7 Ways to Support Someone Who Stutters

When you’re talking with someone who has a stutter, there are many things you can do, and avoid, in order to support them. Conversation is a two-way interaction, and the most positive communication happens when both people feel relaxed, encouraged, and heard. So let’s review seven simple things you can do when you’re speaking with someone who stutters.

One, be an active listener. As you talk with the other person, communicate that you’re listening fully. To do this, you can use eye contact, body language, head nods, and gestures. Be mindful and present in the interaction.

Two, be patient. It may take someone who stutters a little longer to say what they need to say. Even if you’re in a rush, what they have to say matters. So spend the time needed to listen to them. Being patient is especially important if you’re speaking on the phone. For many people who stutter, a phone conversation is even more challenging. 

Three, don’t interrupt. Many people think that finishing a person’s sentence is helpful. However, this can undermine the person speaking and make them feel like their voice doesn’t matter. They’re able to speak on their own, they may just need more time.

Four, don’t offer advice. Avoid telling a person who stutters to “slow down,” “take a breath,” or “start over.” This advice can feel patronizing.

Five, for parents and caregivers, try to model any speech therapy techniques your child is using in your own speech. Children benefit from seeing examples of the way they should be speaking. It also helps them feel supported as they work to improve their speech fluency, or smoothness.

Six, encourage the person you’re speaking with by giving lots of positive feedback. If the person knows that you’re aware that they stutter, you can support them by saying things like, “Wow, your speech is sounding amazing!” or, “I’m so proud of you for giving your presentation at work!” The goal is to allow the other person to feel positive about their speech, no matter the outcome. Everyone deserves the chance to feel confident and satisfied with how they communicate.

Finally, be yourself! People who stutter are just like everybody else, so act like yourself and speak with them as you would with anyone! All of us want to experience respect, compassion, and fulfilling human connection.

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