I was buying several armfuls of cut flowers at a large warehouse store and the grower, who had thoughtfully put them aside for me that morning, was also kind enough to give me the tall container they were in so I could carry them fairly easily.
As I was standing in the check out line, I heard the person assisting the checker say something about “bucket” and the checker respond to him with a swagger in his voice, “No, and she’s going to want to and I’m not going to let her.” I realized they were referring to the container my flowers were in, so I spoke up and said the grower had given it to me.
After sending his helper off to confirm this with the grower, the checker then told me – “It’s not that I don’t believe you, but … “ Now, in and of themselves, these words could be used in a variety of ways – apologetically, as in “I do believe you, but we are required to check” or matter of factly, as in “There’s nothing personal to it, I just need to double-check.” But nope, in this instance, the words dripped sarcasm, the tone was snide, and the facial expression was an outright sneer.
He clearly wanted to put me in my place as he went on to say “I’m not going to let you leave with the bucket and the guy at the door isn’t going to let you leave with it.” (There is a person standing at the outside door of the warehouse, cheeking off receipts as customers exit.)
I simply smiled at him and said nothing because I had nothing more to say; he obviously had his opinion and there was no point in conversation. His helper returned a few minutes later, said “Yeah” to the checker (apparently meaning “Yes, the grower did give her the bucket”), my purchases were rung up and no further words were spoken, other than my thank you.
As for the young man at the outside door? He gave me a big smile, commented on all my beautiful flowers, told me to take care and enjoy my day.
When you were young, did anyone ever say “Don’t you take that tone of voice with me!”?
For a message to be consistent, the words and tone need to match. If there is a difference between what you say and how you say it, the listener is going to believe the sound (tone) more than your words. Think of someone saying “Wow, we’re having a great time now!” in an Eeyore voice – are you going to believe the words or the tone more?