Thinking Aloud with a Listener

      Mistakes. Revisions. Self-reflections. I calculated a set of numbers incorrectly the other day. I realized my error after explaining my computations aloud to a friend. Actually, it wasn't just at that moment. It was several days later, when I happened to recall the conversation. Maybe I was driving here and there and my mind wandered a bit. I "heard" myself explain my calculation to this friend and suddenly realized I had been wrong. The numbers were wrong. Talking aloud to a listener had made me aware of my error.

     Talking aloud is important to me. I talk aloud to memorize information, for example. I talk aloud to solve problems, make plans and ask for opinions and information. I reflect on my conversations with others and sometimes wonder about  comments I made or even thoughts I left unspoken. Have you ever wished you could take back something you've blurted out in an emotional moment? I sure have. Yet, this process is necessary. This trial and error teaches me how  to choose my words differently in the future. I learn about what I think and feel by listening to what I say to others.

     Here's a new perspective (or an old one I only recently realized): stuttering affects the value of talking aloud to listeners in order to understand oneself. 
     I'm currently reading Early Chilhood Stuttering by Clinicians for Clincians by Ehud Yairi and Nicoline Grinager Ambrose. It is a comprehensive text, yet somewhere states that stuttering is first a disorder of speech.

Yes. However, as soon as the disorder manifests itself, a variety of consequences ensue - attempts to resolve the problem and cope with the consequences . Attempts to resolve the stuttered speech include a variety of compensatory strategies for talking. The consequences of stuttered speech can include talking less, talking aloud less. I've thought about this in terms of developing social communication skills. Now, I am intrigued by the idea that less talking aloud with listeners may reduce opportunities for self-reflection.

     This process of talking aloud was mentioned on the Diane Rehm radio show recently. Ms Rehm was talking with counselors from addiction treatment programs. One woman referenced "motivational interviewing" as a method  of guiding addicts through stages of change. This method engaged addicts who were not in the action stage yet, but nevertheless wanted help.

     Dr. Nan Ratner introduced motivational interviewing in her presentation at the National Stuttering Association in Washington, D.C.. She advised speech language pathologists to be aware of the stages of change and to learn about motivational interviewing. As a person who has been in therapy, I know first hand the effect of unconditional positive regard and supportive interviewing. It is very different from the judgemental, logical, and downright confrontational discussions one might have with family and peers. I know what it is like to reflect upon my spoken word, reconsider it and then talk aloud about options.

    How can the child who stutters benefit from this process if he/she doesn't talk freely with friends and family? How can this process occur if a child who stutters is fretting over being fluent, dodging sounds and words by all kinds of avoidance tricks?  Here is another reason it is ok to stutter: it may permit the self-expression with which speakers come to know themselves.


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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.