Professional TONE OF VOICE to Assert Yourself, Give Feedback, and Provide Criticism

Read More

When we need to give instructions, provide feedback or share criticism the tone of the message can make or break the conversation. It's important to strike the right balance between assertive and calm. Learn how to improve your tone of voice to have a professional tone when communicating with clients and colleagues.

In this lesson I’m sharing ways that you can fix your tone of voice so that it doesn’t deter people from engaging with you, listening to your feedback, or complaining about you at work.

Let’s get to it:

So we have an Explearner who wrote to us and here’s what they have to say:

“Much of my work is urgent, high stakes and done in teams with people who are not as senior/experienced. I have repeatedly been told that when I give instructions or provide feedback, people walk away feeling judged, mistrusted and that their competency has been questioned. I know this is due to how I am relaying the message (tone, facial expression etc.) When I get serious or when I'm feeling stressed myself or when I feel like other people haven't produced a good work product, I keep letting that come through in conversations and I'm not sure how to stop it.”


Nonverbal communication:
Adopt a calm tone of voice. You can still be assertive with a calm tone. Have relaxed facial expressions. A soft genuine smile helps a lot. Many people carry tension in their face so try to relax your face especially, ahead of the meeting. If you need to do face stretches or face yoga, you should. Consider using open stance body language. Using a few outwardly sweeping gesture will help you achieve this. Be sure you are standing up straight with good posture. This shows you are confident but also warm and welcoming.

This type of nonverbal communication will put both you and the other person at ease. It will help them understand that you’re not there to judge them or question their competence. Rather you’re there to facilitate successful collaboration on a shared goal. You’re on the same page as they, in other words.

Verbal communication:
Remind them that you’re on the same team. Use “we” language wherever possible. Don’t criticize the individual, focus on the speech act (i.e., giving instructions, providing feedback) and this way you make it about the communication message. Focus on problem solving: if indeed there’s an issue, make sure the person knows that you’re not attacking them but rather you want to get to the bottom of the root cause of the underlying issue that you’re going to help them resolve together (operative word being together).

Mental reminder:
You’re not the boss of anyone but you. You can’t control someone else’s output. You can’t control how their performance. I get how this can be a stressor for you, if you’re in charge of running a team or a department, but everyone is responsible for themselves. Sure, you can guide, encourage, example good work ethic and lead the way but when it comes down to it, you can’t be responsible for their work or their output. This should come as some solace to you knowing that you cannot control things that are beyond your control to stop worrying about them. And the less you worry about the things you can’t control the more you’lll focus on that which you can control. As a reminder, the things within your control are your communication, your thoughts, your attitude, your output, your productivity, etc.

The way to stop it is to be mindful of it and be proactive to not fall into the same communication patterns.


So we discussed nonverbal communication, verbal communication, and the mental reminder for how to change our tone. Going from a threatening tone to a problem-solving tone can be a lot to do at once. Break it town into actionable steps by focusing on one aspect of your nonverbal communication and one aspect of your verbal communication and be sure to give yourself the mental reminder we discussed as well. Change won’t happen overnight but the more practice you put in the more you’ll get out of it. Before you know it, you’ll be communicating with an assertive yet caring tone that gets results.


Alright Explearners, that’s it from me today. Thank you so much for joining me for this lesson. I hope that you enjoyed it.

If you have a communication conundrum that you’d like my input on, send an email to or leave a comment on this video.

Feel free to give a big thumbs up if you're watching on YouTube, if you're listening to our podcast, then make sure to leave us a nice review. You can leave up to five stars. We really appreciate it. Thank you so much. And if you are more interested in reading this as a blog post, you can check out our transcript of this lesson, which can be found on our blog at explearning dot co forward slash blog. And while you're there, feel free to sign up for our newsletter. It is 100% free and you'll get all of the newest lessons from explaining and any news happening over here at explaining. All right. I will see you in the next exporting lesson. Until then, tip of the awesome work and I will see you soon. Happy Explearning, everyone.