment? Sadness about not being understood? Joy at achieving something? Our emotions and feelings come through in our tone. It also indicates how we view others. Do we think we’re superior to someone? Or do we feel intimidated by them?
It may be challenging for us to be aware of our tone of voice in difficult times, unless we take extra notice when we see the impact it has. This is whether you’re talking to someone else or your inner voice. We all have troubles and difficulties — a common denominator of being human. Although sometimes we may not recognize these challenges, or when we do, we frequenty don’t acknowledge and work on the subtleties of our tone enough to allow them to be a part of us and our lives. Robert invites you to introspect about the tones in your life. Which tones of voice are problematic and cause suffering? Which tones of voice fulfill you and expand your quality of life? This can be both internal and external — you might have to check if you’re more prone to criticizing yourself or giving yourself too much of the benefit of the doubt.
Accessing your wish to heal, even a fleeting awareness, is a really good starting point. Slow progress is still significant. It’s essential to set realistic goals and move at a steady pace towards becoming your best realistic self. After all your best self cannot be built right away.
Understanding your tone of voice helps you better connect with people, while also teaching you how to care for yourself in challenging situations. Instead of simply being reactive, taking a moment to respond with the advantage of a bit of contemplation will give us the chance to think — Which tone of voice and which words would really allow my life to have the best quality right now? For example, a tone filled with anger or disappointment might make the other person defensive. If it’s a critical tone directed inwardly, it makes it very unlikely that we will be receptive to care for ourselves.
The purpose of life is to improve quality of life. Tone of voice is one of the vehicles that can help us do that. We can use our awareness of it to understand where our quality of life isn’t optimal and where there’s potential to expand. Doing this can set up an ideal condition that helps us be more fulfilled in life at a much higher level. This, in turn, might encourage us to contribute to the world by finding and living closer to our best selves. This is a gift to everyone including ourselves.
Resources related to this episode
Robert Strock Website
Robert’s Book, Awareness that Heals
Free Downloadable Introspective Guides
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Awareness That Heals, Episode 49.
Robert Strock: (00:04)
Which tones are the ones that you have that are most heartfelt and that are most fulfilling for you. And which tones are the ones that are most difficult and caused the most suffering in your life.
The Awareness That Heals podcast helps its listeners learn to develop the capacity, to have a more healing response to emotions and situations rather than becoming stuck. Your host, Robert Strock has practiced psychotherapy for more than 45 years. He wrote the book, “Awareness That Heals: Bringing Heart and Wisdom to Life’s Challenges,” to help develop self-caring and the capacity to respond in an effective way to life’s challenges. Especially at times when we are most prone to be critical or to withdraw together, we will explore how to become aware of our challenging feelings and at the same time find alternative ways to live a more fulfilling and inspiring life.
Robert Strock: (01:00)
So, I’d like to give you a hearty welcome to Awareness That Heals where we give it our damnedest to focus on bringing heart and wisdom to our life’s challenges. And if you’ve been with us in prior episodes, you’ll know that we start over and over again with being aware of what is most difficult for us. And we do this because we see the paradox of the suppression of what’s most difficult for us comes out in our world personally and globally. If we suppress it, we suppress our anger. We suppress our anxiety. We suppress our depression, guess what we’re going to attack the other. And there’s a lot of others. And the key to understand is that we all have these difficulties. It’s completely universal for us all to be human. And I say that as whether we recognize it or not. And unfortunately, most of us don’t recognize it enough to actually make it significant to allow it to be part of our lives.
Robert Strock: (02:16)
We might have a fleeting awareness of it. We might just see it like a falling star, but we don’t really see it as significant and crucial information, crucial feelings that are needed to have our life be balanced and to have us be connected with other people and also to teach us how we can care for ourselves at these very crucial times. If we can get this, this sets up the ideal conditions for us to be fulfilled in our life at a much higher level and to contribute to the world by finding and living closer to our best selves. So, I’d like to start off this episode again with, if you’re, if you’ve been with us, introducing Dave, my closest friend for, uh, 50 years and my partner at the Global Bridge Foundation.
Thank you. And especially encourage everyone listening to tune into a, well all of the whole series, but especially in the last episode and the connection of this tone of voice aspect to the original premise of Awareness That Heals, the book and the podcast series, both because they really do form the thread all the way through.
