While many of our students seem able to learn our multiple methods of avoiding bad incidents (appearing disabled), some struggle. This blog discusses some of my latest coaching sessions with several PWS and why they are not improving as quickly as they should, so that if you, the reader, are making these mistakes too, you know what to do to from now on.
What I’ve noticed is that most PWS (and I include myself, back when I was a PWS) only use the Crutches when needed. That is, when they stumble upon a feared word. And what happens when you haven’t been using them until then? Most likely you have been accumulating more and more anxiety, and now, you are about to say a word that you fear stuttering, and due to all the accumulated anxiety your mind is going at 6.000 RPM, you can’t think clearly, and your brain might have even “shut down”, and you are unable to think, and even less, to use a Crutch. Sure, it is also possible that you succeed at using a Crutch in that situation and avoid that potential bad incident, no doubt about that, but it’s much more likely that you did it if you didn’t feel all that pressure, as I’ll bet you agree.
So, why do PWS forget or seem unable to use the Crutches when they are talking? Three reasons come to my mind:
- You started speaking, from the very beginning, without using the Crutches. You were under pressure, and you knew it, but you didn’t have a pressure or emergency speech plan (ESP). So, you spoke under pressure just like you’ve been speaking all your life, and logically you are getting the same results as before (anxiety and stutters). Whether you like it or not, this means you are not determined enough to beat stuttering and/or you haven’t practiced your ESP enough to be able to use it under pressure. You need to make stopping “bad incidents” (appearing clearly speech disabled) your #1 goal (First, use the Crutches individually and/or your ESP; the rest of the things, are secondary; don’t worry, this is just temporary, until you really master our methods, and it shouldn’t take you long to achieve this). We use Crutches 1-8 to attack first or isolated FIRST words. We use Crutches 7-11 to attack middle words or all the words that follow. Then, we use our ESP, which is discussed below.
- After talking for a while, using the Crutches, you feel comfortable, and you eventually forget about them, and you return to your old habits. This happens when you’ve been talking too much. Instead of talking so much, become the one who asks questions and listens (great way to make friends, as Dale Carnegie says in his “How to Make Friends and Influence People”; do yourself a favour and read it).
- You are unable to use the Crutches in high-pressured situations: this is both a Speech Cop issue (see (a) above) and that you still haven’t mastered the Crutches and your Speech Plan well enough. It can also be the result of the other 2 reasons.
This brings me to my next point, and solution: the (Emergency) Speech Plan. We all need a Speech Plan (to know more, read “How To Stop Stuttering and Love Speaking, Section 18.8; available on Amazon) and use it 24/7 to reduce, or even eliminate (if you’re good enough at it) the chance of fearing words, and remain calm, because you’ll be too busy using it, so you won’t have time to worry about your words, fears and insecurities.
Our ESP is what we think under pressure; it is a few simple steps, such as “Think less-link-stop.” “Less” means, don’t say anything that you don’t need to say. If someone asks you your name, you don’t say, ‘My name is Bob.” You simply say, “Bob.” “Link” means say all words in each short speech increment as if they are ONE word: “Hoareyou?” “Whattiimeisit?” “Stop” means stop every few words and take a on-count or a two-count (1000-1 or 1001-1002). The more that you stutter, the less words you say in each speech increment. We often urge 1-7 words or so OR 1-5 words or so OR even as few as 1-3 words or so. We do NOT ask you to count your words; we ask you to insert a FULL STOP. Just insert stops randomly; there is no bad place for a stop. To learn your ESP, you need to practice it one element at a time, until you know it well. Many of our students, type the elements of their ESP in caps and stick them on the back of their cell phone; so, they always have the ESP with them. Once they know it well, it WILL work under pressure. The bad incidents will stop. Crutches 1-8 can be used, IF needed, simultaneously with the ESP, but your main focus needs to be on the ESP.
Of course, the Speech Plan is a short-cut towards fluency, NOT a summary/substitute of Lee’s +700-page book. You need to master the whole book.
Returning to the main point, if you want to reduce, or even eliminate, the chance of fearing (and forcing) your next word, make sure you use your Speech Plan ALL THE TIME, EVEN WHEN NOT NEEDED. Make it a habit, a habit actually of not thinking (and fearing) words. And if for whatever reason you have used it and still fear a word, stop, take a 2-count and use a Crutch! You can do it.