Monday, August 14, 1995

Maintaining eye contact during blocks

Victoria Schutter said that one would have to be "psychotic" to maintain eye contact during a block.

I agree with these sentiments. The first fight (amicable) I had with a SLP was about this issue. I WORRY about my listener when I have a block. They already have to put up with my inability to say a word (while resisting the temptation to finish it or guess it..) and now they have to put up with my unwavering stare that says "I know I am having a block, but I dealing with it and I want you to STAY with me". I say, give them (and yourself) and break!

So my listener gets tense... guess what that does to MY tension. Eye contact is part of the communication process and should be approached (IMHO) in the same relaxed fashion as the rest of speech. Let it be a byproduct of increased comfort, not another THING to do. Be aware of both looking and not looking and let both happen naturally. If it feels right to avert your eyes and let your listener "relax" do it. If your listener shows no sign of discomfort and seems more intererested in what you are saying than how you are saying it, then by all means maintain a natural eye contact. The basic problem is that eye contact for the duration of a serious block is no longer "natural" eye contact. I fear that it appears as "disfunctional" as the block itself - that is how it appears to me on the other side..- and it may in fact make the block seem even worse. As would of course shutting your eyes, repeated blinking etc.

This is one more case where there is no easy answer or recipe in stuttering, just the usual apparent contradictions we all have to sort out for ourselves (with the understanding help of SLPs)... accept in order to improve..., maintain control so you won't have to keep maintaing control... and so on.

No comments: