You probably came to BeneTalk because you were dissatisfied with your speech and perhaps unhappy with your speaking self. Most likely, you were looking for information, guidance and steps you could take towards improvement and feeling better in your role as a speaker.
Take up a challenge
Among the steps we strongly recommend are regular speaking challenges. The word ‘challenge’ is quite deliberate. To make lasting changes to your speech and how you feel about speaking, it’s important to stretch yourself and aim a little beyond your current capabilities. You might have heard this described as ‘expanding your comfort zones’.
The comfort zone is like a cocoon, a safe place. Opportunities to learn and develop open up when you move beyond your comfort zone. For example, when learning a new skill like driving, we go beyond what is comfortable. As beginners, we move into discomfort and sometimes fear. Learning to drive feels awkward and, at times, scary. With persistence and practice, however, our comfort zone expands. We learn the skill, become accomplished and more confident, and reap the benefits of being able to transport ourselves by car.
We encourage you as a member of the BeneTalk community to think about the speaking challenges as little risks that you can take on a daily basis, as opportunities for growth and change, as chances to expand those comfort zones that relate to your speech.
Everyone’s comfort zones are different. That means you need to think what is currently comfortable for you and which risks, if taken, might move you beyond your present level of safety.
How do you go about this?
Here’s how it might work. Let’s say you love drinking coffee in coffee shops, but because you stutter, you rarely order a coffee for yourself. You just do not feel comfortable speaking in that situation and you tend to avoid it. You would certainly not be alone in feeling like that. Many people who stutter avoid seemingly simple actions such as this.
We would encourage you to do something different, to summon up some courage and expand that comfort zone. We would invite you to make a plan to go right in to a coffee shop and order a coffee. For some people who stutter that would be a major challenge. For others, ordering a coffee would be less daunting and, if so, they would be invited to pick a speaking situation more challenging to them.
How do you judge success?
Let’s say you would usually avoid ordering a coffee, but you go ahead and do it anyway. And let’s say you stutter quite a bit in the process. Can you count this as a success? We say YES, most definitely!
What matters is that you went ahead in the face of difficulty, perhaps in the face of fear. You faced up to the challenge with courage. You acted. You expanded your comfort zone. That goes down as a challenge successfully completed. In this case, it does not matter how fluent you were while ordering. What counts is that you took action and stretched yourself beyond your present limits.
What is accomplished by completing speaking challenges?
By gradually facing down your fears of speaking situations, you can change the associations that are causing you discomfort. This process is similar to exposure therapy, a well-established action-based psychological treatment. Start with the easiest challenges for you, work your way towards more difficult situations and don’t rush your progress. Over time, you can learn to be more comfortable and more confident in your role as a speaker.