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Redefining stuttering—a guide to recovery~what the struggle to speak is really all about, 12e 2008

SHEDDING NEW LIGHT
ON A CHALLENGING PROBLEM

REDEFINING
STUTTERING
What the struggle to
speak is really all about
This book was previously published under the title
How to Conquer Your Fears of Speaking before People.
TWELFTH EDITION

by JOHN C. HARRISON
National Stuttering Association



A Guide
to Recovery




Now is the time


A Guide to Recovery

REDEFINING
STUTTERING
What the struggle to
speak is really all about
by JOHN
C.ARRISON
HARRISON
by JOHN
C.
H
National Stuttering Association
This book was previously published under the title
How to Conquer Your Fears of Speaking before People.

TWELFTH EDITION

WORDS THAT WORK
San Francisco


Copyright © 1989, 1992, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004,
2006, 2008 by John C. Harrison
ISBN 1-929773-08-4
Twelfth Edition
All rights reserved.
Additional copies of this book may be obtained from John C. Harrison,Words That Work,
3748 22nd Street, San Francisco, CA 94114. Phone: 415-647-4700. Fax: 415-285-4359.
E-mail: stutterhexagon@aol.com. Or you can contact The National Stuttering Association,
119 W. 40th Street, 14th Floor, New York, N.Y. 10018. Call toll free: 800-364-1677.
Phone: 212-944-4050. Fax: 212-944-8244. E-mail: info@westutter.org.

For those who are reading a PDF (electronic) version of this book and would like to turn it
into a paperback version: The book has been formatted for two-sided printing on any
electronic copier capable of printing on both sides of the sheet. It is recommended that you
use a heavier, colored paper for the front cover. You may also want to protect the book


with a clear vinyl sheet at the front and a colored vinyl sheet at the back. Spiral binding is
recommended.


Be what you is, cuz if you be what you ain't, you ain't what you is.
Grave marker,
Boot Hill Cemetery,
Tombstone, Arizona

Life goes on, and so must he. From the moment he gives himself up,
and to the extent that he does so, all unknowingly he sets about to
create and maintain a pseudo-self. But this is a "self" without wishes.
He’ll go through the motions, not for fun or joy, but for survival;
because he has to obey. From now on he will be torn apart by
unconscious, compulsive needs or ground by unconscious conflicts
into paralysis, every motion and every instant canceling out his being
and his integrity; and all the while he is disguised as a normal person
and expected to behave like one!
G. Allport
Quoted in Towards a Psychology of Being

We are changed by what we do, not by what we think about, or read
about, but by what we actually do.
Winston Churchill


vbvbvbvbv


Foreword

i

FOREWORD

O

ne summer evening during the early 80s I was sitting in the living
room of John Ahlbach, then the Executive Director of the National Stuttering Project*, having a few beers and talking about this and that. It was almost
11 p.m., and we’d just concluded a meeting of the San Francisco NSP
chapter. It had been one of those slow evenings where only a few people
showed up. In fact, that particular summer our local chapter hadn’t been
doing too well. Attendance had dwindled down to only four or so each
meeting, and sometimes not even that.
It was an intense conversation, because John and I had something in
common that had significantly impacted our lives—we both grew up with
a chronic stuttering problem. And we were both committed to helping
others break out of their stuttering prison.
My dysfluency suddenly appeared when I was three and a half. My
mother had gone on a six-week European trip with my grandmother, and
when she returned, I took her out to the garden and—so my mother recalls—
pointed to a row of petunias and said, “Mommy, look…look…look…look
at…at…at…the flowers.
Chronic stuttering plagued me all the way through my late 20s. I was
never a severe stutterer, undoubtedly because I never allowed myself to
develop the often bizarre struggle behavior characteristic of those who
forcibly try and push through a block. I would simply outwait the block and
suffer the long silences.
Nevertheless, being of a sensitive nature, those unexplained long pauses
would mortify me. I could talk just fine when I was chatting with friends.
But if I had to recite in class or speak to an authority figure or stop a stranger
on the street to ask a question, I would often lock right up. Eventually I
became a “closet stutterer”—that is, the kind of person who could pass for
“normal” but who always feared that at any moment his awful secret would
be revealed.
Not much happened to change my stuttering until one day, at the age
of 25, I abruptly quit my job at my father’s ad agency, boarded a 707, and
*In 1999 the board of directors of the National Stuttering Project voted to change the
organization's name to the National Stuttering Association, since the organization long ago
outgrew its identity as a project. Consequently, you will find references to both the NSP and
the NSA throughout this edition.


