He Told Her She Couldn’t Sing
My mom, Susan, was a happy, carefree kid. She happily sang outside in junior high until a classmate stopped her one afternoon.
“What didja do with the money your mom gave you for singing lessons?” He looked her right in the face. “You can’t sing!” Just like that, she stopped. She believed him. And he silenced her.
From that point on, she sang quietly for many years if she ventured to sing at all. She couldn’t let her voice bother anyone.
A turning point came in her teens when the choir director of a local church invited her to join their choir. Susan knew the choir director’s daughter from school and saw the two of them frequently at her mother’s restaurant.
She wanted to say yes but was reticent. Finally, she said, “I don’t know. My voice isn’t very good.“
The choir director smiled and answered, “I’ll seat you next to a girl who already knows the music.”
That’s all it took. Not long after that interaction Susan joined her friend at choir rehearsal one night and sat next to Jackie, who helped her learn the music and later became her best friend.
And that night, she caught the eye of a guy singing tenor with the guys behind her. The two hit it off and a few years later got married.
Thanks to Jackie, Susan could relax because she didn’t have to worry about getting the notes wrong. Instead, she freely immersed herself in the music and sang, her sweet alto blending with the others in a joyful, safe place.
She learned to open her mouth. She discovered her voice was important. She started small and grew from there.
Years later, she began writing lyrics set to music by a record producer, and she and her husband and friends recorded several albums, touring the East Coast on weekends for over twenty years. They called themselves The Sojourners Quartet.
I grew up with that group and a deep love of music because one silenced girl rediscovered her voice and learned how to use it, and use it well.
But it didn’t happen all at once. My mom learned to try out her voice little by little in a safe place. She learned to harmonize and explore her range and various volume levels. Over time, she grew confident in the beauty and strength of her voice, and to this day continues to expand her knowledge and hone her skills.
We Know Yelling Doesn’t Work
We also want to find our voice. We know where we are right now isn’t enough, and we want to use our voices effectively. So we start by taking stock possible reactions. What’s the best response in a potentially volatile situation?
If we’re wise, we realize raging at people doesn’t work. Sure, we may get their attention for a moment. We may feel better at first. But in almost every instance, putting someone on blast won’t ultimately achieve what we want.
Why doesn’t yelling work? It’s loud. It’s scary. It’s proof we’re out of control. Can we realistically expect to gain control of the situation if we’re out of control?
And what about the person on the receiving end? A sudden irate reaction can throw the target into flight-or-fight mode. If so, they’re flooded by anxiety, fear, and feeling overwhelmed. And as we discovered in From a Whisper to A Roar (Part 1) Silence Costs Too Much a person in fight-or-flight mode can’t think straight.
Yelling can also throw the recipient into an aggressive, combative state. Their anxiety shoots up, and they may lash out. Possibly physically.
Do you want to spike anxiety, anger and aggression in the person before you? Is your safety worth trading for the fleeting relief of telling someone off?
Yelling Right Out of the Gate Makes You Look Like a Psycho
If you feel angry or frustrated, what’s your go-to response? Many of us vent in an outburst at the perceived offender. Caught off guard, I can get pretty angry when some guy cuts me off on the freeway. I’m often too complacent with my self-control with the people I’m around all the time, and may not realize until after I’ve exploded at them I should’ve reined myself in. And I admit, sometimes I yelled at my kids when they were little.
When I finally found the courage to stand up to my husband instead of letting him steamroll me in conversations, I told him off. Loudly. Often. Sometimes in public. I finally let loose all the injustice I’d held inside, all the how dare you treat me this way? accumulated over 25 years of marriage. Of course, he wasn’t impressed, and my shrieking didn’t help him see my perspective. And to be honest, I probably looked and sounded a bit crazed. Psycho, even.
People find – and push – our buttons. Why? They get upset sometimes and lash out, just like we do. And our reaction to them can (and often does) make things worse, especially if we go from silent to screaming in a moment. So maybe our question needs to be, how can we disable those buttons, tame our temper, and let our words be quiet but firm to nip the situation in the proverbial bud?
We need to be careful. Once we find our voice, we may go overboard. We may find this new freedom too heady. Instead of calmly handling a situation, angry outbursts may replace our old pattern of silent simmering. We explode all over the people who triggered us and wonder why they’re so upset. We need to learn better. But we’re not sure where to begin. At Tigress’ Roar, we start with a low growl and progress our training through five levels of escalating vocalizations as a self-defense technique.
When and How Does a Low Growl Work?
A low growl is the opposite of yelling. You’re calm, in control, and in charge. You’re acting like an adult in the situation. Here’s how I saw a low growl turn a situation completely around.
When my eldest daughter was about a year old, we went to a place where toddlers crawl through tunnels and climb on soft blocks on the floor with their parents.
Another lady played nearby with her daughter, who was about two years old. As her little one climbed onto a big blue block, the mom looked at her watch and said, “Oh, we need to go. Anna, time to go!”
Anna was having none of it. She shot up and took off across the room. Her mom shook her head and got up. She walked across the room, scooped Anna up, and brought her back where they had started. She knelt down and calmly held her daughter’s face in her hands. Then, quietly but firmly, she said, “Mommy will win.”
Anna’s eyes said she knew it was true. So she calmed down and, though still a bit fussy, let her mom help put on her coat, take her hand, and walk her out the door.
A low growl takes back authority like yelling never does. I witnessed it firsthand that day.
The Method in Our Madness Keeps Us Sane. Here’s How:
Our self-defense classes train the low growl as a high-value technique in our toolkit. We start with a warning. If someone’s getting too close, you calmly, quietly, but firmly tell them to back off. Here’s how it works:
You’re in Walmart, perusing the toddler toys for your niece, when a guy starts walking toward you. He’s got a weird look in his eyes, and you smell alcohol. Instead of walking past, he moves too close for comfort.
You (Take a breath. Calm, quiet. Look right at him until he looks back.): Whoa, back up.
Him (Waving his hands, backs up): Okay, okay, I don’t want any trouble.
It’s not the words but the calm, firm and lowered voice. It’s the Tigress’ low growl, and just like in the wild, it serves as a warning: If you don’t listen, I’ll have to do something you won’t like. Is that what you want?
The low growl is the entry point of a continuum. Hopefully it works. But if not, we take it to the next level: the stern voice. Next week In From a Whisper to a Roar (Part 3: The Stern Voice) we’ll explore when and how to use the stern voice, and what to do if it doesn’t work.
Where Do We Go From Here?
We realize we need to learn how to protect ourselves. We understand we need training. But where do we go? And how can we find time in our busy schedules?
If we’re honest and take a hard look at our schedules and our bank app, we see where our money and time goes. Truth is, we spend our money and time on what we actually value. Not on what we say we value.
So do you truly value your life and the lives of those in your care? It’s a vital question, a question we’ve all asked ourselves. Our answer led us to start Tigress’ Roar.
Our answer is Yes. Yes, we want to learn how to protect ourselves, our families, and anyone in our vicinity in any given moment. Yes, we want to learn to use our voices stragetically, starting with the low growl. Yes, mental assent isn’t enough. So we choose to act on it.
What is your answer?
Our door is open and you’re invited to join us as together we evolve from where we are into the strong women we need to be. You can choose to make the time because it really is that important.
We’re here to help you transform your voice from a whisper to a roar in a safe, encouraging place.
You’re always welcome.