Robert Strock: (03:38)
Yeah. And as you’re mentioning that, I, it makes me, uh, also want to reference the guided meditations that are in awarenessthatheals.org again, they’re free and they’re, they, they are basically the same themes as the whole podcast. And they’re really practices to take it very personally, which ideally you would go from each episode or each section go to the guided meditations, listened to them a number of times and they’re designed to integrate them into your lives. So, on that theme, let’s start off by you asking yourself, which tones are you strongest with? Meaning which tones have qualities that you find most fulfilling and which tones are the most difficult, the most challenging for you. Now, I’m going to repeat that again, as you’re just looking, which tones are the ones that you have that are most heartfelt and that are most fulfilling for you and which tones are the ones that are most difficult and cause the most suffering in your life.
Robert Strock: (05:01)
Now it’s important to scan and not discount anything, not try to change anything, just simply be an observer. You know, are you agitated? Are you annoyed? Are you appreciative? Are you grateful? Are you angry? Are you kind? And I don’t mean this as a black and white, you know, as this way, all the time. I mean, do you frequently visit any of these? And I could go on and on. And hopefully by now you’ve accessed the list that awarenessthatheals.org and the Seventy-five Challenging Emotions and Qualities. And you have it right there at hand because to be able to be literate in this area is almost a prerequisite to be able to answer this question. So, as you see the areas that are most challenging, really let yourself see if you can appreciate that you’re looking or whether you’re finding yourself prone to criticize yourself.
Robert Strock: (06:15)
Yeah. I was really an asshole. Yeah, I, yeah. I don’t really give a shit and see if it’s possible to access the intention to heal that really wants to be closer and closer to your best self. And part of that is being honest about the tones that are most disruptive in your life are most alienating, are most distant. Yeah. Just because the tone isn’t vibrant doesn’t mean it’s not a tone. People that are withdrawn, have a withdrawn tone. That’s painful. That’s like going up to somebody with a vacuum cleaner and sucking their energy. You know, it’s, it’s like, it’s so important that we see how interconnected we are, you know, and, and it’s, it’s something that if you don’t take this personally, then you’re really missing the essence of what’s being shared. If you take it personally, that doesn’t mean you have to get it, get it, but it means you’re starting to practice.
Robert Strock: (07:22)
It means that you’re really, you would be interested in the meditations. You’ll be interested in talking to your spouse or your kids. This is a great way to raise kids, to be aware of their tone of voice and more importantly to, to be a leader and a practicer of that. And then you can guide them if you guide them with a parental kind of authority and in a authoritarian kind of respect, you can expect that there’s not going to be a deep love. There, there might be a dutiful respect, but you’re not going to be connecting at that deeper level. So, might be helpful to start out with a client example as a CEO of a major corporation. And he had been reporting to me what a great leader he was for several months. And as he was saying it to me, I could tell he was kind of boastful.
Robert Strock: (08:17)
And I saw him slip a few times and be arrogant and, um, you know, overly critical of his staff. So, I said, well, how about, how about if we, uh, do a little group and have the major players in your corporation come? So he said, fine, no problem, cause he was pretty confident. So, the first comment that came out of his second in charge is you line us up and knock us down one by one. Now you seen his face, he was completely mortified and shocked and incredulous, like, what are you talking about? You know, what the hell, he’s not going to give me one example. Now it’s like, you know, you’ve gotta be kidding me. It was condescending, it was belittling. And the person gave him an example. He said, you know, you’re doing it right now. You know, you’re, you’re, you’re, you’re doing it as you’re speaking to me now, what do you mean?
Robert Strock: (09:22)
What are you talking about? I’m not doing it now. So, that was the starting point for those of you that listened to the example earlier, you know, from a couple of episodes, again was a very similar thing that people that are in power believe that anger is strength. They believe annoyance is knocking people into behaving. Well, they believe it’s doling out authority and it’s necessary. And only if they get some kind of honest feedback from someone, or probably in most cases, from a lot of people, would they take heat? You know, one wife has, or one husband is not enough. It’s got to require a herd. It’s got to require a community almost to be able to really have an impact. So, his comment was finally, after hearing it from a handful of people was, oh my, he knew he was in for it.
