Acceptance is NOT Giving Up!

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Re: Fluency vs. Communication

From: Russ Hicks
Date: 18 Oct 2009
Time: 21:09:59 -0500
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Hi Lindsay, Yes, fluency does affect oneís ability to communicate, but not nearly as much as people think. Iíve heard it said that words are only about 30% (or less) of the total communications process, the balance of 70% is composed of body language, facial expression (smiling and frowning especially), eye contact, tone of voice, and a host of other non-verbal clues like listening. Good eye contact and a friendly smile can overwhelm some stuttering dysfluency. Ö An example I had recently, I was speaking at a rehab facility to a group of people who had every kind of communication problem you can image. One fellow had severe aphasia and was totally mute. He couldnít speak a single word. But during my speech I said something that pleased him and he gave me a broad smile and a thumbs up signal. WOW! What communication! I pointed that out to the other people in the room and he got a standing ovation! And not a word was said. But the communication was perfect! Ö And I know we both have had professors who were brilliant in their fields but could put you to sleep in a matter of minutes with a boring, droning lecture. Is that good communication? NO! Ö In the case of severe stutterers who REALLY STRUGGLE saying almost every word, a lot of the problem is not the stuttering itself but the secondary struggles. When they jump up and down on one foot and turn red in the face, break eye contact and look down at the floor in total embarrassment and shame, of course the listener will react accordingly. But typically they are reacting to the emotions of the speaker caused by the painful struggles, not the stuttering itself. The listener will generally tend to mirror the feelings of the speaker. If the speaker is uncomfortable, the listener will be too. Ö As you can imagine, we could go on and on about this topic. A typical stutterer will tend to want to be fluent above all else, but he wants the wrong thing! What he wants is the ability to communicate more effectively. And there are ways to help him do that without continually chasing the fluency god. Ö I speak from considerable experience here. I stutter very noticeably nearly all the time but I am very active in Toastmasters where Iíve learned to communicate very effectively. Ö Does this clarify things a little? If you want to continue this discussion, you can email me at and Iíll be glad to answer. Ö I hope youíre enjoying this wonderful conference, Lindsay!

Last changed: 10/18/09