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Lessons from Jack

Tone matters! Yesterday, my dear friend was having a tough go with her son Jack who has autism. In his challenging moments there is little peace for anyone in the home. I suggested they come over for a boat ride and a change of scenery to see if that would help. An hour later they had arrive and within 30 minutes we were off to the boat.

Before we went to the boat Jack and I took the dog out so he could be a good boy. The dog, not Jack! The teaching began. I noticed that when my tone shifted with the dog, Jack responded with no, no, no in various tones and reactions. His facial expressions would shift with tone variation. I was intrigued and curious to learn more about the pattern influence.

Off to the boat we went, Jack got on and depending on the adults conversation, request and tone, he responded with reactions. Our goal was clearly to keep him out of meltdown state and massive screaming. We are keenly aware of shifts that might go that direction and in a collaborative mode with a shared goal. Keep Jack happy.

Here is the lesson from the day on the boat. Jack would chant no, no, no and I sorry a lot. He was very sensitive to what he perceived as critical comments and instantly went to ‘I sorry” and his facial expressions would change. When our tone was happy and playful, his tone and expression shifted. I have taught this about for years, tone matters. Well guess what, it does!

Jack has been condition to certain tones being negative or critical and he responds to them by shutting down or screaming. He does not like conflict and perceives certain tones and words as critical. He also responds to happy tones and positive comments in his surroundings. The way he communicates with the world, is through his body language and tone with a limited vocabulary. To have a conversation with Jack, you have to pay attention and really want to engage with him.

What is our lesson? Tone and message matter. Positive or negative tone have influence factors, both will get a reaction. You choose how you want to lead and influence others. You have massive power to influence others in the tone, expression and words you choose to use. Your choices will influence what you get back in return by way of reaction and behavior of those you have interaction with in your life.

Enjoy your journey! Jacquelyn

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