Social Tone

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Social Tone

Refers to the more pleasant tone people present to the world. From a young age, most of us are taught to be friendly and polite towards others. Good manners go a long way towards helping us get along in the world. But it’s important to recognize that just because someone seems nice and mannerly that doesn’t mean they have a high tone level. A Social Tone is the facade we use as part of our daily interactions when we are trying to make a good impression. It’s a short term tone level for social interaction.


You are at the coffee shop and the barista asks how you’re doing. Although you feel super stressed because you missed a work deadline and your boss is angry at you, Rather than communicating that to your barista, you say, “Fine, thanks.” And you smile politely.

Victor has been more depressed than normal. He doesn’t have a job and doesn’t know how he’s going to pay his rent. Today though, he’s heading to a job interview. This gives him an emotional lift, which helps him make a good impression in the interview.

Henrietta’s chronic tone is anger. Because she knows this is not socially acceptable, she tries hard to keep a lid on it. She often mumbles under her breath about things that piss her off. Her workmates think of her as a sweet and happy person because she always says hi and smiles when she walks past them in the hall.

Having a better understanding of people’s emotional tones can help you have better and more meaningful relationships. If you are an auditor, understanding the Tone Scale is invaluable. But remember, people and their lives are complex. It’s best not to jump to conclusions about someone’s chronic tone level.

To learn more about the Tone Scale and how to use it in your life, read Science of Survival and its accompanying Chart of Human Evaluation.

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