As a person who stutters, I know firsthand that we're usually doing a million things not being quite sure that we're doing the right thing. So, in this blog post and video, I'll give you that one thing. The #1 piece of advice that you want to come back to it over and over again. Why over and over again? Well, because we're getting off track. And that's OK! Every time you feel derailed, frustrated, or lost this piece of advice is going to put you back on track.
As a bonus, I'll give the #1 practical exercise to do. It's called "stutter hunt." The idea is that we don't want to be afraid of stuttering. We don't want to be scared of speaking interaction. I'll show you how to do that.
Let's get started!
I asked this question in the Free From Stutter Facebook group: "What is your #1 advice to other people who stutter? We got great answers, like breathing, pacing, etc. But I liked the best something along the lines, "Don't think about stuttering. Just speak." That's amazing! That's what we want! I would say that it's freedom from stuttering when we just speak and not think about stuttering.
So, how do I just speak and not think about stuttering?
It requires a certain mindset shift.
And oftentimes I hear from people who stutter something like, "You know, I've taken quite a number of therapies and programs. I don't think I need any new techniques. What I need is a mindset shift." Deep inside we feel that we need a mindset shift. But what is that mindset shift?
It's a huge topic, but I want to shorten it up to just 3 things you can do. All that work is in your head. Just three things.
First, right now, visualise. Just close your eyes and see yourself being a public speaker.
That is a requirement. If you want to just speak and not think about stuttering you want to see yourself as a public speaker. And if you go thinking, "Oh, public speaker, the huge audience. But I don't have the audience! I don't have the stage!" Well, not true. Because these days you're just a click away from getting on stage and having an audience.
For example, you can join the Free From Stutter Facebook group. That is the audience, you just go live, and you're on stage. It can be a long presentation or it can be a very short introduction - just saying your name, wishing a good day to everyone. That is your public speaking experience.
And if you go thinking, "Yeah, but..." Go deeper into this "yeah, but..."
What is stopping you from doing that?
And if you go deeper, if you try doing that, you realize that this experience and doing that consistently - that is something that actually brings that mindset shift.
You see, the mindset shift doesn't happen when you're sitting on the couch watching videos. It happens only through action, and not just any action, but the action that feels like a big challenge. Getting on stage and speaking - that's one of the biggest challenges for us. That's the moment where you're exposing yourself, you're getting vulnerable, you're not hiding, you're not trying to escape.
That's the moment when you can learn to be truly present and to connect. And ironically, once you start doing that, you realise that maybe that's the easiest of all speaking interactions. Because in fact, you're in total control of what's going on at that moment. You choose, you decide, and you set the terms for how you speak at that moment.
This privately, secretly, escaping, hiding, avoiding, adapting, managing (call it whatever) - this is not working because when it comes to public speaking the keyword is not "speaking." The keyword is "public." You want to open up so that you feel truly that there is nothing to hide.
The second thing, I want you to visualise yourself being a leader.
You see, the default doesn't work for you. When you're just trying to say it regularly as everyone else - that gets you to stuttering. So if you want to speak on your terms, that means that you need to, you have to take the lead and not follow the default.
That's why I'm talking about the training speech. That is another requirement - the training speech that gives you the ability to feel that speaking can be relaxing. The training speech that gives your brain a certain alignment with the speech mechanism. The training speech that gives you a clear understanding of your speaking structure. When you're just trying to speak regularly and fluently, you're not taking the lead, you're following. You're following the broken system that you have right now.
So, using the training speech openly - opening up in this new capacity of a person who is working on its speech - that's extremely hard, and that requires you to be a leader.
Oftentimes, we think about stuttering treatment like, "I'm going to the speech therapist, and he or she is giving me some magic tools, some magic techniques." And when we realise that there is no magic technique, no magic tool, well, we kind of give up. It feels like nobody can treat me. Nobody can give me that treatment.
And yes, that's the key moment to realise that it's not about "IT," it's not about even the best training speech. It's about YOU. It's about you being able to open up and use that training speech to get on stage and be that public speaker.
The third element of your mindset shift is dreaming big.
Because you see, what's happening all the time - I'm absolutely sure it's happening for you, it's happening for everyone who stutters - we start adapting to stuttering. It's a very basic natural instinct to adapt and in general, as human beings, the better we adapt, the more successful we are.
But in our case with stuttering, ironically, the more you adapt to it, the less is your chance of bringing true, real change. If you feel like "Yeah, I've adapted somehow. And it's not perfect but that's okay..." Well, in this case, there's no need for any change. There's no need to become a public speaker. There is no need to take the lead.
You can simply adapt a bit better but if you think about your favorite movie or book, the reason why you're watching, the reason why you're drawn to it at that point is because there is a big conflict. And you watch, you want to know how this conflict is going to be resolved. By adapting you remove the conflict, there is no story, and there's no show to be watched.
