View Full Version : Verbal Communication - When to raise your voice?

Bartholomew Roberts
February 22, 2009, 11:05 AM
Right now, I am interested in a non-sexy; but important area of self-defense. Deescalating conflict strictly through verbal communication. One question that has come up for me is under what conditions is it productive to raise your voice and issue commands vs. being calm and quiet in your tone of voice.

It seems to me that there is a valid role for commands, especially if you have some symbol of authority backing you up (badge, uniform, etc.). On the other hand, it seems like raising your voice and issuing commands is going to escalate conflict in a lot of situations as well, particularly if you don't have that authority backing you and are just an average guy trying to deflect another average guy who is having a bad day.

I know we have some members here who are in law enforcement and probably have some good "gut" feelings about which one to use and when, I was hoping maybe one of them could articulate the things they look for when making the decision whether to try a "command voice" or a "calm voice" in order to deescalate a situation.

February 22, 2009, 11:14 AM
Bart ~

Pick up a copy of Verbal Judo. It's an excellent book that deals with that sort of question in detail.

Interested in what others have to say about this too. It's a weak area for me.


February 22, 2009, 12:57 PM
Volume isn't it, forcefulness is it. When my CWP instructor demonstrated this, he drew his weapon, aimed, and said, "Stop or I'll shoot." He never actually raised his voice, but I was sitting in the back row and looking for a chair to hide under. Command voice is everything. Speak from the belly and leave no doubt you you WILL do what you say. It's hard to describe. It's sorta like the concussive effect of a .357 mag. fired in the next lane over at the range. It slaps you in the chest. Singers call it "projecting your voice."

Capt. Charlie
February 22, 2009, 01:00 PM
I'll second Verbal Judo. Here's (http://verbaljudo.com/) a link to their web site.

We had several officers that had a problem with too many uses of force. We sent them to their two day school.

The results were encouraging in that the number of uses of force dropped significantly. More times than not, that famous line, "What we have here is a failure to communicate", becomes more than a mere movie quote ;).

February 22, 2009, 01:13 PM
I spent 17 years as an educator and found myself in situations with both students and parents. I also attended classes on how to peacefully deescalate confrontational people. With students that are simply passive aggressive a command voice will often persuade. With an allready agitated individual that has crossed the line. Crossing the line wih them puts no one in control. As long as one maintains his/her cool there is control and a chance that the situation can be resolved peacefully.
Factor in a firearm and you really have a situation depending on who is holding it one or both.
Losing your cool in a fire fight is not good. ( 7 years in Army)
hope this helps. I guess the situation would dictate the response

February 22, 2009, 01:16 PM
X10 on not volume rather attitude...

My father tells of his worst ass chewing he ever got. 'Twas in boot camp early 60's. DI commenced to go up one side and down the other chewing him out... Never un clenched his teeth nor raised his voice. Hours or days later (can't remember) pop asks the DI in an off duty or informal moment about it and said "When you chewed me out, you never raised your voice like others did and it was a worse ass chewing than I ever had..." Di replied... "It is a small man that must yell to be SEEN..."

February 22, 2009, 01:31 PM
Using your Situational Awareness you should have noted the approach or actions of a person (or persons) that raises the hairs on your neck. You should use verbal commands to alert the Bad Guys you are aware of them, aware of their actions, or to stop their approach toward you. Use that tone of voice that your parents used to use when you were a misbehaving little brat. Do you need something ? Don't come any closer. Keep your hands where I can see them, etc. Choose several phrases you are comfortable with and practice them so you are not at a loss for words in a situation. Use as many phrases as needed or repeat as needed.

If the person or person are up to no good they will know that you are aware of them and their actions. If they are simply going about their own personal business they will just laugh about the guy with the loud voice and carry on.

Bartholomew Roberts
February 23, 2009, 12:31 PM
Well the advice for situational awareness works for the stranger in the parking lot at 11pm; but is it useful for the guy who feels you parked too close to his car or the neighbor who has had a bad day and is annoyed at your dog?

For that matter I can recall being approached by a panhandler at a stop light once. I ignored him until he got too close and then looked at him directly and shook my head "no". He didn't like that much and you could see the anger in his eyes. I am not sure that in this particular case your approach would have descalated the conflict. And if it had escalated? That guy might think he is just starting another fistfight to teach me a lesson about respect and wouldn't it be nice to have a roof over his head - even at the county jail. If I am carrying a pistol though, that is a big problem for me.

David Armstrong
February 23, 2009, 12:36 PM
A third vote for Verbal Judo. Great concept if you learn to use it right. My experience on the volume/aggressiveness issue has been that I always spoke loud enough to be heard but no louder, and always tried to keep it polite and non-aggressive, even if it was loud.

Bartholomew Roberts
February 23, 2009, 01:21 PM
I did order a copy of Verbal Judo by the way. Should be here on the 27th.

By the way, in a related issue, does the book address things to help you keep your own cool when someone else is losing theirs?

February 23, 2009, 01:27 PM
Verbal Judo to the fourth.:)

February 23, 2009, 01:35 PM

There are trainings available in CPI-NCI (http://www.crisisprevention.com/index.html) (Crisis Prevention Institute-Nonviolent Crisis Intervention), and other three letter alphabetical arrangements (PIC, NCI) that are geared toward deescalation specifically when dealing with individuals with mental illness. There may be PIC training available in other states still but it fell out of favor in this state several years ago.

Training is pricey, but worthwhile in my experience. Of course the various agencies I've worked for over the years have paid for mine :D. The techniques, while specifically geared toward someone with mental illness who is behaving irrationally, work for anyone who is behaving irrationally.

Just another avenue to consider.

Gonna have to look into that Verbal Judo book myself.


Brian Pfleuger
February 23, 2009, 01:38 PM
...help you keep your own cool when someone else is losing theirs?

A slightly over simplified explanation:

"Keeping your cool" is nothing more than a decision and self control. Make the choice that you will not be antagonistic and that you will not respond in anger to those who are, and then do it. Done, cool kept. Yeah, it really is that easy.

My brother-in-law uses the excuse that he's just "hot-tempered". He'll fight about anything from road rage to refusal of a store to honor a warranty. Well, I'm sorry but "hot-headed" is a lame excuse. The difference between an adult and a 2 year old is that an adult controls themselves.

February 23, 2009, 01:53 PM
Bart ~

Well, one of the chapters is titled, "Taking Crap With Dignity ... And Style."



February 23, 2009, 02:06 PM
Verbal judo sounds interesting ... but they've got about 6 different books on that site ... which one are you folks referring to?



February 23, 2009, 03:22 PM

Verbal Judo: the Gentle Art of Persuasion, by George J. Thompson, Ph.D., and Jerry B. Jenkins, ISBN 0-06-057765-7


February 23, 2009, 03:24 PM
Thanks ... I suspected that was the one, but thought it best not to assume.