7 Ways To Help A Friend Who Stutters

Do you know how you can help a friend or an acquaintance who stutters? Follow these simple steps to make the world a more compassionate place.

Currently, more than 70 million people stutter across the globe. It is a general perception that people who stutter (PWS) are shy and avoid conversations.

Ironically, we conveniently forget that a good conversation begins with above-average listening skills. The fear of public speaking among PWS stems from the general reaction to stuttering.

Unfortunately, when we come across one among the 70 million who stutter, the technical know-how of helping them is found wanting among the listeners.

How Can You Help a Friend Who Stutters?

A few basic steps can go a long way in helping an individual with a speech impediment. Not only may it boost confidence, but acquiring some listening skills can also ensure a smooth conversation.

1. Do Not Finish Their Sentences

Our primary role during any conversation should be to be a good listener. Not allowing anyone to finish their sentence is an act of disrespect.

Author Bryant H. McGill once said,

One of the most sincere forms of respect is listening to what another has to say.

While speaking with a friend or an acquaintance who stutters, allow them to finish their sentences.

They are not searching for what to say next. The person knows what she wants to share, but has trouble saying it.

Completing their sentences will not only be a sign of impatience on the part of the listener, but it may also dampen their confidence.

2. Refrain from Giving Unwanted Advice

Unless you have a working knowledge of speech therapy, refrain from giving suggestions on how to stop stuttering.

From “slow down” to “take a deep breath and try again,” PWS receive various suggestions from every potential listener.

Chances are they have already tried what you are suggesting.

So, your suggestions are unlikely to make any difference.

They may, however, annoy them and worsen their dysfluency.

3. Adjust Your Pace

PWS do finish their sentences, although they might take a bit longer than the fluent speakers.

While speaking with a friend who stutters, ensure that you speak at a slower pace.

A well-rested pace will put both of you at ease by taking away the rush to finish sentences. It will curb the pressure of a time constraint. This may ensure a much smoother conversation.

While slowing your speech be aware that your pace does not sound unnatural. This might be demeaning to the person who stutters.

4. Display Genuine Interest

Simply listening is never enough during any conversation. How you act while listening also plays a part in building the confidence of the speaker.

While listening, maintain eye contact. The moment you break eye contact, the speaker may feel that you are uninterested.

Try to be attentive. Ask questions. Ask for more facts on topics that intrigue you, but don’t interrupt.

Listen with your eyes, face, and body language.

By showing interest, you can encourage a person to speak.

5. Don’t Harbor Assumptions

It is human nature to find security in assumptions.

When we meet someone new, we tend to assume the personality of the person.

While talking to someone who stutters, it is easy to mistakenly assume that they are shy, bad speakers, poor communicators, or irritable. That might not be the case at all.

We have world-renowned news reporters, entrepreneurs, actors, singers, models, authors, researchers, and speech-language pathologists who stutter.

It is important to have a mind free of assumptions when talking to anyone who stutters.

While speech impediment can increase anxiousness, it is not the singular cause of stuttering.

We must not treat PWS any differently from our fluent speaking peers.

6. Exercise Patience While on Call

PWS usually find speaking over the telephone more difficult than speaking face-to-face.

While talking to a friend who stutters on a call, be extra patient.

Don’t finish their sentences and try to slow your speech down as well to make communication smoother.

Allow them as much time as they need to finish what they have to say.

Abruptly rushing or interrupting a conversation only increases the tension.

7. Be a Source of Support and Positivity

An African proverb says

If you are not a part of the solution, you are a part of the problem.”

It is unfortunate that people still joke about stuttering.

Even Joe Biden and Ed Sheeran have been made fun of due to their speech disfluencies.

Millions of PWS deal with bullying and harassment for something they have no control over.

How to Help A Friend Who Stutters

You must stand up for anyone you know who is facing bullying because of stuttering.

People are most vulnerable when they find themselves alone in their battles. Let them know that you care about them and they aren’t alone.

Besides that, people have different ways of dealing with their stuttering. Understand what makes your friend comfortable and talk to them accordingly.

A Little Knowledge Can Go a Long Way

If we follow these basic points, we can help in adding to the confidence of someone.

The general perception of stuttering is a reflection of how we react to it individually. Together, we can change the perception by doing things in a different, more respectful way.

Next time you interact with a friend, an acquaintance, or a stranger who stutters, keep the seven simple points in mind.

The subtle changes in your demeanor and attitude will not only increase someone’s confidence massively but will also start a continuous chain of empathy.

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store