use your voice inscription on gray background

From a Whisper to a Roar (Part 3): The Stern Voice Says You Mean It

Even A Child Can Do It

It was a warm summer afternoon, and Ammerman’s Catering Service was prepping for an outdoor finger food party. We checked in with the family, then began setting out fruit and veggie trays on long tables set up in the yard. 

black dog beside little girl
Photo by bin Ziegler on

Shortly before the guests arrived, I noticed the hosts’ tiny daughter interacting with a labrador retriever. She stood pointing at the dog. 

“Sammy, come here.” Sammy just sat there, wagging his tail. So she said again, “Sammy, come here!” A little louder this time. But Sammy still didn’t budge. 

What happened next is as clear in my mind as if it had just happened, though it’s been about 30 years.

She stood a little straighter and said in a stern, loud voice, “Sammy, come HERRRR.” The last bit of the word “here” came out as a growl. 

Sammy’s tail stopped wagging; he stood up, walked right over, and sat at her feet. Her voice softened as she said, “Good boy, Sammy!” 

And at that moment, I saw the power of the stern voice in action.

What Does It Mean?

Let’s examine a word most of us don’t use very often. The word we in Tigress’ Roar Women’s Self-Defense use because, as you will see, it applies to the what and how of a vital technique in our toolkit.

Stern /ˈstɚn/  adjective
sterner; sternest
1 a : very serious especially in an unfriendly way
a stern judge
a stern warning
b : expressing strong disapproval or criticism
He gave me a stern look.
2 : not likely to change or become weaker
stern determination/resolve

Encyclopedia Britannica
fashion man people woman
Photo by cottonbro studio on

Let’s explore this word in a self-defense framework, beginning with the first definition. “Very serious especially in an unfriendly way.” We’re not talking about a tone of voice you’ll use with your friends for the most part. The stern voice is reserved for telling someone, “I don’t like what you’re saying or doing or your attitude toward me or others around me.”

It’s a warning, but more than the growl we delved into in the previous blog From a From a Whisper to a Growl (Part 2): Quietly in Charge .

It’s the next step from the mere warning. It’s deeper, slightly louder, and says, “I said stop it,” because they continued their bad behavior after the initial warning.

And that second definition? “Not likely to change or become weaker” is gold because we’re not going to back down. We’re going to stand up to the offender until they back down. So we resolve to protect ourselves and those around us in every situation.  And in class, we train to use our stern voice so it’s ready to pull out as needed.

Horses Respond to It

A researcher and her colleagues in Ontario, Canada, tested a theory she had about the effect of a pleasant versus stern voice on a group of gelding horses. The researchers used pleasant low and high tone and stern low and high tone recordings, monitoring the horses’ heart rate and behaviors every second during the voice recording and for 10 seconds afterward. 

Here’s what they found: Horses’ gaits sped up during the stern low voice, and they barely moved during the pleasant low voice. They turned toward the human voice more often when it was pleasant. The greatest heart rate increase happened during the stern low voice.

The stern voice got the horses’ attention, and they moved every time they heard it. And the low stern voice distressed them even more than the high stern voice. 

A calm, commanding tone works. And not just on horses. Or pet dogs. It also works on unruly children and as a vital tool in self-defense as we develop strategies to take charge in an escalating situation with anybody coming at us to hurt us. 

It’s your life, and you want to protect it and the lives of those nearby who may be threatened. Your stern voice tells the offender without a doubt: You need to back off.

How We Learn to be Stern

As we discussed in the previous two blogs From a Whisper to a Roar (Part 1) Silences Costs Too Much and From a Whisper to A Growl (Part 2): Quietly in Charge , silence isn’t an option, and there’s a continuum in the use of tone of voice. We don’t start out screaming; each vocal level has a purpose. 

The low growl gets the offender’s attention and lets them know you see what they’re doing. You’re not going to let them get away with it. The stern voice lets them know they need to stop and stop now. 

As with any new skill we’re trying to learn, it’s not enough to just know we need to do it. We realize we need to get direct teaching and feedback from an instructor who knows how to do it and do it well. 

We may think we sound fierce! But we sound like a lion cub squeaking out a baby roar. We need to learn and practice in a safe place so that when some nasty person comes at us, we’re already taking charge and using our voice appropriately.

During self-defense class, we train in real-life scenarios and practice using our stern voice and various body language techniques so the person knows you aren’t going to give in to their pressure.

It’s your life, and you want to protect it and the lives of those nearby who may be threatened. Your stern voice tells the offender without a doubt: You need to back off.

But what if the stern voice doesn’t stop them? We must take it to level 3: the slightly raised voice. We’ll dig into that amazing tool in the next blog. Stay tuned!

But I Don’t Have Time or Money for This

Let’s face it. We’re so busy running our tails off, we don’t have time to add yet another thing to our list of to-dos. We think we’re good; nothing bad’s going to happen to us. We think we don’t have the money.  

I used to think that way, too, about many things. And honestly, some things just aren’t worth adding to an already packed schedule. But maybe, just maybe, some of the things on our calendar, and maybe more importantly, how we fill every moment of every day, need to be re-evaluated. And as we open our calendar and bank app we get a reality check.

We spend our money and time on what matters to us. Do I sound like a broken record? Didn’t I mention this in the last blog? Here we go again because if you’re anything like me, you don’t want to change what you’re doing. So, sweet comfort zone, why would I want to be anywhere else? Why would I want to add something scary like a women’s self-defense class to my life?

Simple answer.  This world isn’t what you grew up in. It’s not getting any better, and you need to be equipped in case things go sideways. And at some level, we all know they probably will, even if we don’t want to believe it.

And the lessons you’ll learn with us you likely won’t learn anywhere else, at least not the same way. At Tigress’ Roar, we get it. We accept this world isn’t what we’d like, so we train to be ready for whatever comes. 

Plus, we realize we need to explore emotions in intense training sessions. So we create a safe space to discuss them in every meeting. 

We want every woman who walks through our doors to know this: Your voice is worth being heard. So we’ll partner with you to learn how to use it right in the right place at the right time. Starting with the low growl, progressing to the stern voice, and going as far as we need to go. 

There are many ways to become the strong woman you want to be.
You’re worth every moment and every penny it takes to get there.
Our doors are open. You’re always welcome here.

Join Us


One comment

Leave a Comment