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Tuning In to Tone of Voice


The most exciting breakthroughs of the 21st century will not occur because of technology but because of an expanding concept of what it means to be human. - John Naisbitt

Most of us are irritated by children arguing. But learning to resolve conflicts in civil ways is a crucial way children learn to become people who can collaborate and solve problems. In 2022 learning to move through disagreements productively seems like a central challenge in our human learning. How do we help children develop the ability to listen to ideas contrary to their own without lashing out or withdrawing?


We may not like hearing siblings or children on a playground yell at each other, but helping children to adjust their tone of voice in the middle of a conflict can provide the start of real communication. How do we do that successfully? The socio-emotional learning program Kimochis includes a simple proven tool for helping children (and adults) start to handle conflict successfully by developing vocal awareness.


Have you ever realized in the middle of a meeting, or what started as friendly discussion, that you are actually almost shouting because you care so much about the subject? It’s natural for our emotions, especially anger, to flood our voices, and our own mounting volume increases our conviction that we are right. Unfortunately, an impassioned tone usually stimulates an equal amount of passion in the listener and decreases chances of listening.


One of the many fascinating and helpful aspects of Kimochis is a tool called “Catch it and name it,” which is particularly useful for paying attention to one’s tone of voice. Kimochis teaches children to identify three different vocal types: the talking voice, the fighting voice, and finally the serious voice.


Our teachers who have used this simple approach to resolving conflicts successfully have found it amazingly effective. Not only do they ask students to analyze whether they are using a talking or fighting voice, they role-model vocal awareness by apologizing when their own voices are taking on a harsh tone.

Starting with discriminating between talking and fighting is a foundational way to work toward more empathic, productive communication.


Here is a Kimochi teacher, Paige, Paige, using Kimochi characters to teach a lesson on using a “talking” voice rather than a “fighting” voice.