It's not WHAT you say. It's HOW you say it!

Updated: Apr 14

by Dawn L. Billings, founder of RelationshipHelp.com

There’s a phrase that couples consistently use when something one partner says creates an argument — “It’s not what you said, it’s how you said it.”


Well for all geeks out there, there is a new computer algorithm that can predict whether you and your spouse will have a stronger or weaker relationship based on the tone of voice used when speaking to each other. In fact, the algorithm did a better job of predicting marital success of couples with serious marital issues than descriptions of the therapy sessions provided by relationship experts.

An interdisciplinary team — led by Shrikanth Narayanan and Panayiotis Georgiou of the USC Viterbi School of Engineering with doctoral student Md Nasir and collaborator Brian Baucom of the University of Utah — developed an algorithm that broke recordings into acoustic features using speech-processing techniques such as pitch, intensity, “jitter” and “shimmer,” along with tracking warbles in the voice that can indicate moments of high emotion. Don’t you just love research geeks?


Translated into people terms, the study found that how couples talk to each other about their emotions can affect the way partners feel in the relationship, (Did we need a research study to tell us that?)

According to the press release.

“What you say is not the only thing that matters; it’s very important how you say it,” Seriously? Didn’t you already know that by looking at your partner’s face? The researchers created a new computer algorithm that measured how a partner’s tone affected the relationship. The algorithm took the therapy recordings and broke them “into acoustic features using speech-processing techniques such as pitch, intensity, ‘jitter’ and ‘shimmer,’ along with tracking warbles in the voice that can indicate moments of high emotion”.

Researchers reviewed more than 100 conversations from couples who were going through marriage therapy for two years and tracked their marital statuses for three additional years, according to Science Daily.

Through the algorithm, the researchers found that certain tones and sounds were associated with the changing state of a couple’s relationship.


I just love it when researchers tell you something that is so very intuitive. But it is nice to know we have a study to prove what we already know. Would you like to develop and strengthen your emotional intelligence? Emotional intelligence is important when it comes to communicating in relationships and might help you choose a better tone.

Dawn L. Billings is a serial entrepreneur, inventor, and Relationship, Entitlement and personality expert.

Dawn is the creator and author of the RelationshipHelp.com programs and the executive director of the RelationshipHelpResort.com in Arizona, and author of the Relationship Help at Home online program. Dawn is also the creator of OverJOYed Life, a powerful, positive work culture initiative.


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