You have been there at some point in your life. We all have.
Its that time when you are encountering a spouse who has grown cold and distant – or a belligerent, out-of-control child – or a friend who has grown sullen and moody, leaving you worried and concerned.
You can feel that something is wrong. You know that they are hurting. You want to help, but you are not sure what to do.
The good news is that you have within you, ready at your disposal, tools that have been available since the creation of man. These tools are the two T’s, guaranteed to soothe the afflicted and open even the most callous of hearts.
The Two T’s Revealed
What are the two T’s? They are the powerful non-verbal communicators tone and touch.
When it comes to soothing a hurting person or repairing a relationship, using the right tones and touch is vital to conveying that you care deeply about them.
However, few of us understand the power of our voice and touch, or the messages that we pass daily to those we care about. Your tones and touches are tools that can be used to convey positive, encouraging messages or negative, harmful ones.
Talking With The Right Tones
Dr. Albert Mehrabian, professor emeritus of Psychology at UCLA, states that words only account for 7% of meaning when expressing our feelings and tone of voice accounts for a whopping 35%. If the words used disagree with the tonality of voice or other non-verbal behavior, people tend to believe the tonality and non-verbal behavior.
What does that mean for you? Telling someone that you really want to hear what is wrong with them but having impatience or insincerity in your voice is counterproductive. Your tones will only close the person off more and you will not be able to help them.
To use the tonality of your voice to break through in a volatile relationship, you need to convey love and compassion when speaking to another person. Signals of kindness and compassion from you can reactivate the desire to bond in the other person (study by Mikulincer 2007, Attachment in Adulthood: Structure, Dynamics and Change. Guilford Press).
By conveying love and compassion in your voice, you can establish yourself as a secure base or safe haven to the one who is in distress or pain, allowing them the opportunity to deal with what is bothering them and to bring you closer together.
Using Touch To Convey
There is a deep-seated need within all of us for human contact and warmth. This need makes us powerless to stay distant and cold when we encounter a truly loving and compassionate touch.
On a biological level, receptors sensitive to pressure, warmth, and other triggers cause our bodies to release a rush of oxytocin, a neuro-transmitter and hormone that effects social and emotional behaviors. Oxytocin has been studied in nursing mothers and in human couples where it is thought to be involved with allowing us to understand others through compassion, which builds trust between individuals.
In a 2006 paper Touch Communicates Distinct Emotion, Drs. Keltner and Herenstein investigate the ability of touch to convey various emotions. They found that anger, fear, and disgust were communicated at levels above chance (which was set at 25%) along with pro-social (positive) emotions such as love, gratitude, and sympathy. Pro-social emotions promote the well-being of groups in society through promoting trust and cooperation.
By giving pro-social emotions of love and sympathy through your touch, you can establish trust with your child or spouse. This trust will allow your child, spouse or friend to feel safe enough to reveal what is causing a break in your relationship and you can work towards healing.
Another benefit from using touch to be a safe haven for those you care about is that it will allow them to springboard into building new relationships built on trust and the desire to interact with others.
Plus, studies have shown that touch reduces the frequency of agitated behaviors in people, most especially the elderly.
Our western American culture is more touch averse than many other cultures where, for example, a kiss is considered a standard greeting. Given what we know about the importance of touch to our emotional and physical well-being, we should make greater efforts to touch those close to us.
Breaking Through With Tones and Touch
Use the two T’s to reconnect with your loved one, giving that person a sense of safety; show that you love them and have compassion for their struggles. By being consistent in using the right tones and conveying love and compassion through touch, you will become that safe harbor that those near and dear to you need for healing.
The next time you are faced with a loved one who is hurting and your relationship is deteriorating, put your time-tested tools of tone and touch to work and start breaking through in your relationships.