How To Form New Speech Habits To Overcome Stuttering

Have you heard the myth that it takes 21 days to form a new habit? In the self-help circles, it’s recited repeatedly but the truth is that for forming a new speech habit, it takes a whole lot longer.

If you’re ever tempted to subscribe to the fallacy that you can change your speech patterns in just a few weeks, then the person, company, organisation, or institution has it all wrong.

It all began in the 1950s and the man responsible for it was Dr. Maxwell Maltz, who it has to be said, did not actually start this rumour.

Dr. Maxwell Maltz:

Dr. Maxwell Maltz

He published a book about his thoughts in Psycho-Cybernetics, A New Way to Get More Living Out of Life. That copy went on to sell millions of copies and his original words got lost in the game of Chinese Whispers that followed.

The thoughts behind the book were that the good doctor had actually noticed many of his patients taking around 21 days to adapt to a change.

Have you heard about the phantom leg syndrome? If not, it’s when someone is required to have their leg amputated, and they continue to sense feelings in their leg, despite them having no leg there to experience any such sensations.

It’s a phantom sensation and it’s because the mind cannot adapt to change in an instant. Dr. Maltz noticed a pattern emerge that whenever a patient had to get used to something new, it would take them around 21 days. He never said 21 days! What he said was a minimum of 21 days; big difference.

If you set your sights on changing your speech patterns to overcome stuttering in a matter of a few weeks, you are going be in for a bitter disappointment.

Changing your speech pattern does require you to form new habits, but it does not mean that you have to put your life on hold, lock yourself away and recite word, after word, after word until you develop the habit of fluency.

That will do you no good as the habit has to work in real life; the times when you experience nervousness, anxiety, and frustrations.

Those are the battles that will set you back if you allow them to.

The fallacy of believing that in any time frame you can achieve fluency or cure a stutter is not a good path to tread. Commitment to fluency is a life changing decision and it will take you a great deal of time to get to grips with speaking without a stutter, and even at that, there will be times that it does slip through in your speech.

Your stutter is a part of you, so the sooner you accept it, the sooner you can begin to practice managing your speech, to eventually eradicate stuttering from your life.

Click here to read how I went about overcoming my own stutter.

Fluency doesn’t begin by practicing perfection.

Even the most proficient politicians will stutter at some point in their careers and they often don’t have any speech problems. It’s just the brain gets tripped up when you have to think and speak on the spot that every one of us is going to experience the occasional trip up, when they stumble over words, while our brain still thinks through the process of whether you’re using the right words and predict the ramifications of saying things wrong.

There is no perfectionism in speech, but there are certainly speech management solutions that help you push past the social anxieties that having a stutter can bring.

The better you can effectively lower your anxiety levels, the more proficient you will be with fluent speech.

Anxiety and stuttering can go hand in hand

Don’t strive for perfection or for fluency too soon. It’s a lifelong approach that takes time for you to develop a new habit and nothing that can be done in a few weeks.

Six months to a year, possibly longer is a realistic time line (if you need one), but always remember you are not in a race. The aim is to develop a coping strategy that allows you to manage your speech with a focus on positive mentality and that is something that will be impossible if you benchmark your efforts against the timeline of others.

We’re all individual, and we all have the power to develop new habits, making our lives easier, and helping us reach our biggest ambitions.

Whatever your aspirations are, reach for them, but do not impose a time limit. When you restrict your time, you set yourself up for bitter disappointment. Avoid that by just putting the effort into where it matters and change will happen.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at