Some speaking situations are likely to be more challenging than others if you stammer and it’s normal to feel anxious about them.
Here are a few general pointers to get you started. And remember, you can call our helpline to talk through your concerns and to try out some of these ideas with someone who understands.
- You have the right to take the time you need.
- You have the right to ask for what you want.
- Being open about your stammer upfront can take the pressure off you and helps the listener know what to expect. Don’t apologise, just say something like "By the way, I stammer sometimes so it helps if you give me a bit more time."
- The more you practise something, the easier it gets.
- If someone responds negatively to your stammer, that’s their problem, not yours.
See below for some tips for different situations.
Why not try out these things at a local stammering group? Local groups are a great place to practise speech exercises in a safe and friendly environment. Find out if there's a group near you here.
Also, check out the website www.scenariaid.com It has video simulations to help people who stammer practise different speech situations, including ordering at fast food shops and restaurants, asking for things in shops, buying train tickets, making emergency calls, hotel check-ins and job interviews. It's free, although you need to register.
This can be a popular pet hate for people who stammer.
- Your attitude is key – tell yourself you can do this and what you have to say is worth waiting for.
- Notice any areas of tension in your body and try to relax them. Maybe look in the mirror while you're on the phone.
- Practise, practise, practise – make loads of easy phone-calls to gain confidence. Phone family and friends. Then try phoning a list of shops and restaurants and ask them what time they close on Sundays, for example.
- Jot down the main points you want to make before a call, so you’re clear about what you want to say.
- When taking a call, you can choose when you want to pick it up – leave it for a few rings if that helps to steady your nerves and take a breath before picking up.
- Be kind to your listener – try not to rush through what you have to say so they can absorb it more easily.
- Your tone of voice makes a difference – keep it warm and friendly.
- Make use of any speech techniques you’ve learnt – the more you practise them, the easier they’ll become.
- If asked for specific information – name, address, phone number – give yourself the time you need and go for the words you need to say.
- Try telling the other person that you have a stammer at the beginning of the call. If they are aware that you might have difficulties, they are less likely to think that there is a problem with the connection and hang up.
- Focus on what you want to get out of the call, rather than if you stammer or not. If you end the call with the information you wanted, or you got your message across to the other person, focus on that.
Text relay is a service that allows you to type instead of speaking on the telephone. Find out how to use text relay by visiting Ofcom's website here.
If you're ordering something in a coffee shop or restaurant, for example:
- Smile and make eye-contact – you’ll find that 9 times out of 10 the other person will smile back and that’ll make everything more relaxed.
- If you’re in a queue, focus on what you need to communicate rather than anyone standing behind you. Let them wait!
- As the customer, you have the right to ask for what you want in the time you need.
- It can be so tempting to ask for something that’s easier to say so that for example you end up with a flat white coffee when really you wanted the salted caramel mocha latte with whipped cream. Go for what you want – you’ll feel justifiably proud of yourself and it will be easier the next time.
Lots of people who stammer struggle saying their name – probably a result of not being able to substitute it for another word, and having had thoughtless and unhelpful reactions in the past. Have you ever been on the receiving end of that irritating classic response "Have you forgotten your name?".
- Practise introducing yourself in easy situations – rope in your friends and family. If you’re having speech therapy or belong to a self-help group, these are ideal opportunities to practise in a safe supportive environment.
- Build up to real situations which feel manageable – for example, saying your name when chatting to one other person face-to-face or when meeting someone new in a relaxed environment.
- Go into the first sound of your name gently and keep moving forward. Focus on what it feels like to move from one sound to the next, rather than what it sounds like.
- If it helps, add a phrase before like "My name is", or "I’m."
Calling 999 for emergency services
Not an everyday tip, but if you have difficulty speaking there is an Emergency SMS Service that allows you to text 999 instead of phoning them. You need to register for the service first and you can find instructions to do that on our page 'Contacting 999 & First Aid when you stammer'.