Why Tone Policing is Bad

Why Tone Policing is Bad

Since COVID-19, we have spent more time engaging online due to quarantine and voluntarily staying home. Whether you are on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, or Clubhouse, you have witnessed or participated in some rather heated conversations.

These last two years have highlighted somewhat of a gender war. It has also brought about various movements, especially movements by men. These movements have been revealed more into the mainstream by a few key content creators. Sensitive and controversial subjects are now at the forefront of conversations, especially on apps such as Clubhouse. Now some of you may not be familiar with the app Clubhouse. Let’s get you familiar.

 Clubhouse is an audio-based social media app. There are no pictures or videos, just audio. It’s a place where people come together in rooms and have conversations on various topics. It’s also a place where people grow big kahunas.

It’s an interesting environment. I have learned a lot being on the app. I learned some good things and bad things. One of the things I have noticed in the discourse between men and women is poor communication.

There is one conversation tactic that is the most prevalent among these conversations, tone policing. Now I know I will not make any friends on this topic, but it is too important not to be addressed, and may help foster better communication in your daily conversations.


What Is Tone Policing?

According to dictionary.com, “Tone policing is a conversation tactic that dismisses the ideas being communicated when they are perceived to be delivered in an angry, frustrated, sad, fearful, or otherwise emotionally charged manner.”

Do you know how many times I hear people say it’s not what you say, but how you say it? Now this is not to say that saying things a certain way will garner softer responses, but is it necessary to white glove the other person in the conversation?

Where I see this happening frequently is men and women having conversations regarding men voicing wants and needs to a woman. With this conversation, I have witnessed women getting upset about how men have expressed themselves instead of what is being said.

This is an disingenuous tactic to silence, derail, or disengage from a conversation by controlling the conditions under which the conversation is happening. 10 out of 10 times it derails the conversation, and it pivots into talking about the tone instead of the message. The message has now been suppressed, oppressed, and marginalized into nothing.

In addition to shutting a voice down, it prevents you from educating yourself, holding yourself accountable, and uplifting to others.

What you are saying when you tone police:

  • Your feelings are more important
  • Their point is invalid because you disagree
  • Their lived experience does not matter

This is also a form of gaslighting, which is a direct characteristic of narcissism. Narcissists manipulate people into doubting their memory, judgment, perception, and lived experiences. Trying to silence someone because they are angry and frustrated and making them seem they’re crazy or unreasonable is giving total narcissist vibes. The worst part is appearing to be the cool, calm, and collective one, which makes you look like you are the right and reasonable one to others in the room in comparison to the angry and frustrated person in the conversation.

It’s important to foster a safe environment for all involved to say how they feel, without passing judgment or giving unwelcome opinions. Tone policing doesn’t win arguments. In fact, it derails any possible progress that can be made in a conversation where men and women are trying to gain an understanding of one another.

If you are guilty of doing this, stop it. You are actually the one losing in the conversation. Try to listen, learn, and understand. If what is being said triggers you, that is something you need to internally unpack. It’s not unfair to attack others for how you feel. Let’s have better conversations!

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