Day 23,709: Trying To Tone Down.
Years ago, I was known for staying calm in meetings, staying calm when others were shouting at me, and generally staying calm regardless of the S**T storms going on at work. I was complimented and felt that I had credibility.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten less calm. I’ve lost patience. I’ve been grated more often. I get more easily upset. But, the result is I feel I’m not heard as often. I could attribute it to ageism and people not paying as much attention to older women, but I think it goes deeper than that. I think it has to do with tone.
When a woman gets adamant, and finds her voice on major issues, she is frequently called loud, or shrill. I do think we raise our voices. We also raise our tone. It’s not a bad thing to do. I’m just questioning its effectiveness, and how to tone down when I’m truly crazed about things.
Finding A Right Tone
There are many men I currently like to listen to on podcasts. When I reviewed what they had in common, it was their tone. They were calm, specific, and relatively slow paced from one word to the next. Many of them, it turns out, have been trained as prosecutors and it got me to wondering if they teach tone in prosecutorial school? It’s known that to thrive in law school you have to learn a new way to think. I wonder if they also teach a new way to speak?
I was less able to find women who were as paced in their positions. I found one – Shannon Watts, founder of Mothers Demand Action, in an interview with Preet Bharara, one of my positive examples of calm speakers on today’s relatively crazed stage. The topic was gun control and Shannon just stated the facts – fact after fact – and was not hysterical as much as she could have been. In fairness, she is an objective activist. She is not a Newtown, Columbine or Douglas parent – just a parent who made this her issue. Maybe that distance is what allows her to be effective.
I’m wondering if my current challenges in making calm points is because I care more, or care less. As I’ve gotten older, I have less patience for repeating arguments over and over again to people who just don’t want to get or remember a point. I don’t care to pander. I have a waning ability to engage people in conversations that don’t create change. I increasingly realize that others are sometimes better able and prepared to make a point than I am, and I am increasingly yielding the floor.
But I worry. Women have been yielding the floor for too long. Instead, perhaps I need to take deeper breaths, drink less caffeinated coffee, and return to my earlier phases of calm. I might need to care less. The alternative is to give up the fight, and although it’s sometimes smart to pass the baton, it is also important to stand your ground.
For now, I’m standing in awe of Congressman Adam Schiff, ex-US Attorney Preet Bharara, marketing guru Seth Godin, and author Malcolm Gladwell. Listen to their cadence as they discuss issues and impart information. They are each calm, clear, studied, and precise. I’m fascinated by their tone, and have decided, for now, to just keep listening to them. I’m hoping that something will rub off, and the next time it’s my turn to take the floor, I’ll do it a bit better from having studied some of the masters.
Focus on Gun Sanity: This weekend must be dedicated to listening to the voices of the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas as they take center stage in Washington D.C. for the March For Our Lives. There will be many celebrities on stages around the country, but it’s the student voices we all most want to hear. They are the most powerful. They are articulate, clear, and precise in their goals. They have credibility. As a result, they are making a difference. You’ll see it in the streets. Hopefully, soon we’ll see it in legislation as well. I’m glad they’re standing up. I hope you will, too. Need a slogan for a sign? Here’s mine for tomorrow: Kids Lives Matter.