ii

Foreword

left New York City for San Francisco. The personal growth movement was
just beginning in California in the early 60s, and San Francisco was right at
the center of it. In short order, I was involved in various growth activities
including encounter groups, 48-hour non-sleep “awareness” marathons,
several LSD trips, two years of psychodrama classes, gestalt therapy groups,
Toastmasters meetings, and the like. By the time the 60s had drawn to a
close, thanks to all this internal probing as well as understanding what I
physically did when I blocked, I had a much better handle on my inner self.
As a by-product of those self-exploratory activities, my stuttering
gradually disappeared. What’s more, I felt I understood things about the
essential nature of chronic stuttering that other people—even the professionals—didn’t know. I saw that my speech problem was really an extension
of my larger life issues—a system involving, not just my speech, but my
entire self. At the heart of it, stuttering turned out to be about my
difficulties with the experience of communicating to others. No wonder
I never stuttered when I was alone.
But who could I share this with?
I found the answer in 1977 when Bob Goldman and Michael Sugarman,
two fellows in their 20s living in nearby Walnut Creek, started the National
Stuttering Project, a self-help organization for people who stuttered. Finally,
I had a place where I could put my insights to good use. I quickly joined the
NSP, eventually became the pro bono associate director, and played an
active role in the development of the organization….which was how I
ended up in John Ahlbach’s living room that evening, trying to figure out
how to breathe life into our local NSP chapter.
Groups tend to go through peaks and valleys, and our chapter was
definitely in a valley. These undulations are undoubtedly a reflection of
many things — group dynamics, schedules, weather, personal initiative,
creativity, and what all. Each group has its own chemistry, and that
particular summer we seemed to be a lackluster bunch.
As John and I sipped our beers, our conversation drifted to how the other
NSP groups were doing. Houston, of course, was our shining light. And
Philadelphia and Southern California were also doing well. But there were
other chapters that had written to John about attendance problems similar
to ours. What could we do to help them?
The most common complaint was a lack of direction and purpose. We
did have a standard meeting format we’d written up in a brochure. But even
with that, people were feeling that they were doing the same old stuff. That’s
when I got the idea to put together a book on public speaking.
Although public speaking had always terrified me, it also held me in its
thrall. In my mind’s eye, I could picture myself speaking passionately in
front of a crowd. After I joined the National Stuttering Project, fantasy


