If you are a person who stutters you perfectly know that for people who stutter some situations like public speaking, an important or unexpected phone call and quite a number of other settings are way more stressful than other more casual situations.
In this blog post, we’ll cover what makes these situations so stressful. I'll give you practical tips on how to deal with such situations and most importantly I’ll share with you the most effective way to prepare for those situations so that they stop being stressful in the first place.
Is it actually possible to make them no longer stressful? Yes, it is possible!
Let's dive into it!
I created a poll in the Free From Stutter Facebook group recently asking about the hardest speaking situations and the top 3 answers were:
1) public speaking
2) a phone call
3) an unexpected question.
I can totally relate and you probably can relate too. What are your hardest speaking settings? Leave a comment below! I’d love to know!
The list of course is a long one. And it’s pretty much endless, so let’s start thinking together about these situations. What’s common for all of them?
We could see a few underlying features, themes or qualities behind those stressful settings.
1) Time pressure
You answer the phone and you hear this: “Good morning! This is Jessica Parker from Dr. Karen Williams’ office. I’d like to set the time for your upcoming visit. What’s the most convenient time for you tomorrow?”
We feel the urge and the need to comply with the “normal” pace, to respond the same way, to follow this pattern. At the same time we know that we can't, which causes tension.
2) Exposure & Spotlight
You’re saying a toast at a party. It’s your turn. Everyone is watching. You already anticipate those new people who don’t know you are going to look at you in this strange way surprised.
And maybe it’s not going to happen, but it wakes up all the shame and negative feelings about stuttering. You stutter. It’s awful! It’s so bad! This exposure to our internal judgment brings a lot of stress.
3) Long speaking
You get on stage, you’re delivering a public speaking or presentation. It seems long. And all this length brings a clear feeling that I can’t escape stuttering. No matter how hard I try I’ll get stuck along the way at some point.
The more you get stuck the more tension you gather and the harder it gets. It may get to the point where I literally block and just can’t do it. Yet, I have to continue. I can’t stop. Which causes a lot of additional stress.
4) Hard sounds
You’re making an introduction and you know that you’ll get stuck on your name. It starts with a hard sound and you can’t replace it. Hence, the additional stress of something I don’t want but I can’t escape.
Sometimes it’s a combination of these elements. For example, an exam. It’s long, it’s exposure, it’s time pressure - all at the same time.
Hard situations reduce our life space, our freedom and squeeze us to the box, to the shell. We feel locked up in that prison. And this shrinkage can be endless. Today this situation became hard, tomorrow another situation becomes hard.
That’s the core of stuttering. Avoiding, hiding, escaping. Not the speech impediments themselves. That’s what we really want to change. We want to feel free to do whatever we put our minds to. We want to feel free.
And hard situations are the key to your freedom. If you learn how to deal with hard situations you learn how to deal with stuttering.
Have you ever thought about a stuttering cure? This is it - learn how to deal with the hard situations!
I’m absolutely serious.
Imagine you don’t have any hard speaking situations. I mean you don’t avoid them, you feel great about them! You’re excited about them! You want to have more of those! This is true freedom. I would say that it’s way better than any cure!
Let’s see what we can do about hard situations.
We want to start with awareness, we want to see where we are at, we want to see those elements we talked about - that already can help a lot.
1) Time pressure - we want to acknowledge that we don’t have to match that “normal” pace.
2) Exposure - we want to see that stuttering is not bad.
Here we want to practice and master disclosure. Active positive disclosure, feeling good about yourself.
3) Long speaking and hard sounds - we want to start thinking about the structure. How can we bring security and joy to the very structure of our speaking?
Our regular structure - we go as fluently as we can as long as we can. Our brain uses all sorts of tricks to put some short phrases, short words that we can easily say, even filler words - we still said them fluently and it’s escaping, it’s fear, it’s panic, it’s tension.
Doing all those practices and exercises is a beautiful start, but honestly, we still stay at square one.
Because we still stay reactive.
I oftentimes see people in the stuttering support groups giving each other tips. Try this or try that. Try this for what? What for? To escape stuttering better. You can call it to “manage” stuttering better. You can call it to “deal with” stuttering better. No matter how you call it you stay reactive. We want to protect ourselves better. We’re still staying in the shell.
Exactly the same tips, exactly the same tools can “not work” and work like magic depending on your internal state.
And in this reactive mood, in this approach, in this state there’s no way to bring real change. Even the best tools “won’t work.”
This is a background underlying automated state of stuttering. Reactive state. Hiding and escaping state. Alert. Anxiety. Tension. Uncertainty.
That state - that’s what we want to change.
So learning some tools is the first step out of 100 steps that you need to take. What are the other 99 steps?
One and the only thing. That’s the best thing to prepare for any hard situation.
That’s the only metric that you want to measure.
That’s the real measure of your progress.
What is it? I talk about it over and over again in my videos.
In our case, creating hard speaking situations. Gradually exposing yourself to those hard speaking situations.
Like for example in the Free From Stutter Program, we create phone calls right in the video sessions, we create public speaking environment by going live in the Free From Stutter Facebook group, we go to the store asking for a particular item while being in the video session recording it to our files.
Those situations don’t feel like an exam anymore, they feel like an exercise.
You gradually get into the habit of performing and creating. And this habit gradually builds a totally new state of being open, active, and positive about speaking interaction. The state of freedom.
I don’t suggest that you rush creating hard speaking situations. What usually happens is we start enthusiastically but once we get to more stuttering we don’t like the experience at all. It’s like putting yourself into the cold shower right away. It’s shocking. It’s not something we want to do again.
Instead, we can expose ourselves to cold gradually in a smart way. Enjoying each step of the way. Not desensitizing ourselves to bad feelings, but feeling the good in our sensations.
I believe it’s false thinking when we say to ourselves that “everything is fine with me, it’s just… it’s just.. something we can’t explain.”
Even if this is something we can’t explain, it still exists. If everything was fine with me I wouldn’t stutter. There is a lack of alignment between our brain and speech mechanism. That’s the predisposition that we have.
So to bring that alignment we need some tools. And the hand stuttering technique is the most efficient and elegant way to bring that alignment that I’ve seen. I used it myself, I use it myself to this day, and I teach it to my students.
It’s the way to bring relaxation, effortless power, continuous airflow, and expression to our speaking. I have lots of free resources where you can see how it looks and feels and how it works. "Relaxation for stuttering" is a great one - check it out.
What tools do you use to create speaking situations? What situations do you find the hardest ones for you? How do you prepare yourself for such situations?
Leave a comment! I'd love to know!
Thank you so much for tuning in!
See you soon!