I have received several emails from people looking for quick tips on how to eliminate stuttering. I try to answer each and every email with as much helpful advice as I can give, but I know that I have disappointed the writer when I reply that changing speech from stuttered to fluent involves more than taking a deep breath, speaking slowly or trying to relax in one way or another. People have been trying to do these things for many hundreds of years. They don’t work. Occasionally, at best, techniques such as these can act as a catalyst that starts the person on a process of change. The problem is that in the vast majority of cases, these techniques become the focus of attention and as such, they are not helpful. In fact, they may even cause more frustration, added physical tension, and increase the person’s difficulty in speaking.
We know that speaking is meant to be an automatic and subconscious activity. Nevertheless, people tend to look for some way to control their speech. You can’t learn how to do an automatic activity by trying to find ways to control it. You can’t dance flowingly to the music while you are thinking about how to move your feet; you can’t speak with flowing thoughts while you are thinking how to say the words, take breath, or formulate your language.
The concept that speaking will improve by way of speech controls that are sometime called “speech tools” is deeply ingrained in the human psyche. Even as my clients are experiencing the natural and automatic way of speaking, I see that some of them still want to find a trick to control what they did so automatically.
In answer to all of you who are looking for that elusive fluency trick, I’m going to give you a tip. Take the first step toward speaking fluently. Do as the National Stuttering Association suggests in the title of their newsletter, “Letting Go”. Let go….of your speech controls. Stop looking for a magic trick. Accept that stuttering is not a speech problem. Stuttering is symptom of a malfunctioning system for speaking. Then take step 2: on your own or with the help of a knowledgeable clinician, explore what you can do to get it your system to work in the natural automatic way that it’s meant to work.