5 September 2016
At any point in time, we may find ourselves working with colleagues or superiors who stutter. The way we handle the situation is key, knowing that people who stutter are very sensitive to how people receive them.
In stutterers, speech is disrupted at various points, such as the start, the middle, or at various intervals during a conversation.
Stuttering can also be accompanied by facial movements such as trembling lips or jaws, rapid eye blinking, or other facial movements while trying to speak.
An estimated 68 million people in the world stutter, mostly children, with around 1 per cent of stutterers being adults. Overall, only 1 per cent out of all the people in the world stutter.
It’s important to help stutterers feel safe about expressing themselves and to be listened to with as much interest as with any other person.
Below are some tips to help you converse with someone who stutters:
Talk to the stuttering person normally
Unless they have a hearing problem, there is no need to raise your voice or slow down your own speech. Use normal eye contact. There is no need to stare unnecessarily. Don’t be embarrassed and don’t laugh at them. Another thing people do wrong is to be unnaturally nice to them, don’t be, and just be your usual self around them. The more relaxed and undisturbed you come across, the more likely the person stuttering will relax in your presence and feel less anxious.
Ensure that your body language reflects your listening interest. Use active listening techniques, in which the stutterer is actively encouraged to keep talking by your genuine interest and lack of judgment. It’s interesting that some stutterers are able to talk to pets without stuttering.
If you are used to rushing through conversations, generally, it can be tempting to try to rush a stutterer to finish what he or she is saying. However, not only is this impolite but it will increase the person who stutters’ impression that people are unwilling to listen or simply want to “take the words right out of their mouths”.
Speak up if you didn’t understand him/her
Be at ease asking about the subject of stuttering. Provided you raise it politely and with a genuine interest in understanding, most stutterers will be happy to answer your questions about stuttering. It can be a good chance for the stutterer to talk openly about their experience.
Speak to a stuttering child in a supportive way
Given that the majority of those suffering from stuttering are children, it is important to talk to children with the same care and attentiveness you’d grant a teen or adult, to help them realise that they are loved and cherished.
If you have a friend, sibling, or someone else you care about who stutters, try to be their rock when it comes to speaking publicly. Help them to feel at ease about speaking in public. Things you can do include taking them along to public speaking events designed to help stutterers, and even encourage and be there for them when they speak at school or at other functions.
Author: Dotun Obatuyi
My name is Dotun Obatuyi (Dotunoba), I hail from Osun state, a public health scientist (monitoring and evaluation specialist), my keen interests are researching, critiquing and writing feature articles on health, science and technology as well as issues around the globe.