For all of you reading this that have a life history of stammering, you’ll have pondered this question many a time. Likely, many times a day and it’s the wrong question to ask.
What others think of you is secondary to what you think of yourself. You have to develop your own understanding of your uniqueness in how you speak, because that’s all it is; a different way of speaking, a unique way of speaking.
What others think of you is not about you. It’s actually about them.
When someone who has never been confronted by someone with a stammer speaks to them, the first thing that runs through their mind is what you think of them. Does this guy/girl think I’m judging them, am I showing them that I’m interested in what they’re saying? Or is my body language telling them to hurry up? They must think I’m a right ___ (fill in the blank)
Everyone has indifferences, but for a person that has a stammer, whether employed, unemployed, or even self-employed, you always have a job. That job is to help your listener understand you and put them at ease when they are listening to you.
The perfect environment is to sit down somewhere comfortable, where both of you can retain eye contact. When someone looks away from you as you stammer, it’s simply because they do not know how to react. They are uncomfortable, so it’s up to you to put that right.
You are your own worst critic and probably always have been, so this part will be a major turning point in your vocal life.
When you speak with someone and you stammer, causing him or her to look away, simply tell them not to do that. There’s no need to be embarrassed.
While you feel embarrassed by the stammer, your listener feels embarrassed by the lack of knowledge to know how to respond to the situation. The only thing they know to do is to take their eyes off you so you feel you don’t have to justify yourself.
Simply tell the person you’re speaking not to look away from you. It’s like telling a kid to look at you when you’re speaking to them, but sometimes it needs to be said. When it is, there’s a huge thing happens.
It’s called understanding!
When your listener understands that by them feeling embarrassed, and signalling that by moving their head away from you, they are making you feel uncomfortable. When you feel like that, you’ll stammer more and then some.
For you to communicate effectively your listener must understand you and understand what distracts you from speaking.
Confront the issue head on and simply state that you have a stammer, which put simply is a unique way of speaking. It’s not a disability, which is what most fluent speakers think it is. Explain to them that you can speak more clearly, when you know they are engaged with you; eye contact being one of the fundamentals.
Understanding leads to acceptance of individual differences
Any work environment you go into, or ever will in your life will have people from all walks of life. Some may be ethnic minorities, some may be people in wheelchairs, some will rely on walking aids, some with hearing aids, but they can all communicate efficiently. It’s because people understand them as individuals. They do not look at them and associate the indifferences. They respond to them as individuals and that’s the change that only you can bring about in your life.
Advertise your stammer.
Study your speech patterns, and get to know your triggers. When you know your own triggers, you’ll be equipped with knowledge about your own patterns of speech. What you’ll most likely notice is that when you speak in a comfortable environment, you’ll be more in control of your speech.
That’s why you’ll be able to speak with some degree of fluency around your family and friends, but whenever a new person joins your group, anxiousness creeps up, and you begin to stammer more. Anytime you come into contact and need to speak with someone for the first time, it’s up to you to take control of the situation.
For those who have never experienced stammering in their life before, they will be as nervous, or perhaps more than you are about speaking, because they won’t know what the right way to respond will be. That’s your job from the get go.
Give your listeners an understanding of your speech and let them know it’s a unique way of speaking you have.
It is a difficult thing to confront head on, but the instant you get it off your chest, you and your listener will be more comfortable speaking and listening, and that’s the level of understanding that helps create dialogue between you both.
The worst thing you can ever do is attempt to camouflage your speech indifference. Tackle the issue head on and confront your fears first, because that’s the only way to help your listener feel comfortable speaking with you.
Own your environment every time.