Foreword

iii

became reality. I began to find opportunities to speak in front of others
in a nonthreatening environment. I organized and ran my first workshop
—a two-day affair no less!—in 1982 for about 15 NSP members. I ran local
chapter meetings. Slowly I became more comfortable in the role of speaker.
Encouraged by my growing confidence, I started observing other people
who were really good speakers. I tried to get inside their skin. What were they
feeling? What were they doing? What made them charismatic? What made
them confident?
As I talked to John that summer evening, the thought struck me: why
not write a manual on public speaking. Eventually, I came up with 10
lessons, each one drawn from another observation I had made about good
speakers and the specific things they did. As an afterthought, I also included
an essay on overcoming performance fears that I felt directly related to the
speaking experience.
The manual was titled How to Conquer Your Fears of Speaking before
People, and the 50-page first edition was cranked out on a dot-matrix
printer. The manual turned out to be popular with a number of NSP
chapters. The exercises were simple, they were easy to use, and chapter
members could provide valuable feedback for each other.
Very slowly, news began to dribble in of chapters using the book as a
supplement to their regular programs. Feedback was good. People were
finding that the information and exercises really helped to lessen the fear
of speaking before groups by giving people ways to perceive the speaking
situation in a different light. The book also gave them tools and techniques
to control the speaking situation to their advantage.
In the two decades that followed I continued to write articles for the
NSA’s newsletter Letting GO, and other publications, and when a piece
seemed appropriate for the public speaking book, I included it in the latest
edition.
What became apparent over time was that these articles were defining
a new way of looking at stuttering and in many cases offered plausible
answers to the what and why of stuttering. Eventually, these articles became
the major part of the book.
Today, this book is more about understanding chronic stuttering than
it is about public speaking although the two are intimately related. The book
is organized into six parts.
Part 1 is the original public speaking manual.
Part 2 introduces a new, holistic way of looking at stuttering that
provides plausible answers to many long-standing questions.
Part 3 addresses how to change the stuttering system, a system I have
labeled the “Stuttering Hexagon.”
Part 4 is a collection of success stories of people who have substantially,


iv

Foreword

or totally, recovered from stuttering.
Part 5 contains late additions to the book.
Part 6 is a list of resources.
The twelfth edition of the book is the first to appear under the new title
REDEFINING STUTTERING: What the struggle to speak is really all about. It
more aptly described what the book has become, and I want to thank fellow
NSA member Paul Engelman who suggested the new title.
Finally, I want to thank all those people, perhaps as many as two
thousand within the stuttering community, with whom I’ve had the
pleasure to share ideas, life experiences, intimacies, and of course, lively
dinners and beers over a 30-year period. You have been among the finest
people I’ve known, and many of you remain my role models.
This continues to be a work in progress. Consequently, I welcome your
feedback and suggestions on how to make this book even more useful to
anyone who wants to take the fear out of speaking and make it fun, and to
those who want a better understanding of what chronic stuttering and
blocking are all about.
John C. Harrison
San Francisco
June 2008


Preface

v

PREFACE

T

his book is not a therapy program. And it is not a catalog of
techniques for becoming more fluent. Those goals are best addressed by
working with a qualified speech-language pathologist. Rather, this book
is designed to give you a better and more realistic understanding of what
chronic blocking and stuttering are all about. And it is intended to help
you become more comfortable and grounded whenever you are called
upon to speak—either in day-to-day activities or to an audience.
The public speaking exercises in Part One comprise the original book
that was put together as a program for chapters of the National
Stuttering Project. They also provide useful suggestions and guidance
for any individual who wants to become more comfortable and confident
whenever they're in front of others. If you'd like to skip this section and
go directly to the beginning discussion of stuttering, then please turn
directly to page 53.
But before you do, consider this. There's an advantage to first reading
these exercises. People who stutter generally develop tunnel vision about
speaking. Our entire focus is on fixing our speech. But the rest of the
population gets just as anxious when they have to stand and present. I
know, because I see it all the time in the public speaking workshops I run
for the general public.
Ask your friends how comfortable they are when they give a
presentation. (Chances are they hate it!) You might even ask if their lives
are terrific simply because they speak fluently. You’ll discover that
fluency is no magic pill.
What everyone, those who stutter as well as those who don't, want
to know is — how can you possibly feel comfortable and confident when
you have to stand up and speak. It's a hard concept for most of us to
grasp, locked as we are in our survival mentality.
But what about the speakers you see on television, who talk to us as
if they were sitting, totally relaxed, in our living room. What about the
guest speakers who actually choose to come to our club or organization
to talk on subjects they're passionate about. How about the politicians
who love nothing better than to speak to thousands. What does that feel
like? It's hard for a lot of us to even imagine.
What I do know is that these people think about public speaking in a


vi

Preface

very different way. The ten public speaking exercises will give you a taste
of what goes into creating that mindset.

