Voice Skills

by Judy Apps

Avoiding stuttering and stammering

There are varying degrees of severity of this problem. Many of us stutter a bit when we feel uncertain or when we are not sure what we are going to say. Below are some basic tips that will help you handle this tendency, if it is just an occasional problem.

1. Support your voice with the breath

If you breathe in a rush high up in your chest, you probably have not taken enough air to support a sentence. The result is that your words will come out in a rush to get your meaning across before you run out of air. When you breathe habitually in this way, you may not even be aware of the cause of your scurries, half-breaths and ‘ums and aahs’. Good breathing will iron out a lot of problems to do with lack of fluency (see Breathing).

2. Clarify what you want to say

This doesn’t necessarily imply that you have to have a fully-formed sentence in your head before you open your mouth. Many of us think as we speak, and this is fine. But if your thinking is muddled, you speech will be hesitant. Clear thinking will produce clear articulation.

3. Slow down

Forcing yourself to slow down will often cure the stuttering that comes from immediate tension and uncertainty. You will have more time to order your thoughts and will have to improve your breathing to sustain the slower pace.

4. Avoid the short hiatus between breath and speech

This might sound like tautology, considering we are talking about stuttering and stammering, but many people who stutter have contexts where they avoid the hiatus (singing in rhythm for example) and other contexts where the hiatus is exaggerated. Going from sensation and feeling straight into words avoids the hiatus. Thinking can create it. So practise feeling and expressing.

Try this

Remember vividly a smell that you enjoy.

Breathe in, smelling that scent in your imagination, and breathe out again. Half-way through the expulsion of air, turn air into sound and say something about the smell. Do not think in anticipation what you are going to say. Just turn enjoyment of smell into words.

For example: I breathe in, smelling one of my favourite flower scents – honeysuckle. I breathe out, still enjoying the memory of the scent, and the words come: ‘Oh what a lovely smell.’

Notice how the sound flows out easily.

4. Maintain your inner energy and enthusiasm

Your psychic energy makes an enormous difference to your voice, so keep your energy high and believe in yourself.

If stuttering is an ongoing problem for you, see Want to know more?