Challenging Questions for the PWS

 Bobby G. Bodenhamer, D.Min.  

Questions for  the ‘Stutterer” concerning the fearing of judgments from others

Friday evening, April 11, 2008, the e-mail list enjoyed reading the following post:

“Hi from Turkey. Yesterday, I had a job interview in a bank. It was easy to speak Turkish(ah Ok, not very easy but I have some starting words and can use them well) however I needed to speak English in order to communicate with the French Manager. Since I don't have any starting words or any formulas to speak semi-fluent In English, That was terrible moments for me while I was trying to speak English. Anyway, the French man told me to write down a letter what I would say, my objection, background etc. And of course I wrote it down there. Now I have a chance to get the job. That was the first time that I came across such an understanding manager. I felt very nice and relaxed. I wanted to share such experience with you.”

His email once again reminded my of just how much the “fearing of the harsh judgments of others” provides the triggering for blocking.  Recently a person who stutters mentioned that when he was with his peers at work, he was relaxed and comfortable and because he was in a relaxed state he did not block or stutter when speaking to his peers. But, the boss man walked in and that old “fear of authority” that he had had since childhood kicked in.  And, sure enough, when he spoke to his boss, he blocked several times.  Why did he block?  He blocked because of his fearing authority figures. Now, I didn’t communicate with him but I have worked therapeutically with many people who stutter in similar situations. Because they fear that they will stutter in front of authority figures they do block and stutter just because they fear it. The fear triggers their blocking and stuttering strategy and that almost guarantees that they will stutter.  Remove the fear and anxiety about stuttering and you remove much stuttering.

I responded to the post from the gentleman in Turkey.  I provided some of the questions that I use in my work with People Who Stutter. Many People Who Stutter have found this type questioning quite helpful in dealing the psychology of fear and anxiety and the part it plays in triggering the behavior of stuttering.

I replied to the post from Turkey:

Thanks for sharing your experience with us.

Your experience provides further evidence of just how incorrect is the belief that many People Who Stutter hold concerning their believing that people judge them harshly because they stutter. I am convinced that the number of people who judge harshly the Person Who Stutters is much lower than believed.

The "fear of what others think of you because you stutter" provides the trigger for much of blocking & stuttering. Fearing their judgments leads to feeling powerless about speaking to other people. This feeling of powerlessness dramatically increases the state of fear and anxiety.  And, it is this fear and anxiety in fact that triggers the person’s strategy for blocking instead of their strategy for fluency.

I would like to take your experience and provide some questions for our membership to ask themselves about fearing other's judgment. 

I encourage all on the list to take an inventory of your communication over the past few days. Then ask yourself the following questions. I encourage you to print this email off and use it as a "sheet of reference" that you refer to over a period of a few days if not even a few weeks:

  1. "How many times did I block and/ or stutter?"
  2.  "How many of those times that I blocked and stuttered were triggered by my fear that the people with whom I was talking with were or might judge me in a bad way because I stutter?"
  3. "What percentage of my blocking and stuttering is triggered by my fearing that people will judge me as being 'different'; as being 'less than'; as being a 'retard'; as being 'stupid';, etc?"
  4. "How accurate is my belief about others judging me harshly because I stutter?"
  5. "What thinking lies behind my fear of people judging me?"
  6. "Is that thinking true to fact NOW?"
  7. "Even if someone would judge me harshly, does it make sense for me to be afraid of them?"
  8. "How old do I feel when I fear that someone may judge me because I stutter?"
  9. "Do I feel younger than I am now?"
  10. "How old do I feel when I fear someone judging me?"
  11. "What would happen if I were to go to that younger me (Do visually, self talk, or by moving loving and accepting feelings to the younger me.) and give that  younger me love and acceptance because that  younger part is a vital part of me that is in desperate need of love and acceptance?"
  12. "How will my speech change if I were too mentally 'grow that younger me' up?"
  13. "How old am I?  Am I not old enough to now understand that I have absolutely no reason to fear the judgments and thoughts of others?"
  14. "If I am in fact trying to communicate with adults while I am feeling like a child, is it any wonder that I block?"
  15. "If I were to view myself at my present age and speak from that 'me' that is now an adult or soon to be an adult, how would my speaking be?"
  16. "From whom did I learn to be fearful of sharing myself through speaking?"
  17. "What is it back there in the recesses of my mind that is holding me back from sharing myself with others?"
  18. "As a person who stutters, how do I view myself?  Do I love myself?  If I really did love myself, how would my speaking change?"
  19. "If I gave myself permission 'to not be perfect', how would my speech change? Is it really OK for me to fail?"

This line of questioning challenges the irrationality of that part of the Person Who Stutters fearing the judgments of someone else. It challenges fearing the judgments that generates the fear and anxiety that in fact initiates blocking and stuttering. Questions like the above leads the Person Who Stutters to “step outside” for a moment the fear of blocking and to step into an “adult mindset” that critically examines the thinking that triggers blocking.

Bobby G. Bodenhamer, D.Min.

2008 - 2009 Bobby G. Bodenhamer, D. Min. All rights reserved.