I have been stuttering for 63 years. I have never felt comfortable stuttering. Over the many decades that I have stuttered, I have called my stuttering many names (not repeatable here). I was certain for decades that stuttering was my number one enemy. Why? I was letting my stuttering control me. I was wrong, dead wrong. The more I allowed my stuttering to control me, the less control I had over it. It was easy to put the blame on my stuttering for my missteps. Over the many decades that I have stuttered, I developed a number of steps (tips) to deal with my stuttering. Speech therapists labelled m stuttering as severe. I had blocks that lasted from 5 seconds to 2 minutes. I can report that my tips are successful. At 71-years-old, there are many times when I am speaking face-to-face with someone when I do not stutter at all. The same situation occurs when I am talking on the telephone or giving a speech.
I can’t say that my tips will work for others because I have never discussed them with anyone. Let’s start at the beginning.
I have mention “stuttering” many, many times in the above paragraph. Let’s define it. According to a medical dictionary, “Stuttering is a speech problem characterized by repetitions, pauses, or drawn out syllables, words, and phrases. Stutterers are different than people experiencing normal fluency problems because a stutterer's disfluency is more severe and consistent than that of people who do not stutter.”
My first tip is. “You control stuttering. You do not allow stuttering to control you.” This is the most challenging feature of all my struggles with stuttering. I allowed stuttering to control me when I refused to take speaking opportunities because I was embarrassed when I stuttered. I allowed stuttering to control me when I did not date because I was ashamed. I allowed stuttering to control me when I did not take my story ideas to an editor. I permitted stuttering to control me when I did not try out for parts in plays. The list continues.
I was 28 years old and switching jobs when I realized I was allowing stuttering to control my life. I was sitting in my apartment preparing myself mentally and physically for my job as an Anti-submarine Warfare writer. I wanted to be very good at my new job. When the job was offered to me, I was told I would travel a lot, and I would be expected to produce quality articles. I know I had to change my work habits/ I was asking myself these questions. “How can I improve myself over my last job?” “What can I do better?”
Then it dawned on me. I had to get control of my stuttering? I spent hours thinking about my new responsibilities and how I could carry them out to everyone’s satisfaction. I looked at my duties and decided that I was going to be more aggressive in my work. I was going to asked more questions. My first day on the job I visited my co-workers individually and told them I would be seeking their help. For two years I worked closely with my peers. We were productive. My boss let me pick my assignments,
He greeted my enthusiasm and high quality of work with bonuses. For the first time in two decades I did not feel that my stuttering controlled me. I controlled it.
Tip number 2 is, “Rid yourself of feared words.” For years, I developed a fear of stuttering on words starting with s, h, p, a and m. My fear of these words overwhelmed me. Rather than expanding my vocabulary, I was contracting it. My fear made it difficult for me to do my job in person or when I was on the telephone. I made a list of my feared words and gradually started putting them into my conversations. When I was home, I stood before a mirror in my bathroom and made up sentences with these words. I practiced calling people. I would pick up a dictionary and read 50 words starting with s. The next day I would read 50 words s starting with h. And so on. I was diligent. As a result, I conquered my fear of feared words.
Tip number 3 – “Become an integrated member of society.” My stuttering so overwhelmed me that I practically became a hermit. I was so scared to talk that when I was invited to parties either I declined or I would find a corner and stay there until it was time to leave. I enjoy parties. I enjoy the comradery, the environment, the drinks, food and the benefits of making new friends.
My friends got tired of inviting me and stopped. I felt so alone that I decided to change.
I remember the night when I started changing and started to become more sociable. It was Saturday. The next time I was invited to a party, I went by myself. On my own initiative, I started talking to strangers. I discovered it was easy to do. Nobody cared about my stuttering. They were there to have a good time. So was I. For the first time in a long time I danced at a party. When the party was over, I drove one of the guests home. I have been a party animal since. By becoming more sociable, I kicked another demon associated with my stuttering.
Tip number 4 is “Speak Often.” When I realized that my stuttering was controlling me. I was angry. I burned inside. How could I be so stupid all these years? I started listing the places where I had been silent. The list was extensive. I had stood like a stature at business meetings, press conferences, morning breakfast meeting meetings, National Press Club lunches and in my sports’ activities. I told myself I could no longer do that. For my future’s sake, I started developing a list of questions that I would asked at press conference and other events, I prepared myself better for press conferences and other activities. My determination was rewarded. I was asking tough questions and writing better stories. My peers were noticing me. I was feeling better physically and I was starting to date frequently.
I did not suddenly change overnight. It took years of personal drive to achieve my goal of becoming a recognized writer. In 45 years as a writer, I have had several thousand articles and six books published. My articles have appeared in The Washington Post, NY Times, Business Week, Nation’s Business, News Week, People Magazine and other national publications. I have interviewed scores of well-known politicians, writers, scientists, inventors and actors. My work has taken me into 45 of the 48 continental United States and Canada, China, Spain, Germany, Ireland and England. I have won nine awards
Next area of tips covers “Communication Aids and Me.”