UNDERSTANDING THE STUTTERING SYSTEM
If stuttering were simply a problem with the mechanics of speech,
we’d stutter all the time, even when we were alone. Rather, it seems to
be an interactive system involving a number of different components,
only one of which is physical. It is the the way these components interact
that creates a self-reinforcing system.
If we were to diagram the system, it might look like this:
Physiological responses: the physiological characteristics we

THE STUTTERING HEXAGON
Physiological
responses

Intentions

Physical behaviors

Emotions

Beliefs

Perceptions

inherit.
Physical behaviors: the physical things we do when we block,
such as tightening our lips, tongue and vocal cords; holding our breath,
etc.
Emotions: the feelings that contribute to, or result from, our
stuttering—fear, hurt, anger, embarrassment and so forth.
Perceptions: what we observe about the world and ourselves. Do
we seem to be different from others? What is our self-image? Do we
choose to see the world from the point of view of a stutterer”?
Beliefs: the fixed perceptions that describe our idea of "the way it
is." Many of our most basic beliefs are fixed by the time we reach puberty.
Typical beliefs might be, “I have to be perfect.” “Nice people should not
be outspoken.” “I need to be fluent before I can be a good speaker.”
Intentions: our motivations for acting. Frequently, our conscious
intentions pull us one way while our unconscious intentions pull us in the


P r e f a c e vii

opposite direction.
Now, you’ll notice something about this system: every point is
connected to every other point. This means that each element is
influenced, either positively or negatively, by what's happening at the
other locations on the Stuttering Hexagon. In other words, your emotions
will influence your behaviors, perceptions, beliefs, unconscious programs
and physiological responses.
Similarly, a change in your beliefs will resonate at all the other points
of the Stuttering Hexagon.
Everything affects everything else.
This model explains why just working on your speech may not be
enough to change your stuttering behavior. If, for example, you work on
your fluency in the clinician’s office, but don’t do anything about (1) your
difficulty in expressing what you feel, (2) the limited way in which you see
yourself, (3) your self-defeating beliefs, and (4) your unwillingness to
take risks, you'll be swimming against the current. True, you may attain
fluency in the clinician’s office where it’s totally comfortable and nonthreatening, but once you leave, the other points on the Stuttering
Hexagon are likely to work on your speech to bring it back into balance
with the rest of the system. Eventually, you'll find yourself slipping into
the same old habits.

CHANGING HOW WE SEE THINGS
The purpose of this book is to help you work on three points in the
hexagon — your perceptions, beliefs and emotions.
Those of us who grew up with a stuttering problem have not always
been very good at (1) developing a self-image grounded in reality and (2)
defining what is acceptable behavior for us. In general, we are so petrified
of coming on too forcefully that we rein ourselves way back. We need to
discover that we don’t have to live our lives in such a narrow comfort
zone, and that the world actually likes us better when we’re willing to let
go.
Part One of this book will help you make use of the most available
and powerful resource you have in a stuttering support group: the other
members. In the safety and comfort of a group meeting, fellow members
can help you see yourself more clearly and encourage you to let go. This
process, in turn, will help you widen your comfort zone and make it easier
to be more expressive.
As it becomes acceptable to express yourself more spontaneously,
you’ll experience less pressure to react to each speaking situation as a
performance. Less pressure also means more freedom. Having more


viii P r e f a c e
freedom will exert a positive influence on the other three points of
the hexagon and take away some of the pressures that maintain the
blocking syndrome.
Then in Parts Two through Five you will discover ways to
further change your beliefs about what's possible and begin to see
ways to take the mystery out of this strange thing we call
"stuttering."
One final comment. You'll notice that certain ideas, such as the
diagram and description of the Stuttering Hexagon, appear in many
different chapters of the book. This is not an oversight. Not only
were these chapters written over a 23-year period, but most of
them were meant to be stand-alone articles that would not be
complete without key material such as the Hexagon description.
There's also another compelling reason to leave it this way.
When I come upon a new idea, I need to hear it many times before
it really sinks in. I assume that you and I are not so different, and
that you will find this repetition helpful.


