Why is Tone of Voice in Communication Important at Work?

There are various tones of voice in communication. Along with the nuances behind it, the speech may impart different meanings. Find out how it affects us at work.

What is the Tone of Voice?

The tone of voice in communication can be defined as the way a person speaks to other people. Often, how you say something is just as important as the content of your message.

Depending on the person you speak to and the context of the situation, you might adjust the tone of voice. When speaking to your boss, you may use a positive and polite tone. You would likely be using a formal and informative tone of voice to report knowledge or information. Conversely, you might be using a more assertive tone with a subordinate or someone who is junior to you.

Another example is how you might use a more humorous tone of voice and show more personality in an informal setting with clients you have good relationships with or colleagues.

What are the Types of Tone of Voice?

Depending on the types of conversations you’re having, the situation, and the person you’re speaking to, you might switch to a different tone of voice. There are five tones of voice which are motivational, informational, soft, humourous, and respectful.

Motivating Tone of Voice

A motivating tone of voice is often used in a leadership situation. A CEO or manager may use a motivating tone of voice to inspire others to achieve success. Having the right tone for keeping someone motivated is also about having a powerful presence and building trust with your employees, resulting in the team feeling more motivated to achieve professional success. If a leader has a mundane tone of voice, people would hear the content but not feel sufficiently motivated to make a change.

This tone is often present in the SoundWave voice of ‘to advocate’. Driven by belief and passion, this is an ideal tone of voice that can be used by both leaders and team members to motivate and inspire others towards action.

Informative Tone of Voice

An informative tone of voice in communication is often used when delivering facts with the intent to educate others. The sound of an informative tone of voice typically sounds neutral and there will not be many vocal fluctuations or emotion in the person’s voice.

For example, a supervisor might provide both positive and negative feedback to their team in an informative tone of voice. Using another tone of voice, such as a humorous tone of voice, might indicate that the supervisor doesn’t take the feedback seriously, while a soft tone of voice may not be appropriate in a team setting.

Within the SoundWave concept, the voice of ‘to correct’ best reflects this idea. It takes a cool, clear, brief and firm tone that often uses facts to set boundaries and clarify outcomes. Unlike the other voices, it has little ‘linguistic frills’, instead choosing to be direct with its intent.

soft tone of voice

Soft Tone of Voice

Soft tones are best used for personal conversations. Softer words draw the other person in, so they have to listen attentively in order to hear you.  When you speak softly, you make the other person feel safe and create the feeling of a more intimate conversation between you and the recipient. By speaking softly, you demonstrate empathy for another person which can strengthen the relationship.

Humorous Tone of Voice

You might use a humorous tone to share a funny anecdote that will lift the mood and cheer others up. There are many benefits to using humor in written and spoken communication.

When done correctly, humour used in a tongue-in-cheek manner can put the audience at ease, create a strong connection and make a better impression. A person or audience that is more engaged in the conversation will be more likely to be able to take in the information that you present.

Someone who has a good sense of humour in the company will also generally be approachable and likable. However, it’s important to not sound sarcastic or mocking, since that can hurt people’s feelings.

Respectful Tone of Voice

It’s important to take a respectful tone of voice whether you are talking to your supervisor or colleague. This also means respecting their rights and opinions when they are speaking. A respectful tone is also crucial when talking to an audience that you are meeting for the first time to make a good impression.

Respect is demonstrated by how you address someone when making contact, how you speak to them, and how you respond. It’s also asking for their opinions with the right tone.

For example, some of us may shy away from using the voice of ‘to challenge’, especially in a setting where we do not hold the authority. In such cases, it is important to draw the line in speaking up and challenging ideas with respect, instead of moving to an attack.

A sign of disrespect is when someone doesn’t listen to you. For example, they could be preoccupied with another task such as being on their cell phone or even outright ignoring you. In addition, the person could have vocal inflections where they make remarks that sound condescending or sarcastic.  When communicating respectfully, you are listening and asking questions to ensure that you understand the other person’s point of view.

What Goes Behind the Tone of Voice?

There are elements in the sound of your voice that give meaning to what you’re saying. Whether spoken or unspoken, there are subtle nuances that change the meaning. For example, two people could say the same thing but if they use different vocal tones, the message is received differently. Another example is even if a person is speaking in a foreign language, you can still figure out how they feel through their tone of voice in communication.

how breathing affects tone of voice


The speed and pace at which a person breathes can demonstrate different emotions and their demeanour. Deep and slow breathing usually helps someone to stay calm. This allows them to speak calmly and clearly so that their words are easily understood. Communicating in this manner can also inspire trust in others.

Short and quick breaths can signal distress, anxiety, or fear. Someone who has quick breathing while communicating could be seen as being nervous which can cause the other person to feel uneasy.


The volume of a person’s voice can be a sign of how they feel and how they interact with others. If someone has a meek and soft voice, it may show that the person is shy or fears confrontation. Conversely, a soft voice can also be intimate and show the listener that you’re compassionate.

Someone who speaks loudly can be interpreted as being overly authoritative, especially in a group environment. However, a loud voice can also be perceived as being obnoxious and rude. Hence, other factors are also important in determining your tone of voice.



Vocalization in communication is the ability to be understood. This means using words carefully to deliver a clear and concise message. Someone who can deliver a speech with clear vocal articulation will be seen as having an informative tone and can demonstrate their authority as an expert. However, someone who stumbles or uses long-winded language can demonstrate a lack of confidence or unclear messaging.


The speed at which a person talks can show you their emotional state. Slow and intentional speech can contribute to a powerful and commanding presence because people have to wait for you to finish speaking. On the other hand, talking slowly can show a lack of interest and apathy, and cause people to be disengaged. Someone who speaks fast could be nervous or overly excited. For example, a person blinded by the prospect of a big sale can start to speak faster than usual. If you’re pitching ideas to your boss without being sufficiently prepared, you might be nervous and speak faster.

Being able to control the speed at which you talk can help you to deliver the appropriate tone. Consciously slowing down your speech can help you have a more informative tone.

Why is Tone of Voice Important at Work?

The tone of voice can have a significant impact on a person’s communication skills, which in turn can affect how they work with their teams, how they run a business operation, and how they form relationships with customers and suppliers of the company. There are also many roles that require strong communication skills such as customer service or sales.

tone of voice for leaders

Importance for Leaders

Many employees look up to their business leaders. The best leaders are often persuasive and influential so that they can motivate people and get customers to trust them and the brand. Being able to motivate, persuade and influence will require strong mastery of tone of voice.

The importance of tone of voice is also demonstrated when a leader needs to project confidence, motivation and compassion appropriately. A commanding presence can also help to increase respect. Hence, a good leader should be able to effectively switch between all five tones of voice when needed.

Importance for Team Members

Team members need to use their words to work effectively in a group setting. Using the wrong tone of voice can damage relationships with other team members and affect the effectiveness and efficiency of your work. It’s also about knowing when to show empathy, use humour or add personality into your words to make you relatable. This also fosters authenticity, honesty, and openness so that you can get along with others.

Mastery over your tone of voice and using the right words at the right time is also very powerful. It can help you to stand out when the time comes for promotions, particularly as senior roles are often managerial roles that require working with many different stakeholders and teams. If you are a team member that makes other people feel like they can rely on you and trust you, that can give you a huge boost in your career prospects.

SoundWave Self Perception Report

To understand how your own tone of voice affects your communication with others, take the SoundWave Self Perception Report. This gives you a deeper insight into your most and least used voices, your strengths and weaknesses in your voice preference, roles, and situations that suit your voices, and more.


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