USING THE TELEPHONE: A Guide for People Who Stutter
- a brochure produced by the Stuttering Foundation of America
USING THE PHONE
Many people - whether they stutter or not - have difficulty using the
telephone. Listen to some non-stutterers dealing with phone calls. Some take
several seconds to answer. Others may "Um" and "Ah" a lot. Others may
be very expressive with their hands or faces, perhaps talking loudly
and aggressively. Using the phone can cause a great deal of anguish, and each person must learn to cope with it in his or her own way. If, as a person who stutters, you have a problem using the telephone, then you may find the following advice helpful.
MAKING CALLS TO OTHERS
Making a call can usually be split into three phases:
- the call
- assessing how you did.
Make sure you know why you are calling. Write the key points on
paper and have it in front of you when you call.
Try phoning a friend or relative just before the big call. This may
help relax you.
If you have a number of calls to make, list them in ascending order
Start with the easiest and work your way up to the most difficult.
Do not keep putting off the call you need to make. That will make it
even more stressful and difficult.
Quite often the difficult part is getting through to the right
person. If you are confronted by a switchboard operator, for example,
would an extension number or department be easier to say than
someone's name? Have some alternative first words in mind; be flexible
in what you want to say. If you do start to block, stutter openly,
gently and easily; try not to force the words out and most importantly
remember to speak slowly.
Do not worry too much about silences; they occur in all
conversations. Concentrate on what you have to say, rather than worry
about any blocks. Your purpose is to communicate, whether you stutter
or not. Pay attention to your fluent speech. Many stutterers forget
about their times of fluency and dwell on the stuttering. Savor your
fluency; make other calls when feeling more fluent; strike while the
iron is hot. Fluent speech breeds confidence, and confidence breeds
Watching yourself in a mirror while phoning can be helpful as you
will be able to see where the tension lies in your face and other
parts of your body. If you persevered with a difficult call and felt
you communicated well, then praise or treat yourself and remember the
good feeling that a successful call gave you.
Assessing How You Did
Most people, not just those who stutter, sometimes make calls when
they feel they have been less than fluent or have not managed to get
their message across.
I you felt that a particular call was stressful and you stuttered
more than usual, try to forget it. Adopt a positive attitude;
remember there will be other conversations when you will stutter less
It is not a disaster to stutter, and you can learn from each speaking
experience. At home, tape record your telephone conversations if you
can. Note your speech carefully, especailly the speed and he lead up
to any blocks. Try to learn from each recording, and prepare a
strategy for the next call. Doing this over a period of time will help
to identify certain recurring problems and words.
This is the area over which you have least control. However, even
here you can go part way to easing some of the pressure you may feel
Always answer the call in your own time. Don't rush to the telephone
Again have key word options ready: your extension number, name of
your organization, or even just your name. Use whatever come easiest
to you at the moment.
If you receive a call within earshot of other people, concentrate
solely on that call.
Accept that others may hear and see you block, but do not allow
their presence to distract you from your phone call.
Don't be afraid of initial silence on the phone if you struggle for
your first word. It is quite common for someone to answer the phone and
then not speak, either because they're finishing a conversation with a
colleague or because they have picked up someone else's phone and are
waiting for them to return to their seat.
The person phoning you may also stutter. Be patient with others who
may be just as anxious as you and may be putting into practice some of
the above points.
- Practice should help you to feel happier about using the telephone
- Confront your fear of the telephone. Talk about what it is that you
fear happening and what you can do about it.
- Try to be aware of situations where you avoid using the telephone and
gradually tackle these calls. Make the most of local calls for
practice. Choose to use the telephone rather than write letters.
- Try to e the person in your household who answers the telephone.
Openly admit that you stutter. This may be very difficult if you have
avoided talking about it all your life. Practice talking about your
stuttering. Many people have said that talking about it has reduced
their anxiety and fear.
- Watch and listen to non-stutterers using the phone. Listen to their
lack of fluency and their hesitation.
- Give others the benefit of the doubt. If they know you stutter then
they are prepared to expect some silences.
- Finally practice, practice, practice. Do not let that modern-day
piece of plastic dominate your life. It is far better to use the
phone and stutter than to avoid using the phone.
This brochure is available in written format from Stuttering Foundation
of America, a non-profit organization since 1947 - Helping Those Who
Stutter. P.O. Box 11749 Memphis, TN 38111-0749 1-800-992-9392. It is
reproduced here with permission and may be downloaded for use
providing credit is given to the SFA.