Posts Tagged ‘felings of anger’

The Importance of How We Speak

November 29, 2019

The founder of American Psychology, William James, said the voice may drive, or at least be an equal partner, in the production of the speaker’s emotions. Recent research by Aron Sigma and his colleagues has demonstrated powerful psychological and physiological effects of how we say something. In research on cardiovascular risk factors, they found that talking in a loud, rapid voice like an angry person increases blood pressure, heart rate, and feelings of anger in the speaker, especially when matters of an emotional nature are being discussed. They note that the experience of anger, by itself, did not drive cardiovascular activity.

Our own anger builds when we describe loudly an anger-producing event. Recounting anger-producing past events in a soft and slow (anger-inconsistent) voice produces lower speaker blood pressure, heart rate, and feelings of anger than when describing events in a loud and fast (anger-consistent) voice. It is noted that applications of this research to mood control are easily implemented and require little, if any, training. To moderate the escalation of blood pressure, heart rate, and anger in emotionally turbulent situations, we should speak softly and slowly, avoiding the bellicose vocal style that is by itself sufficient to drive blood pressure and aggression.

Although this research has not been extended to include the speaker’s audience, the results can be anticipated. The speaker and audience are engaged in an emotional conflict modulated by the tone of the speaker’s voice. So far, only the matching (congruence) of speaker and audience speech rate and loudness, but not physiology, has been measured. However, our experience suggests that we respond to a loud, aggressive voice with cardiovascular and emotional reactions of our own, perhaps barking back an angry rejoinder that further increases the arousal of everyone. So, speaker and audience can become locked in an explosive, mutually reinforced escalation of physiology and emotions having unpleasant and perhaps grave consequences, including cardiovascular incident and violence. We need to control our voices at these critical times, so our physiology and behaviors will follow. If we lack this vocal control we should simply keep our mouths shut!

HM hopes that one’s speech did no adversely affect the holiday gathering. Although this post was too late for Thanksgiving, it should be remembered for Christmas and for New Year’s resolutions.