Although there is no known cure for stuttering, there are easy things that you can do that will transform your speech and, for all practical purposes, eliminate your stuttering!
Notice that I did not say “completely annihilate your stuttering”. See, it turns out that very few people have perfect speech. Pay attention the next time you hear Barack Obama, the president of the United States and arguably the most powerful man in the world, give a speech or an interview. If you listen closely, you will hear him often stutter, repeat himself and use interjections (like “uhm”). However, most people do not think of him as a stutterer, because most people do not pay attention to those few words, as long as they are not excessive. And that same observation goes for most people. It turns out that a very small minority of people are truly fluent (ie have perfect speech nearly 100% of the time).
That being said, we will soon discover how to eliminate most of our stuttering and blocking episodes to the point where they are very noticeable. On the rare occasion that we encounter a stutter, we will learn how to make it sound natural and smooth.
Before we jump into the details, we need to understand how stuttering occurs.
Try the following experiment:
With one hand, grab your other hand and make sure your they are locked in together, as show in the picture to the left. Make sure you're holding on tight.
Now try to pull them apart, but make sure you do not let go. Keep trying to pull apart as hard as you can, without letting go.
Did you notice what you felt?
If you did not, then try the simple experiment one more time. This time around, pay close attention to how you feel. Pay attention to your mouth, lips, throat and stomach.
You will notice that all of these muscles suddenly tightened up and got very tense.
This process is known as the Effort Closure Process. It is a normal process that has several uses, like performing feats of strength, protecting our bodies from external dangers, and it is also the process that helps us produce speech! This Effort Closure Process also happens to be the main cause of stuttering!
Speech is produced when we build up air pressure in our lungs and then strategically let out that air to make sound and form sentences. In order to build up pressure, our brain instructs our body to use the effort closure process just like it did in the exercise above. Research shows that stutterers struggle to control and regulate their Effort Closure Process. So for example, we might apply too much or too little pressure, or fail to “release” the pressure at the right time.
This is What Goes Wrong When You Stutter
– You come across a sounds that you struggle with, like the “p” sound at the beginning of the word “PLEASE”
– In order to pronounce the “p” sound, your upper body tightens so your lungs can build up air pressure
– With your lips closed, your throat and mouth briefly tighten up as well, to maintain pressure
– Right as you are about to release the pressure and vocalize your “p”, your muscles fail to obey the brain's command
– Your lips are still tight, your upper body is still tight, you are building more and more pressure
– Your body does the only thing it knows to do instinctively during times of stress: the effort closure process
– As pressure continues to build and you fail to release it, your extreme tension might cause you to jerk your head or squint your eyes
– You may continue this for a while, or you may stop and repeat the process several times
– You are feeling very anxious, nervous, embarrassed, and stressed
– Finally, the sound comes out, but it is very harsh, and you are very self-conscious now
– The tension remains in your body and you struggle with several other words
So Now That We Understand Stuttering, How Do We Fix It?
Remember the important fact that we disclosed earlier: stuttering occurs when the effort closure process malfunctions. So in order to get rid of unnatural stuttering, we need to focus on learning how to perform the effort closure process properly. We also need to learn good speech techniques, especially the ones that help our speech flow more smoothly and effortlessly.
But learning good speech techniques alone is not enough. As stutterers, we develop bad breathing habits (we typically take shallow and fast breaths) and breathing is an extremely important factor in reducing the likelihood of stuttering. Also very important is learning how to relax the muscles involved in speech, because during stuttering our muscles get very tense.
Speech techniques, breathing, and muscle relaxation alone are not enough. You will also need to develop certain mental habits that will help you be conscious of what triggers your stuttering, and also work on the emotional aspect that is associated with stuttering.
How to Conquer Your Stutter in 10 Steps
– Have a complete understanding of how speech works, and how stuttering happens
– Understand how your body performs the effort closure process, and how it causes stuttering
– Train your body to perform a PROPER effort closure process
– Develop an awareness of how tense your body is and how that affects your stutter
– Train your brain to communicate correctly with your speech muscles
– Learn speech techniques that minimize the likelihood of stuttering (easy sunset, light touches, pullout, etc.)
– Learn proper and good breathing habits
– Program your mind to make all those techniques a habit
– Break the emotional cycle of stuttering, and develop a stronger knowledge and awareness of yourself
– Establish new habits in your mind so that all these new habits become second nature to you