Every now and then people tell me about their stutter and finish by asking "help me please!" So I decided to make a comprehensive post and video providing such help.
And I want to cover only three practical things. First, the core of the stuttering iceberg. What is it and how do we deal with it? Second, speaking exercises and techniques. And third, our speaking pattern. What we need to do to bring real change to our speaking pattern.
So, let's get started!
When I was in my speech therapy back in the day, one of the assignments was the following. You approach a stranger of strangers and you ask them a couple questions about stuttering using the training speech and the hand technique. Before asking the questions, you tell them that you go through a speech therapy for stuttering, that you're using the training speech and that you're doing it as an assignment.
I wonder what you think about such an exercise. Would you do such an assignment? How do you feel about doing it?
Nowadays, I help people who stutter inside the Free From Stutter Program, so I decided to encourage the participants of the program and did that assignment myself. And I found it as hard as it was back in the day.
I mean "hard" not in terms of speaking because when you're using the training speech, well, you don't stutter. The problem is to disclose the fact that you stutter, that you're going through speech therapy, and that you're using some weird training speech.
The point why I'm telling the story is that the core of the stuttering iceberg: our stuttering fear, avoidance behaviors, desire to hide it - they all rest on something very deep and that is the underlying shame. Shame, guilt, embarrassment - call it whatever but that's the overall negative feeling we have associated with stuttering.
So, the first thing is not the speech impediments. It's great when we target the speech impediments but it's like cutting the leaves of the tree. The tree itself, the trunk, the body, the roots - they all stay the same. So we want to target the very core of the stuttering iceberg.
Avoidance, stuttering fear, stuttering anxiety, desire to hide it, which all rest on our underlying stuttering shame.
Now, what do we do with the stuttering shame? With this negative feeling, with this negativity about our stuttering?
I'm not going to say that stuttering is cool or be positive about it. I mean it's great to be positive about your stuttering but you don't have to. The National Stuttering Association conferences are a great place to find and meet awesome people who stutter. However, it really doesn't matter whether you think stuttering is cool or not, the only thing which really matters is that stuttering should not hold you back in your life.
And I want to give you three practical tips on how to boost your self-esteem. Because stuttering shame goes hand in hand with lower self-esteem. We start comparing ourselves with others, we start feeling negative, we start feeling that underlying shame.
We want to bring our focus from that shame to different criteria related to our self-esteem.
1) Wish good to other people. People sense that which creates the best emotional connection.
2) Be good at something. Focus on your passion. Doing something well brings a lot of self-confidence and boosts our self-esteem.
If you go thinking, "Yeah, but I don't have a passion. I don't have a skill that I want to develop. I really don't know what I want to do with my life."
Well, that's a separate topic. The short answer - I would recommend getting up at 5:00 a.m. (or let's say 5:30 which I like better :)) You'll have this free time before the day starts, and you'll need to do something. You'll do something that you like. Which is a good indication of your true passion or passions.
I recommend a couple resources that can help you actually do it:
3) Face your fears. It's a very complicated feeling. You feel the satisfaction of the fact that you faced your fear and did it. But you feel the negativity and embarrassment because you were not able to say it the way you wanted to say it.
I'm always telling myself, "Yes, I did it awkwardly, maybe someone was laughing, maybe someone made fun of me, but I did what I wanted to do. I did what I felt was right to do."
This way you build a different scale of values, a new scale of how you assess that experience. How you feel about that experience. You redefine the rules of the game by introducing different rules.
We bring focus from the shame to the things that elevate our self-esteem. Because again the core of the stuttering iceberg is avoidance. It's not only the physical avoidance: avoidance of certain words, sounds, speaking interactions. It's a broader avoidance. So we don't want let stuttering, that avoidance dominate. We don't want it to be there. By facing the fear of speaking we interfere into the land of stuttering, conquer it, overcome it this way.
As an example let's just take a couple people.
Nick Vujicic. No arms, no legs. With the passion for public speaking. Helping millions of people find hope and meaning.
Alvin Law. Without arms but with the passion for music.
And I can come up with more examples and more examples. The point is very simple. Start living now.
And again, I'm a big fan of speaking exercises, training speech, eliminating speech impediments, but believe me, only the exercises are just cutting the leaves. We want to get to the very core. Without working on your self-esteem, without working with your underlying stuttering shame, without working with avoidance behaviors, without working with the desire to hide it and be normal all the speaking exercises and techniques just don't work.
Because speaking is an interaction with the speaking environment, with the person, with the audience, with somebody. It's always an interaction. And in this interaction, the central piece is that self-esteem or stuttering shame, avoidance behaviors, desire to hide it, stuttering fear or your dedication to do it if you feel it's right to do.
So your attitude is your main asset. Not your arms and legs, not the looks. Not your voice but what you do with your voice.
Let's talk about speaking exercises and techniques for stuttering.
Let's take prolongation. One of the most common stuttering techniques. It can be monotonous and robotic which doesn't sound nice. Or we can make stressed only "I" and "see" putting there power and a bit of relaxation. Just putting there more substance.
That's what I call "restoring the inner structure of our speaking." Because our regular "normal" speaking tends to be very flat and choppy. So we do want to put something more there to take control over the airflow. We want to create that airflow for the whole phrase.
We also play with the phrase "Give me a bottle of water please" in the video trying to say it in one breathing out. And singing is a great exercise to develop our speaking mechanism, to develop the voice, to develop the ability to say something in one breathing out.
And I'm a big fan of using the hand stuttering technique where we use fingers to synchronize all the speaking processes. Hand takes the role of the orchestra conductor leading our speaking and giving a very physical support to our speaking.
Only the speaking exercises, only the stuttering techniques are not enough. We want to feel that we use the training speech most of the time. And that it blends together with your natural way of speaking. It organically matches your natural way of speaking.
Otherwise, you won't use the training speech. And if you don't use it, if go thinking "I'll have this trick, I'll have this technique for the moment when I feel the anxiety, when I feel the tension, for my presentation, for my introduction, for that situation..." it won't work for sure.
You can practice an hour or two at home and then that moment comes and you say it the way you say it all the time. You stammer. You get stuck.
The only way to bring real change to your speaking pattern is to use your training speech most of the time.
If you're willing to build your training speech and use your training speech this way you create a new muscle memory, a new emotional memory. And our speaking pattern all comes down to that automated memory.
So, if you're ready to use the training speech most of the time, if you're ready to upload positive muscle and emotional memory then it brings real change to your speaking pattern and it brings real change to how you feel about your speaking.
Which takes us right back to the first point - your self-esteem. Because the training speech means putting a bit more into your speaking. Which means being a bit different from the way you speak right now. Which means disclosing that you stutter and that you do something about your stutter.
We're coming back to that assignment we talked about at the very beginning of this video. What do you think about it? Please leave a comment - I'd love to know!