3 Things People Who Stutter Want You to Know
Everyone wants to talk and express themselves but for some people, that’s a difficult and frustrating task when they stutter while speaking. Stuttering is a communication disorder in which speech is involuntarily broken with repetitions of sounds and syllables.
For some people stuttering never goes away; even with speech therapy, there may always be a susceptibility to stutter when talking.
The social weight of stuttering is largely misunderstood and associated with nervousness and/or a lack of intelligence but neither could be further from the truth. The social stigma surrounding stuttering can create barriers in communication with someone who stutters. Read on to discover three things that people who stutter want you to know before your next conversation with them.
Stop Giving Advice on How to Speak
People who stutter will tell you that the most frustrating thing you can do in a conversation is telling them how to speak. Specifically, being told to “slow down,” “breathe,” or “relax” doesn’t help or stop the person from stuttering. In fact, it stresses them out more which can exacerbate the stutter. This advice often comes off as condescending; as if the stutter could be stopped if only they’d follow your advice. In children, it can add to their anxiety and inhibit their ability to communicate.
Be a Patient Listener
Interruptions in the flow of conversation are a regular occurrence for people who stutter. As we have become more impatient communicators, we often focus more on how long the conversation is taking rather than what is being said. Impatience causes us to lose focus on the conversation, often lending us to be bad listeners.
Rather than eyeing the clock, maintain eye contact, be patient, and let the other person know that what they have to say is important. The only difference between a conversation with someone who stutters and someone who doesn’t is a person who stutters may need longer to get their thoughts out.
Don’t Talk for Me
When people stutter, it’s extremely common to have long pauses in speech or prolonged repetition of words, syllables, or sounds while the person works to find the right word or sound. It’s our impatience as well as our own awkwardness with silence that compels us to want to help the person speaking by interrupting or finishing their sentence for them.
We feel better because we think we’ve relieved them of a stressful task, but in reality, we’ve only made their task harder and possibly embarrassed them by assuming they needed our help in the first place. Our place in the conversation is to give them the space they need to say what they need to.
When we give in to the negative stigma of stuttering we take away the other person’s voice and their enthusiasm to communicate. We can become better communicators and therapists when we practice patience and learn to get comfortable with how those who stutter converse.