I believe that getting free from stuttering at the end of the day comes down to creating new positive speaking experiences.
And just to make it clear when you're just pronouncing sounds doing your exercises this is not quite speaking! When you face another person that is speaking. Speaking is interaction with the speaking environment. When you're sitting with yourself you're interacting with yourself, not with the speaking environment.
But how in the world can I create positive speaking experiences if I stutter? Big question. Let's find out.
I remember myself 14 years ago in the speech therapy doing speaking exercises, feeling great, gaining new experiences and at some point, the therapist says, "Okay, tomorrow we're going outside to ask strangers directions."
I felt like, "No way, not me, that's not happening to me!"
I had this feeling that I am ready to do the exercises a hundred times, a thousand times. I can work hard, I'm ready to work hard but I'm not ready to go for those speaking experiences. And you see I think I'm very good at logic. But our logic somehow works that we believe that by doing exercises we can change our speaking without actual real-life speaking.
And that's natural because if we remember the stuttering iceberg the very core of the stuttering iceberg contains stuttering fear and avoidance behaviors. We don't want to speak. Actually, our stuttering doesn't want to speak. Stuttering doesn't let us get to that point where we speak. We become masters of avoidance and so we learn to avoid speaking but at the same time we want to change, we want to improve so we start that improvement journey with the idea of doing what it takes but not speaking actually.
So this happened to me, please let me know in the comments does this happen to you? Do you feel that this is the case for you as well?
Let's talk about how do we create positive speaking experiences.
It's pretty clear about the negative speaking experiences. When someone comes to you and says, "Hey buddy, who's that girl?" And you know that this is Kate Jefferson, Bill's girlfriend, and you want to say it but you feel you can't so you decide to avoid saying it to replace it by saying "I don't know" instead. And while saying "I don't know" you still get stuck.
You are avoiding the speaking contact and you still struggle with your speech impediment. Definitely a negative speaking experience.
Now, let's take the next example. The same guy is coming to you and says, "Hey buddy, who's that girl?" And you know that this is Kate Jefferson, Bill's girlfriend, and you want to say that but then you feel that there are too many words, you can block so you decide to say "I don't know" and you manage to say it, you say it fluently, you don't get stuck, you don't stutter.
In this case, the avoidance behavior - yes, hiding it - yes, stuttering fear - yes. So the core of the stuttering iceberg is negative. In terms of speech impediments, it was kind of positive but I wouldn't call it a positive speaking experience because stuttering was there. You just escaped your block, but you didn't escape the stuttering. The stuttering was there in your answer, in your avoidance and stuttering fear.
The definite positive speaking experiences are also pretty clear. When the guy is coming to you and asks, "Who's that girl, buddy?" And you say, "Oh, this is Kate Jefferson, Bill's girlfriend." And he says, "Oh yeah, thank you!"
You're not avoiding anything, you're not hiding, you're not running away, you're saying what you want to say and you say it without any issues, without any speech impediments. Positive - positive.
How do we get to those positive speaking experiences?
I'm a big fan of moving step by step. So we start with a seed of confidence. Meditation, speaking exercises, breathing exercises, singing, etc. We do something at home.
I always preach about the hand stuttering technique. We play with some phrases at home first. It's not yet speaking, we don't play with emotions, so first we gain the confidence on the physical level, that I can say it in a relaxing, powerful and expressive way. So we put a seed of confidence there.
The next step we get on a video call where we play with some phrases and start to speak using the hand technique. It kind of a comfort zone but there we have certain emotions, a certain level of anxiety, so we start creating real positive speaking experiences.
Then we make it a bit harder. We role-play different situations like you are calling a bookstore, you're coming to the supermarket, you are asking a stranger. It's still a video call, it's still the comfort of the classroom but that's the next level of anxiety.
Then we get to the point where we get confident enough to make your real-life phone call. So we want to transfer our confidence further to real life. We also do different kinds of activities with a higher level of anxiety. For example, speaking live in Free From Stutter Facebook group emulating the feeling of public speaking. So we create different types of speaking experiences with pretty much anxiety.
Now, the most important thing.
Along the way, it happens all the time. We try to create speaking experiences - it might be getting on a video call, it might be having a new person in the video call, it might be a role-play in the video call, it might be going for a real-life phone call or going live emulating public speaking - in each of those cases it will definitely happen.
We are creating a speaking situation, we are positive in terms of facing our stuttering fear, we're not avoiding it, we're going for it but we might be not that good at our speaking, we might get stuck, we might feel some difficulty, we might have a speech impediment.
In terms of the core of the stuttering iceberg, we're positive, everything is great but there is still something negative about the very speech impediments.
And this is the most important point. How do you feel about these experiences? Are they positive speaking experiences or negative speaking experiences?
Please leave a comment, I'd love to know!