A reflection in federal budget week that is cost-neutral!

May 14, 2023
Close-up of woman receiving greeting card from her daughter on Mother's day.

It is a big week for ‘but’ and ‘however’, delivered with some vehemence in responses to the Federal Budget. It is also a timely reminder that simple things matter, like our tone of voice in private and public conversations.

We may all be happier and more grateful if we were carefully attentive to how we sound to each other.

People can fall into habits of sound that would benefit from more reflection.

Couples can fall into cold sounds if hurts and disappointments mount up without time for healing, listening and a forgiving heart.

The way politicians address each other at Question Time often sounds awful. The political culture traps quite intelligent and decent people into modes of address that aren’t good for anyone.

It is a big week for ‘but’ and ‘however’, delivered with some vehemence in responses to the Federal Budget.

Those who put many hours into preparing the Budget have probably had to steel themselves for the tone that meets them when they are very tired.

The way we hear adults speak with children can delight or hurt as we overhear them in public places. The power differential is vivid. The tone of voice says whether this is power to heal or, even inadvertently, harm.

Then too, in other contexts, there is the sing-song voice of an inauthentic sales pitch. The spin of many words conveyed with mixed motives. ”Foam from the mouth”, the poets call it.

As a disciple of Jesus, when reading the Sunday Gospel in worship, I try to imagine Jesus’ tone of voice in the reported conversation.

This week it is the assuring tone in “I will not leave you orphaned” as Jesus conveys the mystery of his departing but continuing presence thereafter in Holy Spirit- “to be with you forever”. {John 14.15-21]

Tone of voice, as in this setting, cultivates a feeling of relational gratitude. We are loved.

Gratitude, we know, is contagious. It makes others happier. It enhances our relationships.

Feeling and sharing gratitude helps us overcome what some call a ‘negative bias’ in society – an overlearning of the bad and an underlearning of the good.

The negative bias, say in news coverage, distorts our perceptions of reality and amplifies anxiety more than gratitude. It wears down our well being and is particularly damaging for young people, who may be still trying to work out what is going on!

By contrast, I have many positive stories of the influence of tone of voice on children. Stories from adults who remember, with much gratitude, the tone of voice of significant adults, years later.

A Sri Lankan friend speaks of the influence of his grandmother singing spiritual songs in the morning, saying her prayers with him. Coming out of sleep into the breakfast room, he always had a feeling that the new day was full of beauty.

Another friend who grew up in the Riverina was sent to a nearby farmhouse for Sunday School. He dates his vocation from the sound of the lady who read them Bible stories while they coloured various images of those stories.. [The smell of cupcakes cooking in the wood fired stove also helped!]

Her voice was full of kindness towards them all. As Dostoevsky once said, ‘you can tell a lot about what people think of you by their tone of voice’. They knew she was there for them, whatever they made of the stories.

Those of us who meditate in the morning and in the evening times of transition know the calming influence of the silence.

This week is Mother’s Day. Some of us were chatting about our favourite songs. A young woman with an Italian background, remembering her mum, spoke of the calming influence of the lullaby-‘Sogna Fiore Mio’.

‘Dream my flower, dream and rest… Dream of the sea and dream of the forest.. Dream of all these beautiful things.. The sky, the sea and all the stars…’

Don’t you think our human family could do with a few more lullabies and all of us being quietly attentive to our tones of voice in private and public life?

We have much to be grateful for. A simple thing, like attention to our tone of voice, can help us make a better contribution to the common good and to the Commonwealth.

Share and Enjoy !

Subscribe to John Menadue's Newsletter
Subscribe to John Menadue's Newsletter


Thank you for subscribing!