Through City Lit courses and a public speaking group, Tony Weiss turned round his thinking so that he no longer tries to avoid stammering – and finds his speech is more fluent.
As little as 5 years ago, I would most definitely not have volunteered to speak in front of any group (no matter how big or small). In fact I always tried my hardest to avoid any kind of speaking situation unless it was to close friends or family.
On the occasions that I had to speak I would always concentrate on trying hard not to stammer, and this always made me stammer more. It was like pushing against a wall - the harder you push, the harder the wall will push back. Or if you say to someone, don’t think of a pink elephant, they will instantly think of one.
I would always concentrate on trying not to stammer, and this made me stammer more
Indeed my first memory of stammering was when I was 5 years old and the teacher called the register. With my surname beginning with W, I was inevitably the last one to be called and I just hated it. It seemed to blow my mind having to wait for everyone else to be called. The longer I had to wait the more I hated it and the more my heart would race and I would sweat profusely, knowing that when it did come to my turn I wouldn’t be able to say “Yes Miss”, that I would stammer over it heavily which of course I then did.
Over the years I had tried lots of ways to get over my stammer. I had been to hypnotherapists, NLP practitioners, speech therapists, and Yoga teachers and searched around endlessly for “cures” but none of these really helped or made any difference.
I became so determined to find someone who could help, I even pledged to myself that I would be willing to pay someone £1000 if they could help me.
One of the therapists that I went to more recently introduced me to the principles of 1) Identification 2) Desensitisation and 3) Modification, and these struck a chord with me. She then recommended I attend some of the speech therapy courses for people with a stammer at the City Lit in Holborn, London and I have since attended 4 or 5 of their excellent courses.
The advantage of City Lit’s courses is that you work together with others who have varying degrees of a stammer, some barely noticeable and some quite profound and we learn from each other. What I learnt particularly was “Desensitisation”, meaning that I became totally desensitised to stammering and therefore I stopped trying to avoid it. As a result my speech became much more fluent and I wasn’t bothered if I stammered or not.
The advantage of City Lit’s courses is that you work together with others and we learn from each other
I also joined Toastmasters, a worldwide organisation with over 300,000 members in 135 countries. They have over 15,000 clubs, many of which are in the UK. Toastmasters exists to help their members develop their communication and leadership skills.
The particular club that I joined is called Kings Speakers in West London - www.kingsspeakers.org . It was so named after the film The King’s Speech and is one of only 3 TM clubs in the world specifically for anyone with a stammer.
I have since given a number of speeches within the club, and have also filled many of the other functions which involve speaking at the meeting to give a report, eg. Timekeeper, Evaluator, Table-Topics Master, and Toastmaster of the evening. It has given me untold confidence to speak in front of a group.
City Lit and Toastmasters have enabled me to turn my thinking around 180 degrees
City Lit and Toastmasters have enabled me to turn my thinking around 180 degrees, realising that I didn’t actually need a “cure” as there was nothing to cure, I just had to accept myself as I am and be happy with it.
I learned that in any face to face communication, the words that come out of your mouth only account for 7% of the total communication, the remainder ie. 93% is communicated by your physiology eg. your facial expressions, eyes, mouth, and all other body movements, even the tonality of your voice and the clothes you wear and the way you walk up to the stage or wherever you’re speaking from.
I also learned that the communication starts long before the speaker has opened their mouth, ie. from their physiology.
Thus I learned that if I’m not bothered by stammering, other people aren’t going to be bothered by it either. I learned that stammering is no more important than whether or not I wear glasses or hearing aids or the colour of my hair. If other people get that I’m being myself, sincere and genuine they will be truly interested in what I have to say and not bothered in the slightest bit if I do stammer on the occasional word.
One of my greatest inspirations has been David Seidler, the screen writer of the film The Kings Speech When he accepted his Academy award for best original screenplay, he said on stage “I accept this award on behalf of all the stammerers throughout the world, we have a voice, we have been heard.”
He also said on another occasion said that the King’s Speech therapist Lionel Logue effectively taught the King that he was no longer the “stammering King” but that he was just the King who occasionally had a stammer. Therefore whatever your name is, you’re not John or Alice or Peter the stammerer, you’re John or Alice or Peter who just occasionally has a stammer.