People who stutter may have a hard time getting their point across because certain words or sounds seem to get stuck. Someone who is stuttering may also show physical signs that they are struggling to communicate, including blinking their eyes rapidly or their lips may tremble.
If you are speaking with someone who stutters, these seven ways may help make the conversation easier.
1) Act normally.
Hearing someone stutter may be startling. But your reaction to someone’s difficulty speaking may actually make their stuttering worse.
Negative reactions or signs of impatience may make the person feel pressured to speak more rapidly, which can have the opposite effect, slowing their speech down even more.
When you behave normally, you may help the speaker feel more at ease, which can make the words come more easily. Make normal eye contact during the conversation, but don’t be falsely attentive.
If you are embarrassed by your reaction to the person’s speech, apologize for being surprised and go on with the conversation.
2) Don’t try to compensate.
Remember that stuttering is simply a difficulty getting the words out. It is not a sign of a mental or hearing limitation.
A person who stutters knows exactly what he or she wants to say, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD).
They just have a harder time communicating their thoughts. So resist the urge to slow your own speech or to talk more loudly than normal.
3) Give them time.
The best way to help someone who stutters is to give them the time they need to say what they want to say, according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). Wait for them to finish and encourage them by relaxing and staying calm.
Do not try to finish their sentences or guess what they are trying to say. This is more likely to add to their frustration and may make them feel that their own thoughts are not important.
4) Listen carefully.
Think about the message being communicated, rather than the delivery of the words. Stay attentive to the conversation, even if it seems slow to you. Your active attention may make it easier for the person who stutters to speak more clearly.
5) Don’t pretend to understand if you didn’t.
If you missed something or didn’t understand what was said, do what you would normally do — ask for clarification. A person who stutters wants to be understood just as much as you do. Be courteous and give him or her the chance to explain if something is unclear.
6) Offer to talk about it.
Some people who stutter do not want to discuss their condition, while others appreciate having someone take an interest in what communication is like for them.
If you are comfortable talking about it, you could start the discussion by asking how you can help ease the conversation.
7) Become informed about stuttering.
Being aware of what stuttering is can help you be patient and give the person time to speak. Approximately 3 million Americans stutter, according to the NIDCD. Between 5 and 10 percent of all children stutter for some period during their life, lasting from a few weeks to several years.
Children who continue to stutter rather than outgrowing the condition may benefit from time with a speech-language pathologist, also known as a speech therapist, who can help determine the type of stutter and teach children and their parents ways to improve communication.
When speaking with someone who stutters, especially a child in the middle of a group, it is particularly important to take turns and allow time for each person to have a chance to speak. The added pressure of having to speak quickly may make it even harder for someone who stutters.
In general, treat someone who stutters the same as you would anyone else, and be courteous in listening to what they say.
If you have questions about stuttering or how a speech-language pathologist might be able to help, talk to your health care provider.
Reviewed October 14, 2016
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith
Stuttering. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. Web. Retrieved October 12, 2016.
Wiki How to Talk With a Person Who Stutters. Wiki How. Web. Retrieved October 12, 2016.
Stuttering. American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Web. Retrieved October 12, 2016.
How To Help A Child With A Stutter. Spark Talk Speech Therapy. Web. Retrieved October 12, 2016.