You know how pop psychology tells us that ninety percent of communication is nonverbal?
A recent study examined tone of voice and its role in communication. The researchers concluded that tone of voice actually accounts for thirty-eight percent of what we communicate.
That’s more than a third of the message!
And that might explain why Matt, a six-year-old boy with coal black hair and eyes to match, simply couldn’t make friends. He had so much to share, and was a really bright kid with an inspiring imagination, but he simply wasn’t interesting enough to keep his classmates engaged.
Despite the fact that he was a little architect with big ideas and lots of creativity, he spoke in a monotone that made his conversational content really hard to become absorbed in.
Montone and Conversation
Monotone is particularly common among the population of children with ASD (autism spectrum disorders), such as Asperger’s. Although this particular quality can make it difficult for children to have sustained conversations, there are some simple strategies that can be easily implemented and can have a positive impact on conversational skills.
What could be done to help energize Matt’s monotone?
I offered two effective tips to Matt’s mom and demonstrated them for her before she went home.
1. Ask questions and give instructions in a sing-song tone. The research shows that music stimulates the right brain, which is more attuned to emotion and creativity, as opposed to the left brain, which is more analytic and is the dominant center for language processing and production. Speaking in song acts as a wake-up call to the mind and stimulates the child’s attention.
2. In conversation, try using foreign accents. Kids absolutely love getting silly with made-up accents and inflections. Ask your child to have you guess which country he hails from, and then have him guess yours. It’s a fun way to boost his awareness about tone of voice and also enrich his knowledge store of other cultures in the world around him.
Matt’s mom implemented these suggestions a few times a day for several weeks. It took effort, but she saw great progress. Matt is learning to modify his tone of voice appropriately in conversation and speak in a way that draws and holds the interest of his peers.
Photo credit: Toa55, This page: Naypong
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