When you’re lumbered with a stutter, it’s inevitable that you’re going to feel isolated, trapped, and like there’s no way out. The reason for this is science. No scientist or medical researcher has ever discovered the reason why people stutter. They’ve tried, oh my, they have tried.
They’ve studied the brain, conducted research groups and run numerous brain scans in an effort to identify some type of brain hiccup that could possibly be contributing to a person’s stutter, all to no avail.
There’s no explanation for it.
Yet there are plenty of proclaimed solutions, from hypnotherapy, to Neurolinguistics Programming, Fluency Shaping Techniques and Stuttering Modification. Some work for some people, while others try with all their might and continue to battle their internal demon of trying to speak fluently.
Try with all your might and you will not be able to if you don’t understand what’s really happening.
Fixing your speech, or at least improving it is a type of self-improvement. Like everything anyone can do to improve oneself, reading isn’t one of the things that will help. You can read all the books under the sun, join community discussion boards, self-help forums, local support groups and many other strategies, but without acting on the information you learn about, you’ll never experience change.
Chances are, for adult stutterers anyway, whatever you’ve read, listened to, or maybe even tried that hasn’t worked out is influencing your own disfluency. Your self-image is super important when you’re working to improve anything about yourself. You need to strip away the negativity, believe it’s possible to change and then take the steps to bring about positive change.
It doesn’t happen instantaneously, but with time, you will become a better speaker.
Control your emotions and you’ll control your stutter
Self-improvement isn’t going to be easy. You need to begin with the knowledge that it’s going to be uncomfortable at times, but it’s nothing life threatening. Coping strategies are the best place to start because if you can’t control your anxiety levels, you’ll never control your speech.
Anxiety isn’t a cause of a stutter. It’s merely a symptom.
John Harrison, author of Redefining Stuttering, described the emotional relationship best when he laid out the Stuttering Hexagon, representing the emotional conflicts that are at work when people stutter.
The stuttering hexagon is described as the six following characteristics…
1. Your beliefs
This is like the feelings you may have about not being worthy of being listened to. That when you speak, people tune out. You believe that others believe you’re less intelligent because of your inability to speak fluently.
2. Your perceptions
The worst perception you will have is most definitely that people are judging you. The truth of the matter – you’re the only one making the irrational judgements of yourself.
3. Your emotions
Whenever you feel at ease, you’ll be able to let words flow from your mouth effortlessly. When you feel bad about your speech, you’re going to find it increasing your anxiety levels and subsequently contribute to increased stuttering behaviours.
4. Your physical behaviours
People can tell a lot about a person through just their body language alone. You’ll make judgements about others when they speak to you, not based on the words they use, but rather how they say it. Tone, hand gestures, pitch level etc. It all goes towards influencing perception.
When you speak with a stutter, pay attention to the physical behaviours you can feel happening, like your vocal chords tightening, throat becoming dry due to intense stress, and even the tightening of your lips or tensing of your jaw muscles. Acknowledge those feelings and you’ll be able to recognise the causes of your own stuttering behaviours. Everyone has different symptoms.
5. Your intentions
To be able to speak confidently, you need to circle back to your beliefs about what you say being of importance. Make it your intention to be heard and understood. The intention is one of the most problematic of the hexagon that Harris describes because there’s an internal conflict between wanting to speak to be heard and understood, and not wanting to speak for the fear of embarrassment. There are two emotions at work, both conflicting with each other. One emotion triggers your pain response, and the other pleasure. Your emotions need to be aligned toward the pleasure emotion. That’s difficult because when you speak with new people, you’ll likely feel the pain emotion surface because of past experiences that resulted in you feeling hurt, like being bullied at school, laughed at and the butt of most jokes.
6. Other physiological components
When you hit a stumbling block, there’s often accompanying physiological components at play such as your heart racing, and palms becoming sweaty.
The six factors described by John Harrison are of significance to those with a stutter, because if you have one, you’ll know very well that every one of those six factors will surface when you speak with other people.
When it comes to mastering speech with precision, there’s no quick fix because you can’t address all six factors with any singular exercise.
Instead, it’s recommended you start with just one thing from the stuttering hexagon and work on that. Like speak with a clear intention. Or acknowledge the physiological things that happen when you stutter. The most difficult of them all, you’ll likely find will be changing your beliefs.
However, only by changing your belief from one of hopelessness to one of anything’s possible, you’ll finally be able to improve how you speak, reduce the amount of stuttering that happens when you do speak, and progress closer to the ultimate goal of fluent speech. Don’t expect it to be quick or easy though. It’ll take time, it’ll be challenging, but most importantly, it’ll be life-changing when you begin to work on the smaller pieces of contributing factors causing you to stutter.
Narrow your focus to one thing at a time, rather than the complexity of trying to cure a stutter. It’s been around since the Biblical times and there’s still no medical cure because there’s no actual known cause. That’s because it’s psychological and not physiological. The problem is in your mind and nothing to do with the brain. That means you can make that change just by shifting your frame of mind.