Stop Using That Tone of Voice If You Want Your Relationship to Last

couple going head to headYou know that phrase, "It's not what you say, it's HOW you say it"? It's not just an empty platitude, but kind of maybe some of the most important relationship advice you'll hear.


Researchers at the University of Southern California have come up with a computer algorithm that can correctly predict whether couples have a strong or on-the-ropes relationship based on the tones of voice they use when speaking to each other.

We know. A computer algorithm? But hey, it's pretty darn good. In fact, when researchers used it to analyze couples' therapy sessions, it did a BETTER job of predicting whose marriages would work out than relationship experts who were allowed to read transcripts of the session.

How, exactly, does it work? Researchers broke people's speech into distinct acoustic features like pitch, intensity, and two things called "jitter" and "shimmer," which sound like judgy comments from Dance Moms but aren't.

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Interestingly, the traits weren't analyzed alone. Researchers were more curious about how someone's voice features changed based on what his or her partner said.

Because we all know that "I'm fine" has many different meanings. One of which is "Oh, I am NOT fine at all."

And sure enough, certain voice qualities were labeled with either negative qualities like "blame," or positive ones such as "acceptance."

Obviously, it's not like this computer algorithm is available on a smartphone app, where you can record your husband's voice, analyze it, then realize he's being a jerk.

But it does underscore how important it is to treat your spouse with kindness and respect. Disagree all you want, as long as you're not doing it in a condescending, hateful manner. Contempt has long been ID'd as a top indicator that a relationship is doomed.

Contempt does already have some obvious signs -- like eye rolling and smirking. But maybe tone of voice is a precursor. In which case, paying close attention to how you speak to your partner -- and how he speaks to you -- may protect your marriage.

Or provide an early wake-up call that your relationship isn't working after all. 


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