THIRTEEN OBSERVATIONS ABOUT PEOPLE WHO STUTTER
by John Harrison
Over many years of self-observation, and after years of rubbing shoulders
with members of the National Stuttering Project, I've noticed some
recurring characteristics among people who stutter. Of course, not all of
the following applies to all people within the stuttering community, but I
have seen these commonalities more often than not. (This list originally
ran in the January 1982 edition of Letting GO.)
- We have difficulty in letting go, not just in our speech, but
across the board...in what we feel and in what we're willing to risk.
- We are not grounded. We don't have a strong sense of who we are,
because we are overly concerned with other people's opinion of us.
- We are overly concerned with pleasing others. We worry about what
people think of our behavior...our thoughts...our wishes...our
beliefs...in fact, everything concerning our personal identity and self-worth.
- We have a narrow self-image. It does not encompass all of who we
are. And we constantly try to squeeze ourselves into this narrow
self-image. Not only is this self-image extremely confining...it is also
- We lack self-assertiveness. We see every self-assertive act as an
aggressive act, and this helps to create a stressful world. Because we're
not assertive, we see ourselves as without rights. So when we do feel
ourselves on top of the world, we always see ourselves there at someone
else's expense (because on our mountain top, there's always only room for
- We have a great deal of misinformation about what constitutes
acceptable speaking behavior. It's okay for someone else to speak
forcefully and dynamically, but when we speak with any aliveness in our
voice, we see ourselves as coming off too strong, too overpowering and too
- Hand-in-hand with our fear of looking too powerful, we see
ourselves as powerless. As victims. As helpless.
- We see life as a performance. This is related to our need to
- Because we see life as a performance, we are afraid to make
mistakes because of how we might be judged.
- Because we're afraid to make mistakes, we're afraid of
responsibility and making decisions.
- Because we've run from ourselves, we have little self-knowledge.
Consequently, we tend to obsess on what is visible -- our imperfect
speech. And we tend to blame all our problems on it.
- Because of everything previously mentioned, we see ourselves as
basically different from other human beings.
- Thus, it is not surprising that we've had few, if any, positive
added with permssion, June 1, 1998