Tone of voice, or prosody, is a huge part of how your Attachment system works. Tone of voice can trigger the amygdala immediately — it’s designed to be an instant danger signal. What happens in women’s voices when they get activated or they see danger? They get shrill. That’s like a siren call back to tribal days, to get some people there to help protect you and the kids.
Sometimes, when we think we are having a calm conversation with someone, our voice goes up a bit, but we are not aware of it. And you are sending a very strong threat signal to your partner. So some of this we have to learn: how to use our tone of voice, and the prosody of our voice, to regulate. And shrillness will take you or your partner, your friends, or your kids immediately to the center of the amygdala. Boom! The alarm system is going up, and then they’re in defense, and they are not in social engagement. So whatever you are trying to work out, it’s going to get much harder.
Now for men, when they go into their own activation or threat response, what do their voices do? They tend to get louder and booming. Maybe, also, they are not shrill, they are not going up, but they have this kind of strong thing. And again, many times men are not aware that their voice is changing. Something is happening but you are not always aware of it, so it’s really important to help keep the relationship safe and keep it in its resiliency zone, the problem-solve, and to connect, to notice how you are using your voice.
Flat affect, or not having modulation in your voice, will also be problematic in social engagement. The modulation of the voice is also regulating. And you know how you talk to animals and babies?
With your lover, you might say (using baby-talk), “Oh honey-honey, let’s go to this place, it’s my favorite restaurant, but I know you like it, come on…” We do that. It’s a call for bonding; it’s a certain way of speaking.
The way we talk to babies is hardwired. Nobody teaches you that. That’s part of the secure attachment system working. When you start thinking, “Hello sweetheart,” you just feel what happens to your heart. It gets all melty. It’s funny, isn’t it? And it’s all voice. It’s just tone of voice. There is a lot to this prosody thing.
Written from Module 1-7: What is Secure Attachment?
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