Table of Contents ix

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Part 1
HOW TO CONQUER YOUR FEARS
OF SPEAKING BEFORE PEOPLE
Introduction to Part 1 ........................................................................... 1
Speech 1: Claiming Your Space ............................................................ 5
Speech 2: Speaking Up ....................................................................... 11
Speech 3: Adding the Music ............................................................... 15
Speech 4: Learning to Live with Pauses ............................................. 19
Speech 5: Looking 'em in the Eye ...................................................... 22
Speech 6: Letting Your Feelings Show ................................................ 25
Speech 7: Stuttering on Purpose ......................................................... 30
Speech 8: Using Your Body ................................................................ 36
Speech 9: Interacting with an Audience ............................................ 39
Speech 10: Inciting People to Action ................................................. 44

Part 2
UNDERSTANDING THE STUTTERING SYSTEM
Introduction to Part 2 ......................................................................... 53
Do You Suffer from Paradigm Paralysis? ............................................ 55
Developing a New Paradigm for Stuttering ........................................ 60
The Hawthorne Effect and It's Relationship to Chronic Stuttering ... 84
Is There a Genetic Basis for Stuttering? ............................................ 112
Thirteen Observations about People Who Stutter ........................... 125
And the Stuttering Just Dies by Jack Menear ..................................... 127
An Interview with Jack Menear: A Person Who Recovered ............. 132
Overcoming Performance Fears ....................................................... 151


x Table of Contents

On Being Different ........................................................................ 160
You Can Control How Others See You ......................................... 164
Why Talking Is Easier While You're “Being” Someone Else ......... 168
Why It's Easier to Talk When Nobody's Around ........................... 173
Why Are Speech Blocks So Unpredictable .................................... 176
Losing Your Will to Speak ............................................................. 196
Zen in the Art of Fluency .............................................................. 201
Creating a Setting for Fluency ....................................................... 208
Tapping the Resources of the Internet .......................................... 213
The Last Game ............................................................................... 220
A Long Walk by James P. O'Hare .................................................... 231

Part 3
CHANGING THE HEXAGON
Introduction to Part 3 .................................................................... 237
The Power of Observation ............................................................. 239
Are You or Are You Not a Stutterer? .............................................. 254
Having Fun: It's More Powerful Than You Think ......................... 259
An Introduction to Speaking Freely .............................................. 266

Part 4
THOSE WHO RECOVER
Introduction to Part 4 .................................................................... 285
Maryanne's Story ........................................................................... 291
A Process of Recovery by Walt Manning, Ph.D. .............................. 296
Stuttering Is Not Just a Speech Problem by Alan Badmington ....... 302
From Stuttering to Stability by Linda Rounds ................................ 324
Strategies for Dealing with Stuttered Speech, Feelings
and Communication by Mark Irwin, D.D.S. ............................... 336
Freedom of Speech: How I Overcame Stuttering
by Tim Mackesey, CCC-SLP .......................................................... 343
How I Recovered from Chronic Stuttering by John C. Harrison .... 364


Table of Contents xi

Part 5
RECENT ADDITIONS
Introduction to Part 5 .................................................................... 387
The Feeling of Fluency .................................................................. 389
How to Get Rid of Stuttering in under 60 Seconds ....................... 411
My Five Stages of Recovery ............................................................ 418
Observations by Helen Vyner .......................................................... 427
A Golf Analogy by Jake Dean ......................................................... 430
My Development As A Person with A Stutter by Christine Dits ...... 431
How Your Expectations Can Sink Your Ship ................................ 436
Forty Years Later ............................................................................ 443

Part 6
RESOURCES
Twelve Books You’ll Find Helpful ................................................ 4 5 1
Comprehensive Programs and Other Resources ....................... 4 5 5
About the Author ........................................................................ 4 6 5



PART

I
HOW TO CONQUER YOUR FEARS OF
SPEAKING BEFORE PEOPLE



Introduction to Part 1

1

INTRODUCTION TO PART 1
Note: This book begins with the original public speaking manual. To skip
this section and jump directly to the beginning discussion of stuttering,
please turn to page 53.

