This little exercise comes in handy when trying to help clients understand how their relationships with others interact with their stuttering. To do it, create a simple diagram of five rings of color, from dark green (inside) to red (outside). Explain that the middle ring is the people who are easiest to talk to, with whom you feel really comfortable and don’t worry about your stuttering. The outside ring is people you feel so worried about talking to that you would rather not talk to them at all!
Then invite your client to place all the people they interact with in the appropriate circle. If they can’t think of many, you can offer suggestions of common conversation partners (cashiers, teachers, coworkers), or help them think through everyone they’ve talked to today or in the past week.
Next, talk with your client about the diagram they’ve created. Ask questions that are focused on the positive: “What makes your teachers easier to talk to than your doctors?” Listen for themes that will help you and your client create a list of qualities that are important in a trusted conversation partner. For example, if your client says “they already know I stutter” about several people in their inner circle, it can provide a jumping off point for discussing advertising. It can also lead to creative problem solving: How can we move people closer to the middle?
This diagram can also be useful later when designing communication challenges: first try a challenge with someone in the safe zone, then move on to more difficult partners. As always, check your client’s comfort level with any challenge!
The American Institute for Stuttering is a leading non-profit organization whose primary mission is to provide universally affordable, state-of-the-art speech therapy to people of all ages who stutter, guidance to their families, and much-needed clinical training to speech professionals wishing to gain expertise in stuttering. Offices are located in New York, NY, Atlanta, GA, and Los Angeles, CA, and services are also available online. Our mission extends to advancing public and scholarly understanding of this often misunderstood disorder.