If you're a person who stutters, but you can speak on your terms, all the struggle, tension, and stuttering anxiety go away. It's not quite stuttering as a condition any more.
The best part, by speaking on your terms you actually learn to make your own choices, do what you really think is right to do, you learn leadership skills if you would, you learn to live your life on your terms. Which is an amazing byproduct. This seemingly little speech improvement effort can bring a profound change into your life.
And it's much closer than you think.
So, how do you learn to speak on your terms if you're a person who stutters?
Let's find out.
Freedom from stuttering is when 1) you're not ashamed of stuttering, 2) you’re not afraid of speaking, and 3) you enjoy interaction. If something from this list is missing then something is off, and it means that there's something you can work on to elevate your speaking conference.
And here we start thinking about causes of stuttering, how it works, stuttering anxiety, etc. All those are great, we want to understand stuttering better, sure. But I don't want you to get distracted from one single thing that gets you straight to your freedom from stuttering. It's one skill that you can develop. What is it?
Speaking on your terms.
So, how do I learn that skill?
To answer this question, we first want to understand what it is. What does that mean for you? What comes to your mind?
For someone, maybe for you (I would say that for most people who stutter), speaking on your terms means speaking the way I want, fluently, normally, not stuttering. Yet, this perception and this trying to say it normally brings us back to stuttering. It's hard to get it. So, let's try to visualize it through this image.
A big distance between them. But notice what I'm trying to do. I'm trying (any maybe you don't quite observe that, but your body and brain are desperately trying) to be normally and regularly fluent. But what if I'm not? What if we're different?
What does all that mean?
Simply put, in a song and in poetry you usually have a strong repetitive external beat that is easy to catch and follow. In speaking, we have more complex rhythmical structure. For example, in a phrase "I think you're right" it might feel that "I think you're" are not stressed. They are kind of "empty." There's no external cue. In this case, we need to rely on our internal timing control which is impaired.
Truth is, we (people who stutter) are different. And when you try to spueeze yourself into the pressure of the moment... The harder you try to be normal, the more desperately you try to be normal (I'm normal!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) the greater the tension, stuttering anxiety, and stuttering you experience as a result.
So, speaking on your terms means taking up more space. Putting more substance to your speaking physically and creating more space for yourself emotionally.
To get a better feeling of what is means, let's do a couple exercises.
Let's start with humming on "M" and let's get to "MA." On "M" you're thinking, on "MA" you're making a point and connecting with the eye-contact. The same way, let's do that with some vowel sounds, "A-O-E-U" for example.
These are the exercises we do with my students for the warming up before speaking practice. Even though it's not speaking yet, you can feel what it means to take up space. It's giving yourself permission to think. It's giving yourself permission to take a pause. It's giving yourself permission to be expressive and assertive and to connect with another person by using your smile, your gestures, and your eye contact.
When it comes to speaking, creating space for yourself typically means using stuttering techniques. I've done quite some research and put together 17 major stuttering strategies or techniques, including the hand technique that I use.
So, one of the things that the hand technique for example does, it creates external cues when we press our fingers on the thigh. So I could say "I think you're right" with four fingers or with three fingers. In both cases putting a bit of a stress to the first syllable. A little more advanced training speech would go with just two stresses on "think" and "right." So it solves the problem of internal timing that we have. On top of that, it not only solves this problem of timing deficits, we can also attach relaxation to pressing fingers on the thigh. We can start feeling that speaking itself becomes the source of relaxation.
The goal of the hand technique is not to prevent stuttering or to control stuttering. The goal is to restore the inner rhythmical structure of your natural speaking.
So, when you start using it, you realize that speaking can be relaxing, effortless, assertive and expressive. But there's still one thing that stands in the way. And it's relevant with regards to any stuttering techniques. This is what stands in the way of creating space for yourself and for speaking on your terms:
Shame and conformity.
In the famous Solomon Asch experiment students had to choose the right answer. It was about the length of different lines. It was very easy and the rate of correct answers was very close to 100%. Almost like black and white. But when they had several other students in the room doing the same test and all other students were giving the wrong answer, the majority of participants of the experiment all of a sudden started giving the wrong answer as well. To be more exact, a whopping 74% of the participants conformed and chose the wrong answer at least once.
It shows the existence and the power of an invisible force of conformity.
As you don't see gravity, but you can tell that it exists because it acts upon objects and they fall to the ground, the same way we don't see the invisible force of conformity, but we can be sure that it's huge and it acts upon you every single day.
Conformity explains why we typically stutter less or don't stutter alone, and we stutter more in certain settings. We want to be normal more in these settings. And when we're alone there's no conformity at all. There's nobody and nothing to conform with.
But there were also 26% in that experiment who didn't conform. Who chose to confront the norm. Who said, "No, this is not black, this is white, don't you see!"
And typically to confront the norm, to go against everyone, to go against your desire to be like everyone else (regularly normally fluent in our case) we need to be very clear about what the right thing to do is. And we also need to feel that this right thing to do is worth doing and worth fighting for.
It's an interesting observation that when we choose to speak on our terms by using the training speech openly, we feel this shame and conformity acting upon us right from the first sound, even before we start speaking, because we enter this interaction already being different.
When we simply stutter trying to say it regularly normally fluently... well, we feel way less shame because we're trying to say it regular normally fluently! And maybe to some extent we succeed. Only to some extent we don't succeed, we still stutter, but at least we're trying, we try to say it regularly normally fluently. It's way less shame.
That's amazing because taking more space, speaking your terms becomes way harder and simply stuttering becomes a much much easier choice.
And the question is: "Is it shameful to work on your speech? Is it shameful to create space for yourself? Is it shameful to speak on your terms?"
I'm not saying that using the training speech is the only way. Some people, like Megan Washington, for example, say that stuttering techniques feel fake. 'It's not the real me!' That's also a choice, and it typically involves stuttering.
So, you want to be true to yourself. Actually, when you stutter, you also take up more space. You take up more time and attract more attention. It could be your choice to stutter with pride! But I also want you to ask yourself, 'What is the real "YOU?" What is it that you really want?'
If you're saying, 'I don't need any techniques! I just want to speak regularly! That's the real me!'
In 74% of cases, this might simply be conformity, shame, and fear.
You see, your urge to squeeze yourself into this "I'm trying to say it regularly normally fluently" is your default. But it doesn't have to be YOU. It can be you, if that's your real true choice, but you also can choose to create more space for yourself and speak on your terms.
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 training where I share my view on getting free 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!