Robert Strock: (10:24)
He, he realized he was at a crossroad of his life. You know, for those of you that live in a spiritual circle, he was in a bardo, which means he’s in between two worlds. You know, it’s like he was really disoriented. And so that read to, you know, really three years of intensive work, some with a staff, some alone and gradually, and I do mean gradually, he would learn to pause, cause oftentimes he would just react anyway, gradually learned to pause. He gradually learned to be less critical. And then the question was, well, how else could you be? You know, we’re going back to intention to heal again. How, how, how could you treat your staff in a more respectful way in a more caring way? And he realized, well, I guess I could be a little less hostile, the, well, that’s not a bad start.
Robert Strock: (11:26)
And that was pretty realistic, he became a little less hostile that was about where he was. And so,I don’t want to give an idealistic sense. This, this took a couple of years to make significant progress. And even then, as, as we’ve shared with most examples, I expect him to die with an attitude. I don’t think I healed him. I don’t think, I don’t think I’ve, I don’t know if I’ve ever killed anyone, you know, but I think I’ve made progress with almost everyone and the, and the goal here isn’t to be healed. The goal here isn’t to arrive. The goal here is to expand, to improve, to be more aware of wherever you are challenging or, or especially when you’re challenged to see what kind of reactions happen. And if you’re on the path of expanding or improving or wanting to get dedicate yourself where this doesn’t feel like homework, it feels much more like Christmas.
Robert Strock: (12:30)
It feels much more like Hanukkah. It feels much more like it’s a gift you’re giving yourself. This is not a homework assignment. This is something that’s arising from inside you that you may never have received before. Certainly, you haven’t given it to yourself before very often. And you may have never received it from anyone. But to be able to see that this is a form of self-gifting, yes, it’s going to help others as well, yet as equally as important, but it’s important for you too, so the amount of corrections that have happened where people say, well, you say, you’re saying I have to, or I need to, or I should. And, and the, the buzzwords were no, you get to and people will smile because I’ve said it thousands of times, now you get to, this is, this is you honoring you with a tone of voice. It’s going to dignify your life. This could be on your appetite.
As you were talking about the, the CEO, your client, and that environment on one extreme, somebody that has a successful company that has maybe hundreds of thousands of employees, just a significant amount of self-esteem, et cetera. And I, and I harken back to a time you and I shared, uh, in the mid-1970s, running a boys’ home for 15 kids. And it relates to the, again, the frame of reference where people are coming from, and we had only teenagers. We had teenagers, what, 15 years, 17 years old. And one in particular was referred by the probation department. And we found out that he was every day going to school at the bus stop, he was doing strong-armed robberies. He was going up to people and threatening them and saying, give me money. And so, he came back and he was turned in. And, and I remember like the frame of reference, it sounds like from a completely different side of the coin, but his, his frame of reference was he didn’t get it.
This is his spending money. This is just what I do every day. Now, what’s the big deal and talk to them, and we talked to them and it was like, eventually it was like, ah, so maybe the light bulb went off and it was like, okay, so maybe I’ll just do it once a week. Right. And the point being our tones, our way of being our intentions are so contextual to where we’re coming from to the environment, to the, the people in those environments, the people that influenced us and what is normal is a completely individual thing. Right?
Robert Strock: (15:26)
Absolutely. You know, we, we, we have done a skid row program, uh, for the last 20 years where we had that health care, health care kids. And every time I get up at the end of it, and there’s, it’s a partnership with, uh, with, uh, with another group and, and there’s, you know, 60 or 70 of us together and unquestionably because it’s so primitive inside me, I ended up saying we could be anyone. We could swap roles with them just as easily. If the conditions were what they face, the odds are very high. We would be them. And so, understanding if you’re born in a war-torn country or you’re born in a gang, or you’re born in a white nationalism, or you’re born in Nazi Germany, and you’re, you’re connected to Hitler, you’re an idealist you’re trying to improve the world. That’s what it’s about.
Robert Strock: (16:32)
That was like, I’ve been thinking to myself, how would I talk to a white nationalist that, that really would allow it for a dialogue without being sarcastic, without being angry, without being hostile. And I realized I came to a real epiphany, which was, which was an empathic response was, which is, you know what, even though I don’t have the same view, I realized you believe that you’re fighting for a better world, that you’re actually trying to let’s face the facts, whites are superior and people of color, no, they, they, they have, they’re not as smart. You know, they, they deserve to be treated the way they are. You guys are, you guys have got sunglasses on. And I appreciate the fact that you’re willing to talk to me, given the fact that you believe that so strongly, and I’m not going to shut it out.
