How to Talk With a Person Who Stutters
If you're feeling uncomfortable when talking to a person who stutters, imagine the feelings of the person stuttering if you're conveying frustration or worse. An estimated 68 million people in the world stutter, mostly children, with around one percent of stutterers being adults. Overall, only one percent out of all the people in the world stutter.Stuttering can cause people to shy away from social interaction and this leads to feelings of loneliness and a sense of not wanting to get involved in any activities where they'll be required to speak. It's important to help stutterers feel safe about expressing themselves and to be listened to with as much interest as any other person. Here are some ways to help you talk with someone who has a stutter.
Understand stuttering.Stuttering is a speech or communication disorder. Speech is disrupted at various points, such as the start, the middle, or at various intervals during the conversation. It can also be accompanied by facial movements such as trembling lips or jaws, rapid eye blinking, or other facial movements as part of trying to speak.Stuttering has possible developmental, genetic, and neurological causes, although the precise mechanisms behind stuttering are not yet understood.
- Some situations can worsen or set off stuttering, such as being in public, speaking in front of people, talking on the telephone, etc.
Talk to the stuttering person normally.Unless they have a hearing problem, there is no need to raise your voice or slow down your own speech.
- Use normal eye contact. There is no need to stare concertedly (be careful if this is what you're doing when you concentrate!), or to avoid their gaze.
- Don't be embarrassed. If you're not used to talking with somebody who stutters, it might be a surprise the first time. But the embarrassment for you is short-lived; consider the reality that the stutterer has to endure such reactions regularly. Realize that your facial expressions will betray your surprise and embarrassment; if you feel this has occurred, simply apologize briefly and ask them to continue talking.
- Don't assume a stutterer is shy, nervous, or disabled. Their mental abilities are still in top form!And don't be super unnaturally nice; just be your usual self around them.
- Relax! The more relaxed and undisturbed you come across, the more likely the person stuttering will relax in your presence and feel less anxious.
Listen with attentiveness.Focus on the content, not the delivery. Ensure that your body language reflects your listening interest. Don't turn to the side, cross your arms, or fidget with fluff on your clothing.
- Use active listening techniques, in which the stutterer is actively encouraged to keep talking by your genuine interest and lack of judgment. It's interesting that some stutterers are able to talk to pets without stuttering;it may well be that the pets' inability to judge underlies this!
Be patient.If you're used to rushing through conversations, or you're not well versed in listening skills generally, it can be tempting to try to rush a stutterer to finish what he or she is saying. However, not only is this impolite but it will increase the person who stutters' impression that people are unwilling to listen or simply want to "take the words right out of their mouths".
- Don't interrupt or discard what they're trying to say. Let them finish before having your turn.
- Resist the desire to suggest that the stutterer to slow down or relax. This can increase the anxiety of the situation and is also demeaning. If you think that being calm and relaxed would help, be so yourself and this will set the tone for the rest of the conversation.
- Don't try to finish their sentences or fill in words for them. It can be tempting but it's a sign of impatience and the stutterer knows what he or she wants to say, it just takes longer to get there. It's also a dangerous assumption to make; while you might think you know where they're headed, you don't necessarily know that, and it could give the impression that all you want to do is rush off.
Speak up if you didn't understand what was said.Feeling shy or uncertain won't improve the communication flow. Try to press past your feelings of discomfort to explain that you didn't understand something. Your openness will be appreciated.
- Be at ease asking about the subject of stuttering. Provided you raise it politely and with a genuine interest in understanding, most stutterers will be happy to answer your questions about stuttering.It can be a good chance for the stutterer to talk openly about their experience.
Speak to a stuttering child in a supportive way.Given that the majority of those suffering from stuttering are children, it is important to talk to children with the same care and attentiveness you'd grant a teen or adult, to help them realize that they are loved and cherished.
- Don't hurry a child's talking. Set aside times when you're free to just sit and listen to what your child has to say. As mentioned earlier, avoid completing your child's thoughts.
- Avoid criticizing stuttering, or making it into something negative. The more supportive the home environment, the more the child will find his or her own space to develop confidence and focus on all aspects of development, not just speech.
- If you're concerned about the reaction of other adults to your child's speech, speak to them away from the child. Let them know that it's important to relax and not to insist that the child "overcome" this impediment.
- Be honest with your child about the topic of stuttering. Discuss the facts and make it known that you love your child the way he or she is.
Be encouraging.If you have a friend, sibling, or someone else you care about who stutters, try to be their rock when it comes to speaking publicly. Help them to feel at ease about speaking in public. Things you can do include taking them along to public speaking events designed to help stutterers, and even encourage and be there for them when they speak at school or other functions.
QuestionI have met someone on a dating site and we have been texting; we exchanged numbers to arrange a date, but he has a stutter, and I'm not sure how to deal with it. What can I do?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerMy father is a stutterer; he and my mother have been married for 65 years. The stuttering didn't bother my mother when they were dating, because my father is of great character and was very handsome. Perhaps as he gets to know you better, his stuttering will decrease (but not disappear), or you will grow accustomed to it.Thanks!
QuestionHow can I, as a stuttering person, tell people that it is rude to finish my words when I am stuttering without sounding rude?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerJust tell them directly; people just don't understand the dynamics of stuttering and think you need help. You can say, "Can you please be patient and let me finish my words myself?"Thanks!
QuestionI accidentally laughed when my friend stuttered. How do I apologize?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerAs someone who stutters, I know how insulting laughter can be. The best thing to do is bring it up, explain why you thought it was funny, admit that it was rude of you to laugh, and promise never to do it again.Thanks!
- If you are called by someone who stutters, don't be surprised if he or she doesn't speak initially but lets out sounds such as gasping, or breathing, rather than words. Just let them know you're listening and wait for them to start speaking.
- Many children who suffer from stuttering problems overcome the stuttering by adulthood. Boys are three times more likely to stutter than girls.
- Famous stutterers in history include Winston Churchill, Marilyn Monroe, Jimmy Stewart, Bruce Willis, Carly Simon, etc.
- Stuttering children are often the target of bullying; stand up for them! Tell school authorities what is happening and request that action be taken immediately to protect any victim of bullying. Give your child assertive strategies to respond to a bully.
- Stuttering is also referred to as "stammering" or "not fluent speech".
- Don't rush a person who stutters. It makes them more frustrated and will only make them stutter more. Encourage them to slow down when speaking and try to help them find the words they are trying to say.
- Resist the desire to make a child repeat stuttered words over and over.This is not productive and will create tension and unhappiness.
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