Why do I stutter when I am nervous?
Would you like to speak fluently, feel more relaxed and be confident that you won’t stutter when talking, presenting or public speaking?
If you suffer from situational stuttering, this is an outcome of anxiety and is different to people that stutter related to a medical condition. Situational stuttering can vary from a slight hesitation to an inability to complete saying a word or sentence.
The most common time to develop a stutter is between 2 and 6 years old, during what is referred to as the imprint period. This aligns with clients recalling being asked to read something in class during their early years at school, they stumbled or stuttered over a word and others in the class laughed. This created the unhelpful ‘you’re going to stutter’ monkey, that voice of self-doubt that says negative things.
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So, what can you do to overcome stuttering as an adult and how can you stop stuttering when nervous or anxious?
- Replace your unhelpful monkey with a new helpful monkey. This is done by catching, connecting and taming the unhelpful monkey that is telling you that you will stutter. We do this through our mentoring programme, or you can read the book to learn more (see below).
- Take long, deep breaths as you prepare to speak. This will maximise the flow of oxygen around your body and brain, interrupting the adrenalin response, known as ‘fight or flight’ and enable the body to adopt a normal relaxed response, both in mind and body.
- Use the presenter stance. Take a moment before you start to relax, focus on being grounded and adopt the presenter stance.
- Slow down your pace of speaking. Use a metronome (there are apps for this, see How to speak slowly using apps) and practice talking in time with it, gradually slowing the pace. You could do this practising a presentation or just reading out loud, as long as you get used to the ‘feel’ of talking at a slower pace. You can be sure that it will sound much slower to you than it will to your audience. It is rare that we think someone is speaking too slowly!
- Plan and practice. Everything you do to prepare will contribute to a reduction in anxiety and therefore stuttering. Follow our tips on planning, practising, getting feedback etc. See How to relax before a presentation.
- Use purposeful pauses. These have double value as they give your audience time to reflect on what you have said and enable you to take a moment to recall your plan and know what you will say next. As with pace of speech, it is unlikely to sound a long pause to your audience. If you’re not convinced, try recording yourself to hear both paces and pauses put to effective use.
If you would like to learn more about how we work with clients to change the mindset through ‘Taming your Public Speaking Monkeys’ you can: