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Tone Policing as a Way to Curb Important Conversation

Why is tone policing problematic?

To begin with, the first question that you must have been thinking is what is tone policing? Well, have you ever heard of something like “look at the way you are talking” or “you can’t talk to me like this” exactly when you are in the middle of an important conversation? And when you hear this, do you feel like the person opposite to you is trying to suppress your voice, ideas and thoughts and advocating their not being able to understand you and your ideas because of the tone in which you are saying it? If yes, then this is tone policing.

Tone policing, if defined, is when someone attempts to disapprove the validity of a particular statement or issue by attacking and criticising the tone in which the message is said. Where this can be the case is that the one at the listening end is genuinely not able to understand the concept because of the choice of words, but there are several times when moral codes for tones are imposed right when an important conversation starts to get shape. Basically, it’s a diversionary tactic generally applicable which is related vertically in authority and power. For Example – Teacher – Student, Boss – Employee, Parents – child, Husband – wife, Man – Women  (women are not yet there in and hence man is generally dominating) etc.


Read more: Decoding Moral Policing from childhood and how it leads to the imposition of gender-specific ideas

Although it is not necessary that the domination factor remains in all cases when moral policing is done. It can be based on predefined notions too. For example- women are expected to speak in a particular tone, children are expected to address in a particular language. In either or all the cases, the most prevalent cause that can be associated with tone policing is the insecurity of the person sitting on the listener’s end, of losing the privilege and authoritative position if they agree to accept a smooth conversation, in a manner, the one at a lower position (as per what listener thinks) wants to set the conversation.


By the way, do you tone police?

There might be chances that you are also moral policing without knowing that you are doing so. Check the following and see if you do so or not?

Do you tell people in what ways they should tell what they are telling?

Do you blame people for your not being able to understand what they are saying because their language appears offensive to you?

Do you set a moral code signifying how a person should be talking to?

Do you blame the person for getting emotional about issues they strongly feel for?

Well, if you do these things, you actually tone policing and you need to unlearn this habit to learn how you can stop doing it. Next time, you feel like you are facing problems or if you are finding it difficult to accept the other’s point of view just because the way it is being said doesn’t match your moral code, then you precisely need to rethink your habit.

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Ishika Aggarwal

Can write, shoot, listen, talk and procrastinate. A feminist at heart, Ishika is an avid writer and multimedia person who loves talking about women, realism, and society. When not working she is either seen watching films or making one.
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