Can You Pass The “Stupid” Test?

Published on January 26, 2012 by Annetta Wilson

What in the world does THAT mean?  Well, it doesn't mean that I'm calling you names. Nor does it mean you'll have to take a challenging quiz. It's about your communication, specifically, your tone of voice.  So, what is the stupid test?  It's the quickest way to make sure that what you say is received EXACTLY the way you intend it.  Before I get into the details, join me in a little reflection.

Have you ever said something and you knew the minute it came out of your mouth, that your foot had immediately replaced it?  Yep, me too. Most of the time we don't mean for it to come out that way, but somehow between our intentions and our mouths, something goes haywire.

Fortunately, there is a way to lower the odds that we end up in that situation. It's called the stupid test and it works amazingly well. It's simple: if the word stupid fits at the end of your sentence, your foot has left the ground and is headed toward your mouth.

Let's say you've asked someone to do something (or stop doing something) and he or she has not complied.  You hear yourself saying something along the lines of, Why do I have to repeat myself over and over again!?  If the tone of your voice makes the word stupid fit like a glove at the end of the sentence, you've blown it. If your tone is condescending, harsh, impatient or angry, what the person hears is, Why do I have to repeat myself over and over again, STUPID!?

In the communication equation, your tone of voice is 38%.  That.s more than one-third of your message!   Your non-verbal communication (body language) is 55% and the words are only 7%.

Tip:  Use the word stupid as a barometer to check your tone of voice.  If stupid fits at the end of your sentence, chances are your listener won.t appreciate what you've just said.

If you're not sure, look into the face of the person you just spoke to.  It doesn't take much effort or analysis to figure out how your message landed. This is especially true if people report to you or if you work in teams.  Few things can shut down communication, make tempers flare or cause emotional harm quicker than an insulting, nasty tone of voice.  It doesn't really matter what words you use.

If there are children in your life, that counts double!

We all remember the childhood chant Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.  I contend that words do far worse than break your bones.  Words, delivered in a harsh tone, can damage your psyche and that takes much longer to heal.

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  1. Usha Sliva

    I hear you -we'd never speak to our clients like that, but it takes much less effort to control anger against a child. I have two and I have to remind myself at times, especially after a trying day, that they are just 'kids'! We don't think the 'S" word in our house (stupid ;), but it's a good reminder to think before we speak. Thanks!