P

ublic speaking.
Can I survive it?
The next time I stand up to talk, will I self-destruct? Or will I somehow
be spared the shame of stuttering myself to death?
If there’s one thing that’s controlled our lives, it’s the fear of making
a fool of ourselves before an audience.
Being locked into such a grim survival game is hardly conducive to
building confidence. And even more — it has blinded us to what really
makes a good speaker.
Although you may find it hard to believe, being fluent is not the beall and end-all of public speaking. There are over four billion people in the
world, and three billion nine hundred million of them don’t stutter. Yet,
most of the so-called “fluent” world is as petrified of public speaking as
you might be.

"I'D RATHER DIE THAN SPEAK IN PUBLIC!"
Surveys have shown that Number One on the list of people’s
greatest fears is not death (as you might imagine), but public speaking.
Death is down around Number Four. As John Ahlbach, the former
executive director of the NSA wryly observed, dying has several advantages over speaking. For one thing, when you die, you only have to do
it once. And after you do it, you don’t have to walk back to your seat.
The truth is, many people who stutter are terrific speakers. They’re
alive; they’re electric; they establish excellent personal rapport with their
audience. They get their audience to feel good about them, because they
feel good about themselves.
You probably don’t realize that your audience takes its cues about
how to react to you by the way you react to yourself. If you look
comfortable and confident, they’ll feel comfortable and confident. On


2

Introduction to Part 1

the other hand, if you’re anxious and obviously unhappy about being where
you are, they’ll follow right along and be uncomfortable with you.

WE'VE SOLD OURSELVES A BILL OF GOODS.
Most of us who stutter grew up believing that we’d never be
effective as speakers. Every time we had to stand up, we worked
ourselves into a state of panic. We retreated. We went “unconscious” —
blocking out any awareness of what we were doing. And our confidence
and hopes were dealt another heavy blow.
Over time, we came to believe that the only way to be any good was
to first become fluent.
Wrong.
If you want to speak well, you can learn to do it now. Right now.
Fluency is not a prerequisite. You can learn to take charge of an audience,
even though all the words don’t come out the way you’d like them to.
In fact, as you become more comfortable as a public speaker, you’ll
probably begin to notice that your speech blocks begin to take on less
importance in your life. In some cases they may even diminish or
disappear. This is because you’re diminishing the stress that fuels your
stuttering behavior. Your audience will begin to react to you in a more
positive way, and you, in turn, will reflect that attitude by becoming even
more self-confident, thus establishing a whole new cycle.
Sound simple?
In principle, it is. In practice, it takes time and effort, as well as an
ability to risk. Remember, nobody has ever changed any kind of behavior
— stuttering or otherwise —without taking chances.
This public speakig program is designed for a stuttering support
group. It will guide you through the elementary steps that lead to greater
confidence and self-assurance as a speaker. The program works for
anyone, though it’s written specifically to address the problems, feelings
and attitudes of those who stutter.
The program consists of ten exercises, each focusing on a different
aspect of effective speaking. Each of these steps, once mastered, will
build confidence in your ability to take charge. Every exercise is designed
to ground you as a speaker, so you’ll be less likely to panic and retreat.
And it will reinforce the feeling that speaking is a positive experience, not
something to run from.
At the end of most speeches there is a follow-up exercise. These
exercises are extremely important and should be followed if you want to
maximize your benefits. The exercises are designed to help you become


Introduction to Part 1

3

aware of particular attitudes and beliefs that may be standing in your way,
and to dispel certain false ideas which people who stutter typically hang
on to.

