Make Room For The Stuttering

Stuttering And Assertiveness

Posted on: October 3, 2013

A reader asked me if could write about assertiveness and offer some tips about how to be assertive while stuttering. Good topic, as we all might need gentle reminders about what being assertive really is.

Being assertive involves advocating for yourself in a way that is positive, proactive and respectful. It also means being clear, direct and honest.

It’s not always easy to be assertive. We may have been raised with stereotypical beliefs that men need to be aggressive and that women need to take care of others first. Or we might fear creating conflict, being criticized or rejected. Self esteem has a lot to do with how assertive we are.

I’ve had experience with not always “practicing what I preach.” I’ve encouraged individuals I’ve worked with for years to stand up and speak up for themselves. But it’s not easy. It’s a skill that takes practice. I still need to practice it.

It may be easier to scream at someone or swallow our feelings and not say anything, but being assertive is better because it respects you and others. It also helps us to stay calm and relaxed in stressful situations.

Stuttering openly can be stressful. We become vulnerable. Being comfortable and assertive and letting your needs be known can relieve stress.

Here are some tips for stuttering assertively:

Use “I” statements. Practice using “I” statements with someone you feel comfortable with. Saying “I stutter. I am OK with it and hope you are too” puts you comfortably in control of the communication encounter and gives your listener a cue as to how to react.

Maintain good eye contact. Practice maintaining eye contact while doing some voluntary stuttering. Maintaining eye contact is a sign of self-confidence.

Be brave enough to respond even when someone reacts negatively to your stuttering. If someone laughs or makes fun of your stuttering, consider saying something like, “hey, I stutter, and I really don’t like it when someone laughs at me. It hurts my feelings.” Consider practicing saying that with someone you trust.

Reframe negative thoughts into positive ones. When your mind says you can’t do something because you stutter, turn that around into an opportunity for a challenge.

Being assertive means letting your voice be heard and seizing speaking opportunities.

It also means being kind to yourself – if an attempt at being assertive doesn’t work, don’t swallow your feelings and revert to silence. Try again the very next time the opportunity presents itself.

2 Responses to "Stuttering And Assertiveness"

HI Pam, that post is wonderful and insightful (as all your posts are!). I agree with everything you say particularly about stuttering making you feel vulnerable and as women we are conditioned to be accommodating and mild mannered, I know I certainly feel like that. I do feel that you can’t to an extent change your personality but you can train yourself to be more assertive and kinder to yourself. In Ireland, its particularly hard for women or at least it was in the past, not only did we have to contend with being women and being a minority, we had to be good Catholics and not to complain, begrudge and to be of service to everyone even at the detriment of ourselves. Don’t get me wrong, I feel I am a good Catholic (whatever that is!) but I do feel its so important for us to be in control of ourselves, our actions and our feelings in order to be kinder to others. It is extremely hard to be assertive particularly when stuttering, as you say, we are vulnerable and it does take a lot of practice. I would like to say I’m completely assertive but that would be a lie! Its something we all need to work on. Thanks for the great post. Suzanne.

Hi Suzanne – good to hear from you. It’s been a while. Yes, assertiveness is tricky – you really have to practice it, not only to get good at it but to also feel good about being assertive.
I would still LOVE to have you as a guest sometime on the podcast.

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