We want to speak more when other people are around. We want to ask them about their holidays, their family, and hobbies. Most of all, we want to be heard and share our gold nuggets of information. We want to be seen as peers. But people who stutter don’t speak their mind when they want to. It’s not because we don’t think it will benefit us people-wise and job-wise. Everybody knows that small talk is the way to a better lifestyle. The thing is that wanting to speak more – and fluently that is – builds tension. This tension is not beneficial because it’s made out of thoughts about all the things we can’t do or should do.
What if we could circumvent the tension and the thoughts? What if we actually could speak more even though we stutter?
Imagine a life where you could enjoy small free sentences and a coolness that made you feel great around other people. By letting our thoughts go we could enjoy chatting lightly with people at the café. We would go out more, we could buy that pizza and NOT the sandwich! We would ask for a raise and be happy about it. We would do more of the things we wanted to do.
By shifting the focus from ourselves to others, we can transform our anxious self-talk from, “I never know what to say” to, “What I can do is say hello and show interest in another person.” – source
I’m not saying that this is the Stuttering Cure™. I’m not even 100 % fluent. I’d say I’m 95 % and that is good enough for me. What I’m saying is what if we could recognize our thoughts at the time of the social encounter and circumvent them. We could let go of our thoughts and let them just be thoughts. We could see them for what they are. Just thoughts; not absolute truths.
Speak more – or how to let your thoughts become balloons
6 years after I decided to not let stuttering dictate my life and behavior I still explore this topic. Here are a few things that work for me, though I still have a lot to learn, I hope you will benefit from my journey so far and work on your skills to speak more.
- Recognize when you experience a negative feeling related to speaking. Your feelings arise from your thoughts and when you experience a negative feeling you have a desire to not go any further. Learn to recognize what lies behind your feelings. Learn to see your thoughts and say: “I feel anxiety. I will probably fail at speaking and embarrass myself.” Blow up this thought-balloon and watch it fly away in the wind. You can practice right here:
- Know that your thought is not a command. Your thoughts are just opportunities. They are neither truths nor commands. They are temporary and fly away like a balloon in the sky. It’s you who decide if you want to grab the balloon or just watch it, feel it, and let it fly away.
- Acknowledge that you did something. Non-action is also action. When you let your thoughts pass you are doing something. You may not be ready to speak all the time, but you have taken the first step to not let your temporary thoughts decide your actions.
- One step + one step. In this society of ours, we always want more. Bigger cars, bigger houses, and more fluency and more speaking. Sometimes we have to let our wants go, and be satisfied with our current position. We have to look at the road ahead and see a journey instead of all the things we don’t have yet. In time we’ll get there.
- Enjoy the small conversations. Most of the time people who stutter sometimes want the big conversations. They want to do endless monologues fluently. I know this because I have been there. What I didn’t know was that endless monologues equal perfection. None are perfect. None. I began to enjoy the small conversations like “Hi, how are you?“, the response, and another answer. It worked out very well. I gained confidence from small talk. Start where you are and enjoy what you can do instead of thinking of what you can’t do.
And finally, know that to speak more, you need to practice. This is an ongoing process. You can’t just let go of your thoughts from one day to another. It takes years. But the journey of 1000 miles starts with taking the first step. When you let go of your fearful thoughts of speaking and everything negatively related to stuttering in one session, then appreciate what you did, find satisfaction in the moment everything just clapped and know that if you can do it once, you can do it again, and again, and again. The fear of speaking will arise again. You will meet strangers that want something from you, you will have “bad” days, anxiety will creep in on you etc. What I mean is that this is not a do-it-once-and-you’re-free. It’s an ongoing process.
The allies of stuttering will keep returning, but when we develop the skills to deal with them, we develop our social skills, and little by little we are happier.