If you stutter or stammer and if you're looking for fluency in your speaking - please bear with me.
I want to share with you why chasing fluency is a bad idea, and how to build a real long-term fluency. So, let's find out!
From the medical perspective, fluency is an obvious criterion of a healthy, normal speaking. But at the same time, you've probably already heard that fluency is a wrong goal for people who stutter.
Because fluency is just one of the qualities of your speaking, it doesn't represent your speaking, it doesn't say much about the speaking itself. Fluency if you wish is just a shade of your speaking, it's not the meat and bones, it's not the substance of your speaking.
So, each time we're trying to be fluent we kind of chase that shade. We're chasing pretty much nothing. We forget about the real stuff: what your speaking is consisting of, what it is made of, what's inside your speaking.
Imagine you want to say "Where do you live Mr. Dawson?"
Depending on the level of anxiety you might feel the difficulty right on "w" in "Where" or later on - on "d" in "do" or "l" in "live" or on "m" in "Mr." or on "d" in "Dawson." In any case, what we usually feel is the urge to go fluently as long as we can. Which usually means starting the phrase or trying to start the phrase as fast as we can (aka as "normal" as we can).
Let's say you got through with "where do you live" fluently but anticipate struggle with "m" or "d" in "Mr. Dawson." You might go fluently, but you still feel that it's a narrow escape. Your stuttering might be revealed in the next sentence or the next time you decide to raise your hand and ask.
So, you said it fluently but that fluency created the struggle on "m" or "d" in "Mr. Dawson." You can practice saying it many times and you can even say it fluently feeling it's a big win.
And yes, it is. But it doesn't change your speaking pattern. Your stuttering speaking pattern stays the same.
Instead of trying to get through it fluently we want to feel the inner structure of our speaking right from the first sound.
We want to feel how we launch the phrase creating abundant airflow for the whole phrase injecting relaxation, power, and expression in our speaking. You create a feeling of total control of your speaking piece, of your phrase and overall gradually over your speaking.
You're not chasing fluency in this case. You're restoring the right structure of your speaking which I call "the training speech" as opposed to our "normal" speaking mode. I'm preaching about the hand stuttering technique so that's the way to get to the training speech for me.
Maybe you're using some other stuttering techniques to get the same effect. If you do - please share in the comments!
The problem of the training speech is that of course, it doesn't sound, it doesn't look like regular "normal" speaking. And the natural reaction to the training speech is "I don't like that because that's not me. I want to be normal like that girl or like that guy."
The truth is you're not that guy or that girl.
We have stuttering which means that our automated speaking pattern is impaired. We can try to introduce different tricks and techniques but eventually, we don't change our speaking pattern this way.
So, you might not like the training speech, the other person you're talking to might not quite like it because you're taking your time, you're not rushing anywhere, you're not trying to satisfy anybody but... your body and mind - they do like the training speech.
By using the training speech you upload a new feeling of the total control and confidence in your muscle and emotional memory.
If fluency is not the goal, what should be the goal or goals of stuttering treatment?
I believe we need to focus on two things.
1) Acceptance & Self-Esteem
Our most common strategy when we face a speaking situation is to try to be normal (fluent) which means avoidance and hiding. Depending on the severity of your stuttering, but anyways it means some level of hiding and avoidance.
I'm not saying that covert stuttering is only a bad thing. But as long as you hide it, as long as you try to be normal (fluent) you will never be able to get to the training speech in the first place.
Because training speech means that you say to everyone "I do stutter and I'm trying to improve." So, the initial point of the stuttering treatment is acceptance.
I love this article about acceptance. The acceptance in the form of "I stutter and that's ok" and the acceptance in the form of "I stutter and I'm trying to improve and that's ok" are two different roads. I'm a big fan of the second road respecting the first one as well. Although the roads are very different they are stemming from the same root. The initial idea is pretty much the same, and it comes down to your self-esteem and how you feel about yourself.
The second goal is building the confidence with your training speech restoring the inner structure of your speaking injecting relaxation, power, and expression into it. Gaining an overall confidence that I am in control of my speaking launching the speaking piece and going with that confidence through the speaking piece. Launching the next one and the next one. Feeling that your speaking is not a chaos where you're trying to escape hard words and sounds but a structured way of saying what you feel and what you think.
And if you don't have anything to say you just think and just take your time.
Once we stop worrying and fearing about the fluency stuff, once we have that room of confidence, once we have that box of training speech where we can feel that confidence then we can think how we really want to say it. We can really connect with the other person on a deeper level.
We're gradually building a different feeling associated with the very act of speaking. Removing stuttering anxiety, stuttering fear, and anticipation of stuttering.
Chasing fluency, trying to get through your speaking fluently with your current speaking pattern trying to implement some tricks and techniques to your current speaking pattern I believe is a wrong goal. It reinforces your belief that there is nothing much you can do with your stuttering.
We want to focus on building a new speaking pattern. Not the shade of your speaking but the real inside of your speaking. Fluency will come, it will be there but first, we need to think about the inner structure of your speaking and the training speech.
And you can't even approach the training speech without first accepting that you stutter and that's okay. And that you have the right and the ability to improve and to change your speaking pattern. And that's okay too.
Once we try to hide our training speech, once we try to be "normal," once we try to be like "that guy" we instantly shift to our current stuttering speaking pattern.
Don't try to be fluent. Don't try to be "normal." Try to be YOU.
What do you think about fluency for stuttering? Are you chasing it? What is "acceptance" for you? Do you have your training speech? Please leave a comment, I'd love to know!