Having a stammer is definitely no fun. It may appear to be the case for fluent speakers in their immature years, but be warned, those impressions created in your younger years, are the reason you’re still struggling with a stammer in adulthood.
You see, when you first meet someone – anyone – be it for a job interview, to pay your bus fare, or order in a restaurant, perceptions happen in your mind; four perceptions to be precise:
1. You begin to think about what the other person is seeing when they look at you
2. You make a judgement call about the other person
3. You think about how you see yourself
4. You consider what the other person thinks about you
Only one of those matters though and that’s the first impression you create to influence the perception of the other person. Control that and you’re in complete control of the conversation.
Take for example someone you perceive to be threatening. They’re coming off as aggressive, anti-social and not someone you want to be associated with. The second, third and fourth images don’t matter because you’re not interested in talking with the person. You’d much rather part ways.
Consider though, you meet someone you actually do want to talk to. You go through the same motions. First is, do I look okay? What will they think of my attire? Is my hair okay? It’s the anxiety stage everyone goes through when they want to make a positive impression. You go in for the opener to the conversation, and whatever response you receive, you make a judgement call. Is the person positive, negative, do you want to converse further or make a bee line for the exit?
If things go well, and the conversation feels right, next you move onto thinking about your own self-image. How do you think they are they seeing the person standing talking to them? And finally, what do they think about you?
Of course, none of those fantasy images created in your mind will you come right and ask. That’d be considered crazy to ask some stranger you’ve only just met what they think about you. They’d think weird? It’s just not something that’s done aloud. It’s all done at a subconscious level.
Influencing your subconscious mind are all your past experiences. If you meet a person resembling someone who hurt you in the past, you’ll feel a gut instinct not to trust the person. You’ll be on edge and unlikely to feel at ease speaking with them. On the other hand, if you meet someone who perhaps resembles a close and trusted family member, or maybe one of your early year’s teachers that you liked, you’ll feel at ease speaking with them.
It’s your early experiences that influence what images are created and perceived in your adult years. This is what creates fear, which is as you’ll likely know – makes it harder to speak without stammering when it surfaces.
The truth about fear is that it can be put down. Two letters do the trick…
Those two letters are what you consistently need to tell yourself every time you speak. It’s OK. That’s it. There’s nothing to fear, you’re an adult; no one is going to point the finger, make you a laughingstock and have a group of people circling around you, causing others to avoid you for fear of ridicule through association. Those are experiences some kids face in their early years, when peers are immature and know no better. It’s part of the learning process of differentiating between right and wrong. For those with a stammer from childhood, you’ll have learned the difference the hard way, and now going through adulthood looking to avoid any situation that could cause others to ridicule you. Even though you know it’s unrealistic to think it’ll happen when you’re perhaps 35-years old, it’s the association of past experiences that form the impressions we make in certain situations.
The only way to control perceptions is to control your self-image. When you have a positive image of yourself and believe yourself worthy of holding a conversation, you’ll be able to do just that. People will listen to you, no matter if you stammer here and there or not. It’s only the emotion of fear that’s crippling. Not the stammer. That’s nothing more than a discomfort.
Push through the discomfort, begin to let go and start enjoying speaking. There will be times when you can speak openly without any blockages, like maybe taking long walks through the woods with your dog, yacking all the way around the trail. Or it might be yourself you talk to. Or maybe a close friend, wife, husband, or civil partner.
There will be people in your life that you’re comfortable around and can speak to with ease, perhaps near fluency, and others where you can’t help but trip up. When you find yourself blocked on any word,… pause, and remind yourself of the two letters – OK – take a breath and proceed with what you were saying.
To take control of your linguistics, controlling your emotions is paramount. The more in control of your emotions you are, the less you’re likely to stammer.
A stammer isn’t really a disorder of any type. It’s simply a communication problem. Mostly, habitual behaviour learned and practiced routinely without correction from a young age that’s gone untreated and carried on into adulthood. You will know what you want to say, yet have difficulty saying it aloud. It’s fear that does it. That’s why breathing exercises can work wonders at helping someone speak better.
The more you can control your fear levels, the more in control of your speech you will be. A good way to practice reaching a level of fluency where you can be understood better is by joining with others like yourself, battling the same battle you are.
Connect with others, share your experiences, listen to others and above all, don’t try to conceal the fact you stammer. It’s something affecting millions around the world and it’s most certainly nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, shame is another of the emotions that can trigger feelings of guilt, therefore, further increasing your stress levels contributing to an even higher degree of stammering.
Take your time, learn to use strategic pauses when you are speaking and get yourself out of your comfort zone to practice new techniques to find a way that helps you control your stammer better than you may be now.
Develop the habit of telling yourself it’s perfectly OK to stammer. The more comfortable you are with yourself and your own self-image, the less of a threat your stammer will be.