GETTING PAST THE FIRST HURDLE
Before we enter into the first of these exercises, there’s one more
thing you must consider:
Your own resistance to change.
All dynamic systems...from the atom to the largest galaxy...have a
built-in drive to maintain their existing structure. Scientists call it
“homeostasis”: keeping things in balance.
It’s one of the watchdogs of your stuttering habit.
People fail to realize that a behavior pattern — not just stuttering
but any behavior pattern — has a life of its own. When threatened, the
habit struggles to survive, much as any of us would struggle if we were
threatened with annihilation. We’d kick and grab and reach out to
anything that might save us. We want to live. And so does your
stuttering. After all, it has a life history almost as long as your own.
This resistance is one reason why stuttering is such a tough nut to
crack. Your habit fights for survival through insidious little mind games.
It will create such thoughts as...
“I really feel stupid doing this.”
“I’ve tried everything and nothing ever seems to

work.”

“These exercises aren’t going to change anything.”
“I don’t feel like going to an NSA meeting tonight.”
“This feels UNCOMFORTABLE!”
Of course you’ll feel strange and uncomfortable! You’ll be doing
things that are new to you. But if you’re willing to put up with a little
uncomfortability for a while, not only will you provide yourself with the
opportunity to experience something new...over time these behaviors will
begin to feel more natural.
Your ability to tolerate short periods of uncomfortability is the key
to change. If you are willing to take a chance and hang in there, you can
bring about significant shifts in your attitude and your self-image.
We encourage you to practice these talks as many times as you like


4

Introduction to Part 1

until they become old hat. You can make each talk several times before
moving on to the next, or you can go through all ten and then start from
the beginning again...or follow any order you like. Each time you’ll learn
something new.
One final suggestion before you get started. Initially, when you make
any of these talks, it will be helpful to talk from your own personal
experience on a subject of your own choosing.
Your challenge will come, not from dealing with an unfamiliar topic,
but from trying out an unfamiliar behavior. In other words, it will be easier
to focus your energies on the particular skill you’re practicing if you don’t
also have to deal with strange subject matter. Later on, as you become
more adept at these exercises, you can apply them to an impromptu
subject as well.
Are you ready?
Here’s the first exercise.


Speech 1: Claiming Your Space

5

SPEECH 1: Claiming Your Space

W

hen Danny Kaye was touring the world as a performer, he gave
one particularly memorable show in London’s Palladium theater.
Picture this: a packed house of 4,000 sitting breathless, their attention
locked on the solitary figure framed by the huge expanse of stage. The stage
at the Paladium is 50 feet from left to right, and Danny Kaye moved about
as if he owned every inch of it.
In fact, Danny Kaye did own every inch of it.
He owned that stage so completely that during the performance he sat
down on a corner of the stage, dangled his feet over the edge, and talked to
that sea of faces as if he were chatting with them over 4 o’clock tea. He didn’t
act like he was on stage at all.
Compare this to how a typical person behaves before an audience. The
average individual stays rooted within the same three foot “island.” He acts
as if the area around him has been mined, and the only space he dares to
“claim” is the little tract on either side. No wonder people are uncomfortable
when they speak. Wouldn’t you be uncomfortable making a speech in the
middle of a mine field, where a wrong step in either direction might blow
you to kingdom come?
Sounds silly, doesn’t it. But then why don’t people use all the room
they have available to them the way a professional performer like Danny
Kaye does?

OUR SURVIVAL INSTINCTS AT WORK
When we’re up in front of an audience, some of us barely move a
muscle.
At this moment, we’re being controlled by a very basic survival instinct.
If you were suddenly surrounded on the African veldt by a herd of rhinos,
you would tend to stand perfectly still so you wouldn't be a target. Standing stock
still is a natural reaction to danger.
But if you’re on Fifth Avenue in New York on a fine Sunday afternoon,
you wouldn’t be rooted to one spot. No way. You’d be strolling along with


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