because I have time to think about such things
I often think about the different "voices" that people use when speaking to different audiences. I've noticed it a lot; it isn't subtle to me at all. In fact, it's a very phony way of interacting with others. I won't name names, but I've overheard people who are talking to acquaintances in such a fake, overly polite or friendly voice that it almost borders on patronizing. Yeah, I think that's the right word. These same people will also talk to the elderly in a slightly different but still patronizing voice. I've overheard conversations with my grandfather where the other person sounded like they were talking to a child. Why? I can't help but think that the recipient of such a voice would notice the patronizing tone. Well, maybe little kids don't notice the difference when someone older talks down to them, but I notice it! Why talk down to kids? You can talk to them without regressing into a quasi-child-like state. Try it! I have to admit that I'm guilty of using that tone when talking to kids sometimes, but I try to catch myself and avoid doing it. Certainly I avoid using a different tone when talking to, for instance, a cashier at a store. Why should I change my tone depending on who I talk to? Why can't we talk to each other as equals? Does anyone else think it's weird to put on a false "friendly voice" when speaking to casual acquaintances?
I don't know. This is a behavior that I notice all the time. and I wonder why people do it. Actually, from my brief studies of the Korean language, I know that that their whole society/language is very much based on labels, positions, ranks, and seniority. In Korean, you don't usually call someone Mr.Smith; you'd call him "lawyer Smith" or "garbage man Smith" or something like that. And then you would use formal or informal verbs depending on whether or not the other person is more important than yourself. At least I think that's the general idea. English is much more democratic and flexible regarding labels, and maybe that is the reason why we have this tendency to change our tone if not our words when speaking to different types of people.
As for me, like I said, I try to catch myself when I start changing my tone for some reason. This probably makes me come off as a monotone, boring-sounding kind of guy, but hey, at least I'm trying to be honest, right?