So I want you to set your dreams and your goals high. To create that conflict. To see that where you're at right now is not matching what you want to achieve. And when you create that conflict, with this challenge, with this problem, you already start developing and producing the energy that's needed to solve this problem and to resolve this conflict. By putting yourself into this uncomfortable situation you start developing the determination, the commitment that is actually needed to become a public speaker and to taking that leadership role that you need if you want to speak on your terms.
And as I promised, I want to give you one practical exercise you can do right now to start developing the right mindset. It's called the "stutter hunt."
As the title goes, we're not escaping stuttering in this exercise because stuttering is your default state - in the default state you want to escape, you don't want to experience stuttering by all means. Here's just the opposite, we do want to find it, we're hunting for it, we want to experience stuttering, you want to actually explore stuttering and to feel, to sense that it's not that dangerous, it's not that "bad." You want to sense and explore and feel what is actually bad in stuttering.
So, the stutter hunt, four things I want you to do.
The first thing I want you to do is to find a video camera to record your video. It can be a laptop, tablet, phone - just anything.
Second, you start recording and you're playing with a phrase. It can be, "Excuse me, where is the restroom here?" or "Do you have a minute?" Just any phrase.
For example, "Excuse me..." You want to imagine that you're trying to say "excuse" and you get stuck on the first "e." I want you to be a bit of an actor, so I want you to play stuttering. And in this practice mode, it's pretty hard to feel "real" stuttering but we're trying. We're exploring that.
I want you to literally experience stuttering even though we're just playing with it. I want you to notice how your brain in fact is trying to bypass this first "e" and get to the second (stressed) syllable in "excuse." You're trying to get to the vowel sound in the stressed syllable but before that we have "e" and we're getting stuck on it.
I want you to notice how you're trying to get through this "e" and this getting through it when we can't creates tension and the more force we put the more tension we create and the harder it is to say.
So, instead of trying to "get though" it let's try to land to this first "e." Let's try to relax on it. Let's try to be present to it.
Do it engaging your body first. Then I want you to explore the hand stuttering technique. It's where you synchronize pronouncing the sound, relaxing on it and pressing with your finger on the thigh. You start with the thumb and get go on to the next fingers using one finger per syllable.
I'll give you the links down below to play and practice.
Third, you record yourself speaking.
Ideally, you talk without a script, without preparation, but you can prepare, put down a couple bullet-points you want to talk about.
The length of your speaking depends on how severe your stuttering is. Your goal is to find a stutter in your speaking. So you can plan a short introduction or a longer speaking on a topic.
And this stutter hunt! So, you're looking for "real" stuttering compared to the practice mode - where you played, we created stuttering. Here, you don't create it intentionally, you're just open for it, you're actively observing yourself without any judgement. Like a scientist running an experiment, you're trying to catch, to see where that "real" glitch is.
You're exploring where it is and once you've found it finally - here is the most important part. I want you to stay on that word, in that sound, in that part of the phrase a little bit longer. Repeat the sound that you had a glitch on, play with that sound.
The point of saying it again is not so much about saying it the "right way" and "not stutter," but rather to feel the difference between a glitch where you (or your brain if you would) are trying to get through the sound and then instead of getting through it you stay on the sound, you become present to the sound, you land to the sound.
Feel the difference in sounding. Feel the difference in your body. Feel the difference in your emotions.
You're trying to give your brain and your body this feeling that there's no rush. If you feel a bit of tension in your body - awesome! We want to remove that tension and relax on the sound. If you feel a bit of panic in your body like, "Oh, I cannot get through it!" Awesome! Instead, we're trying to feel that "I am here, but I'm not getting through it, I'm not rushing anywhere."
You're a scientist, you're running an experiment. You're exploring your stuttering. A glitch by itself is neutral, it's not "bad." The panic our brain generates, the tension our body generates - that's what we want to remove. But before removing it, you want to feel that you're looking for it, you're open for it, you're not afraid of it.
And finally, element number four of the stutter hunt, which is probably the hardest one - you're posting your video to the Free From Stutter Facebook group so that I could see it.
Even though it's a recording, it is a bit of a public speaking experience because you have the audience. You're exposing yourself in front of the audience.
Thank you so much for paying attention!
Let me know what you think! What is your best advice you would give to other people who stutter?
If you have any other thoughts or observations, or anything that comes to your mind - let me know in the comments!
See you soon!
If you are a person who stutters,
and you're not quite satisfied with how you feel at the moment of speaking interaction
I invite you to my free video training - 4 Steps To Freedom From Stuttering.
And for more interaction,
join the Free From Stutter Facebook group.
Please, don't stay isolated! It's crucial to feel you’re part of the community!