Robert Strock: (17:24)
I’m going to keep hearing you and I asked you like, I like you to talk about it more. I’d like to hear how, how you feel. You’re trying to set up a better world. And that kind of goes to what you’re talking about is being able to join the frame of reference of where people are coming from to understand their tones, [unintelligible] whether it’s repeating robberies or repeating, uh, verbal, uh, emotional abuse to a spouse or to people that are out across the table. As we saw, oftentimes at our residential treatment center for teenagers that we needed to come from, this is normal from where they started to come from a judgmental place is reflection of our environment, know where we’re coming from. We think we’re superior. You know, we, we, we think we have a, a leg up because we came from greater opportunities or whatever else.
Robert Strock: (18:19)
And most of us feel like we earned it. So, the key, the key theme here is not to just be reactive to another because they’re coming from a place that seems insane to us. It seems outrageous. It seems obvious. It’s like, I look at some of the, uh, claims right now of the fake election, you know, the steal, the steal the vote, you know, I’ve generally barred myself from going into political areas, but my gut level is to be angry, but what do I tell myself I want to do? What I want to do is I want to stay neutral. Nah, I don’t think I could be effective. I’m not claiming that this is going to have any great results, but it’s not going to burn my heart. I’m going to save myself from heartburn. I’m going to say, help me understand what your evidence is.
Robert Strock: (19:12)
I mean, just help me understand. I, I still can’t find it. I hear lots of claims. You know, I, you know, I heard the president’s attorney claim that he heard, he saw somewhere on Facebook or somewhere on social media. So, what, and that’s, that was his proof. And he was a source of starting it. So, help me understand what your, what your evidence is, because I can’t understand it. I really can’t and I want to. Now that’ll make it a stalemate. I won’t burn up. And the odds of me converting someone are about 10,000 to one, but it’s better than the alternative. And, and so we all need to use that tone of voice and say, okay, let’s channel it toward people that can make sure that the vote isn’t going to get stolen and that we’re going to be able to vote.
Robert Strock: (20:01)
And let’s use our tone of voice for the benefit. And let’s, let’s set boundaries. I’m not suggesting that we all try to love people that, that we can’t reach. You know, I, I think back to Jesus saying, don’t cast your pearls before swine. Now, am I calling them swine? Well sort of, um, but not as a whole person, but in this area it’s a dream. It’s a, it’s, it’s a fake dream that the steal the vote is stealing the feeling from the truth. I’m not going to waste a lot of my energy on that. I’m gonna put my tone of voice into things that possibly have some hope, and I’m gonna do my best to boundary. And I’m suggesting everybody else do their best to boundary situations where it truly is hopeless, but you’ve got to, you’ve got to really make sure it’s hopeless.
Robert Strock: (20:51)
Now, when you’re dealing with anger, I want to go into a slightly different area. It’s very important, especially as we’re talking about tone of voice and relationship, that you not assume that your partner is ever going to be ready for your anger. Now, I’m going to say that again, because it’s so counter experiential for people that are loose with their anger to never, it’s so important to never assume that your partner is ready to receive your angry, even if they’ve been angry with you first, now that may piss you off, but that’s not my intention. My intention is that it’s important to ask for permission to say, are you okay if I express my anger with you? Now, the odds are pretty high. That they’re either going to say no. Say sure, if I can give me your best. Yeah. And they’re, they’re ready for a good fight.
Robert Strock: (21:51)
And if you are going to express anger, and that is the best way, my suggestion is, is that you really express what it is. You’re angry that you wanted, not what you’re angry that you didn’t get. So, you’re at least focused on what you need to, I’m angry because I wanted you to communicate with me on A I’m angry, because I wanted you to be more affectionate. I’m angry. Cause you said, you’d come home at five. I really was looking forward to you coming home at five. And you came home at seven. I’m angry because you were angry with me and I’m really wanting you to treat me with more respect, so that’s why I’m telling you, and I’m toning it down. So, as we talked about the other time, you’re doing your best to understand, but you’re still expressing what it is you need, but you’ve got to ask for permission, if you really want to have any chance of expanding your quality of life.
Robert Strock: (22:45)
And from my vantage point, quality of life is why we’re here. That is a mantra. That is the head mantra for me. What is going to lead to quality of life in my world. When I wake up in the morning, when I go to sleep at night, I do my best to try to have that as an inquiry. So, take a look and see where you are with that as to whether you really think you could ask for permission. And by the way, when you even have the awareness of asking for permission, oftentimes that’s enough to make you just pause because you realize, you know what, I need to change gears here. Now, one of the things that is really helpful that relates to relativity, that anxious people are gonna still have an anxious tone of voice depressed. People are going to still have some depression, angry.
