Practical tips 2006
Has something good happened to you, or have you gained something good from a bad experience? Tell other BSA members in Speaking Out:
Avoidance can work if you use it properly | Examine the basics, and start with breathing
Avoidance can work if you use it properly
A few years ago I wrote an article for Speaking Out about progress that I had made with my stammer over several decades. I recounted my attempts at finding a career that would not involve much speaking, but then finally grasped the nettle as a property negotiator. Beginning singing in public as a hobby helped my confidence and breath control, and finally the use of word substitution enabled me to enjoy some success as a lecturer.
At the time of writing that first article I thought that I was in control of my stammer in all circumstances except with my family and close friends, with whom I invariably stammer. I have never had any therapy or other help.
However, I have recently encountered some new problems in my fluency. Since retiring I now find myself sitting on various boards and other community positions. With the confidence of maturity, and using my breathing control and word substitution techniques, I very rarely stammer in those situations and, indeed, board colleagues do not believe that I am a stammerer.
The main two circumstances in which I am now having difficulty are as a Magistrate and as a Freemason.
As a JP of some years' standing I have been invited several times to train as a Chair of the Bench. I decline because I would not be able to use word substitution in my pronouncements and feel that the gravity of the bench would be undermined by any hesitation of speech. Some of the sneering "toe-rags" that we have to sentence would have a field day at the slightest stammer!
As a freemason, most of the business and ceremonial is carried out in such a manner that word substitution is rarely an option. In this case, however, as the lodge meetings take place in private and my fellow masons are very supportive, I am able to treat lodge work as another challenge to be accepted.
My experience is that a breathing technique that suits you, plus confidence about your speech (be it fluent or not) are the fundamental supports for a stammerer. On this note, I have no objection to being referred to as a stammerer, although I appreciate the argument here that one should look at the person rather than the condition. I consider 'person who stammers' to be a clumsy device. It is all about being comfortable with whatever term is used, rather than having 'correctness' imposed.
I hope that my writing this might help someone else.
Examine the basics, and start with breathing
I was listening to music about 10 years ago when the thought hit me: 'I don't block or stammer when I sing'. But I didn't understand why. When I began to block during a telephone conversation I became aware that my larynx or throat was closed and that I was not breathing. When I began to breathe again, the blocking stopped and I talked normally. This was very important.
From that day I began to concentrate, not on blocking or stammering, but on a continuous airflow from my chest to my throat and to my mouth. To my delight, my speech began to improve. However, the improvements did not come overnight. It took several months of really concentrating on the continuous airflow through my throat when I was speaking. After a year I had made a huge improvement in my speech and to this day rarely block or stammer. The knowledge I learned by observing my breathing changed my life.
I realised you will block and stammer if the airflow through your throat is interrupted or stopped. If you concentrate on the continuous airflow every time you speak, then your speech can only improve because you will be replacing a bad habit with the good habit of proper breathing.
The next time you block or stammer, try to become aware that at the time of blocking, you are either not breathing at all or interrupting you breathing.
A final thought: when you feel afraid of blocking or stammering, do not evade the thoughts but actually encourage the fear of stammering to come through. Say to the fear: 'do your worst', and eventually the fears will ease.
All this has greatly improved my speech and I hope it will improve yours.
Practical tips 2005
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