The King’s Speech: how to improve your stammer even if you never broadcast to the nation.


I put off going to see this film for ages. I thought I’d see and hear an unlikely “miracle cure”. I was wrong.

The film moved me to tears. Accurate, realistic and honest, it showed so much truth about stammering.

Facts
A staggering one percent of the adult population stammer. Even more, ten percent, of children stammer, but many learn to speak fluently as they grow. The origins of stammering or stuttering (it’s the same thing) are still not understood, and there’s no sure-fire cure. Methods differ, but therapy’s come a long way from Demosthenes and his mouthful of stones.

It’s hard for adults who’ve missed the window of opportunity in childhood, and grown up with a stammer, but you can be hopeful. There’s plenty of help out there.

Methods
Sometimes, it seems there are as many methods of treatment as there are clouds in the sky: NLP, McGuire, Delayed Auditory feedback, prolonged speech, stammering fluently, fluent stammering : which to choose?

As Bertie found in the film, you can make a whole bunch of different techniques work together for you.

The common factor for success is your determination to be yourself, not defined by the way you speak. You already feel that determination, don’t you?

It’s possible
Remember, everyone can be fluent sometimes. Maybe you’re fluent when you’re talking to yourself, or to the cat. Maybe you need surround sound to block out feedback from your own voice. Maybe you can talk to friends but not make speeches in public.

If you can speak fluently sometimes, you can build on that. Whatever you want to do, it’s worth persevering. Keep trying.

Mary’s story
Mary stammers. She always has. She talks happily to colleagues, friends and family. Sometimes, though, she has to go to meetings and say her name and job title. As you know only too well if you stammer, that can be a real deal-breaker of a problem.

Mary’s solution was simple. She knew she was an exceptional writer of analytical reports. That’s why she had a job that meant going to meetings with strange and scary people. Those reports meant a lot to her. When she touched one, she felt pride and a warm, peaceful feeling of self worth. She stepped into her success zone the moment she picked up her work.

So one day, off she went to a meeting with new clients. She took one of her reports with her. She sat, scared as ever, waiting for the “round the table” recitation of names. When it was her turn, her heart pumped and her palms sweated, and she picked up her report and read her name out loud, off the front page. She had a little hesitation, but it was her best ever. She felt great.

Theories
There are plenty of reasons for this success. Her pride in her work gave her confidence. Touching the report helped her feel successful. Picking up the report was a distraction and let her look away from the other people round the table. She doesn’t really know why it helps, she just knows it works.

Now, she doesn’t take the report with her. She remembers that success story at every meeting, she feels that great feeling, and she knows she can cope.

Experiment
Her story shows you can deal with even your biggest speaking fear.

Try an experiment for yourself. Think about something you do well, that makes you feel great. Close your eyes, breathe slowly and imagine yourself doing that thing. Watch yourself doing it, and admire your skill. Feel the feeling, and enjoy it.

Then, still breathing slowly, imagine going into a difficult speaking situation, with all those good feelings inside you. See yourself using that feeling of success when you speak. It’s a good feeling. Keep remembering it.

Practice every day, mentally watching yourself and your success. Enjoy seeing and hearing how great you are.

Next time you get into your speaking situation, slow your breathing right down and remember that great feeling of success. See what happens. It’s an experiment, so use the results to learn more and be even greater in future.

Visit the British Stammering Association to find out more, leave a comment on the Speechcontacts blog or subscribe to the mailing list at Speechcontacts and I’ll send you more free info.




I write this Communication Blog

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Frances Evesham: on the run around Europe for years, with only a husband, three children and a succession of opinionated cats to keep me out of trouble. Somerset stopped me in my tracks. Now I walk in the country and breathe sea air. I will get around to cleaning the house soon.

I've been a speech therapist, a professional communication fiend and a road sweeper. I sometimes work in the criminal courts to uphold fair questioning of people with special needs.

I smell the roses, lavender and rosemary as I cook with a glass of wine in one hand and a bunch of chillies in the other. Writing historical romances and books on communication leaves enough time to enjoy bad jokes and puns and wish I’d kept on with the piano lessons.