This week, nationally-syndicated advice column “Miss Manners” was asked how to respond to a person who stutters. “Is it rude to assist him in completing a sentence or question?” Miss Manners wisely answered “Yes,” and added that it is considered rude to finish what someone says, including a spouse! The Stuttering Foundation has reminded us as to how we should speak to a stutterer.
1. Don’t make remarks like: ‘Slow down,’ ‘Take a breath,’ or ‘Relax.’ Such simplistic advice can come across as demeaning rather than helpful.
2. Let the person know by your manner that you are listening to what he or she says — not how they say it.
3. Maintain natural eye contact and wait patiently and naturally until the person is finished.
4. Refrain from finishing sentences or filling in words.
5. Be aware that those who stutter usually have more trouble controlling their speech on the telephone or in stressful situations, such as a presentation before an audience or job interview. Please be extra patient in these situations and give them some additional time to communicate their thoughts.
6. Speak in an unhurried way — but not so slowly as to sound unnatural. This promotes good communication with everyone.”