One of the most frustrating experiences for people who stutter is to feel judged and underestimated based on the fluency of their speech. Listeners play a crucial role in ensuring a person who stutters feels supported and respected regardless of the way they speak.
People who stutter might handle their speaking difficulties in different ways, but all of them share one thing in common – they want to be treated and heard like everybody else.
With that in mind, be slow to judge and quick to support as it can make a huge difference in someone’s life.
- Listen without interrupting or trying to guess what the person wants to say.
- Maintain natural eye contact and avoid showing signs of confusion or annoyance.
- Avoid giving unsolicited speaking advice or suggest how to stop stuttering – unless you are a qualified speech language therapist. It is impractical to suggest that a person who stutters should “slow down” or “relax”. Remember, stuttering is not caused by the speed of a person’s speech.
- Don’t judge someone simply because they stutter. Stuttering is not a sign of weakness, low intelligence or a lack of capability.
- Focus on what is being said not on how it’s being said. That doesn’t mean pretending the stutter is not there but rather focusing on the content of the speaker’s words.