Robert Strock: (23:38)
People are going to likely still have some anger. That AA has an expression, which I’ve always loved, which is fake it till you make it. That is perfectly okay to not be perfect. And so, all of these situations are going to require an intention to heal, but also a realism to recognize that you’re on a relative scale. And so, you want to light yourself up with a statement like fake it till lyou make it. And that doesn’t mean be inauthentic. That means try hard, try hard, try hard. You can see it and make it. You can see you didn’t make it. And then eventually if you keep doing it, you keep lighting up that intention. You’re going to be able to have a congruence of tone and truth. So maybe a couple of examples might help eliminate that, um, or, or might, might help you see the relativity and how, how we leak with tones of voice.
Robert Strock: (24:36)
So, let’s say that you have a partner or a business partner or a life partner that’s always late. And your response to them is, with laced with a bit of intolerance and impatience, you say it’s okay, but really the tone is I hate, I hate the fact that you, that you really have no respect for me or other people and you’re, your self-centered. And usually those judgments are there. So, it’s important to see the difference of, you might say it’s okay to a number of things and yet you’re still laced with certain feelings and you might even fool yourself thinking that you’re really putting your tolerant foot forward. Now it might be much more healthy to say, and I think it would be much more healthy to say, I’m wrestling with myself. I’m wrestling with myself, I’m in a state of wrestling because a part of me is angry, angry.
Robert Strock: (25:29)
A part of me is really wanting to be accepting or tolerant of it. And a part of me is really wanting you to pay more attention to it. I’m stuck in the middle of all that. So, I’m saying it’s okay, but it’s only partially okay. So, the congruence would be matching the tone with the words, you know, so you show, you know, you’re going to, you’re going to be showing some of the discontent or the annoyance of that happiness. So, if you can match it with the struggle, that’s, what’s really gonna happen. That’s what it’s really going to help. So, another one, another example might be our partner. Doesn’t fulfill a commitment that they said they do. And we say, I understand. And really we’re disappointed. We’re angry. We feel victimized. And again, what’s going to help is to have a tone that hopefully you’re going to clean up as much as you can, but you’re not a perfectionist. You’re just going to be able to go, ah huh.
Speaker 2: (26:27)
And I want to acknowledge, or I understand, but I want to acknowledge that I really am disappointed and I’m trying my best not to lay a trip on you. When I say I’m disappointed that, that you really aren’t taking as seriously as I would like you to, you know, can you understand that? And so, you’re trying to match the tone with the words. And this is a very key part of tone of voice is following as we’ve emphasized, in prior episodes, following your awareness of your challenging emotions, finding your intention to heal, hopefully using your friendly mind, using inquiry and asking yourself the question and how do I deal with this partner of mine that is not fulfilling a commitment, listening to the best guidance, and then going with a congruent tone of voice that shares some of your inner world with a tone that’s not disastrous.
Robert Strock: (27:30)
So, as we wind down this episode, take a look and see how much are you ready to try to move towards this improved relativity of tone? How much are you ready to make this be not a homework assignment, not something you just saw in a podcast or heard on a podcast, but something that you clicked and hopefully you’re the clicker. Yeah. Take, take the benefit of it being from you. Let it click. I’m just look for a click. You know what? My life would improve quality of life. That’s me seeing it. And hopefully you’re the one that wants to respond. And for sure if you respond, you’re the one that deserves the credit. So, take that in and see if you can improve your quality of life with a more congruent tone and you can move more and more in this trajectory. That’s going to be more in your heart or more in your friendly mind that you’re going to have a more fulfilling, satisfying relationship, life and contribution to the world.
Robert Strock: (28:44)
And people ask the question, why are we alive? What’s the purpose of life? The purpose of life is quality of life. Tone of voice is a vehicle to quality of life and seeing where the quality sucks and where the quality can expand to. Hopefully, you’re taking this to heart. Hopefull,y you’re a clicker and that the click clicks and my prayer for everyone is that we click when it comes through our tone of voice and that we have a gap where we really have a moment before we react and respond and we really ask what tone of voice and what words would really allow my life to have the best quality. Thank you for your attention.
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