Guidance – using the telephone

  • Sajiv
    8 November, 2013

    by Dr. SAJIV ADLAKHA

    Many people, whether they have a stammer or not, can have difficulty talking on the telephone. Using the telephone can cause a great deal of anguish especially for people who stammer because in phone the basic medium of communication is speech and people learn to cope with it in their own way.
    If you have a particular problem of Telephone Communication then you may find the following practical suggestions helpful.

    DO NOT AVOID
    Do not keep putting off the call you need to make. That call will only become even more difficult and stressful. The fear of stammering on the phone may be so much that to initiate a call may be a herculean task. Avoidance is not a solution.
    Face the fear on the face of it.

    ASSESSMENT
    Practice should help you to feel happier about using the telephone. If possible observe yourself in the mirror while talking on the phone. Watching yourself in the mirror while phoning can be helpful as you will be able to see where the tension lies on our face and other parts of body. If you do start to block, then stammer openly but gently and easily. Try not to force the words out and most importantly remember to speak slowly. Do not worry too much about the silences, they occur in all conversations. Concentrate on what you have to say, rather than worry about any blocks. Your purpose is to communicate, whether you have a stammer or not. Pay attention to your fluent speech. Many people who stammer forget about their times of fluency and dwell most of the time on the stammering. Savour your fluency, make other calls when feeling more fluent, strike while the iron is hot. Fluent speech breeds confidence and confidence breeds fluent speech.
    Do not hold the phone tight. Remember to grip the phone with the tip of the fingers and thumb instead of using the whole hand to hold. This will help you to ease out any tension. Tight closure of the fist while holding the phone compounds the problem and leads to dis-fluency.
    At home record your telephone conversations if you can. Note your speech carefully, especially the speed and the lead up to any block. Try to learn from each recording, and prepare a strategy for the next call.

    RECEIVING CALLS
    This is the area over which you have least control. However, even here you can part way to easing some of the pressure you may feel. Always answer the call in your own time. Don’t rush to attend. Instead of getting afraid of blocks start enjoying the pauses. Use short sentences and give pauses, feel the silence and use the correct articulation. Once you have started practicing this exercise then pauses will not create more stress in talking. Do not allow others presence to distract you. Don’t be afraid of initial silence on the phone if you struggle for your first word.

    DUAL TASK
    Keep a pencil-paper near to your telephone. Scribbling along with speaking helps you to divert your attention from speech towards writing. Initially practice the hand and spoken words coordination for 3-4 days then slowly use the finger instead of pencil. The main aim is to engross the mind in dual task so that fear of block is not there.

    GENERAL ADVICE
    Practice should help you to feel happier about using the telephone. Confront your fear of the telephone. Talk about what it is that you fear happening and what you can do about it. Openly discussing with the Speech Therapist will help you in finding the answers.
    Try to be aware of the situations where you avoid using the telephone and gradually tackle these calls. Make the most of local calls (especially telecallers from call centers) for practice because you do not know them personally. Choose to use the telephone rather than write mail/letters. Try to be the person in your household who answers the telephone,
    Finally practise, practise and practise.
    Do not let that modern day piece of plastic dominate your life.
    GIVE SOMEBODY A CALL NOW!

    Dr. SAJIV ADLAKHA
    (Speech & Hearing Specialist)

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