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Asset-Based Thinking versus Deficit-Based Thinking

I believe that stuttering is so much more than a problem with speech. Stuttering is more about the experience in communicating with others and how we see ourselves in relationship to the world around us and the people with whom we interact.

Many of us have learnt and drilled a speaking technique which enables us to speak very well. However, for many people they have been unable to transfer that skill into real life with its often perceived pressures, judgements and fearful situations. It follows then that to recover from stuttering long-term we have to change the system which is supporting the stuttering behaviour. We have to change ourselves, our perceptions, our beliefs and the way we look at the world around our speaking.

Which brings me to talk about a great book I have just read? “Change The Way You See Everything” by Kathryn D. Cramer Ph. D and Hank Wasiak. Published in 2006 the book is available through good bookstores for $39.95. I bought mine from Angus and Robertson.

The book explains the great personal gains to be made by focusing our thinking on our assets rather than our deficits and goes on to explain how this might be achieved.

If we focused our attention on:

  • Opportunities rather than problems
  • Strengths more than weaknesses
  • What we can do rather than what we can’t do

we build our energy, self-belief, enthusiasm and are able to move forward with our life and perhaps even our recovery from stuttering?

The authors claim that most people are “hard-wired” to focus on deficit-based thinking. That is, personal gaps and weaknesses, problems, what bad things might happen and fear and anxiety around those things. Our nervous system works really hard to protect us from harm. However, this type of negative thinking, encouraged everyday by our media, often prevents us from doing the very things that will fill us with energy, hope and self-confidence…and we all know there’s a direct relationship between how confident we feel and our quality of speech!

Asset-based thinking is not just “positive thinking”. It requires that action be taken to use your own personal assets and those around you, to everyone’s advantage. True empowerment is taking charge of your own “power-zone”, not being oversensitive about what others think of you, stop being your own worse critic and moving forward with faith, hope and optimism.

Sound good? How might we start to achieve this?

1. Stand guard over your mind and your mouth:

  • Listen and be aware of everything you say and think
  • Never say or think anything negative about yourself
  • Never put yourself down

Remember, our thoughts determine our emotions about an event and our emotions result in the behaviour. Think negative and self-defeating thoughts about an impending speaking situation and guess what the behaviour is? More often than not, blocking and stuttering!

2. Focus on our intentions rather than our expectations (forget 100% perfection – just do the job)

If we have the expectation that our speech must be perfect or else we’ve failed, we won’t have many positive speaking experiences. Approach every speaking situation with the intention of using our technique to the best of our ability and above all to enjoy the speaking experience. Don’t forget to smile  ;o)

3. Magnify what’s best. Focus on what’s next.

  • Set your sights on what you want/need
  • Move past fear with the attitude, “No matter what happens, I’ll handle it.”
  • Start from where you are with enthusiasm and self-abandon
  • Practise as if no one is judging
  • Build on what you already know how to do……gain new skills and apply them
  • When you experience victory…celebrate; that best speech at Toastmasters, ordering exactly what you want for lunch
  • Set your sites on the next step. Set baby-goals every day and follow through with “personal honour”

4. Respect yourself and respect others by standing up for yourself and the things in which you believe.

Why, on a McGuire 4-day course do we teach assertiveness skills? Because people who stutter in the main have been passive people who sacrifice their own needs to satisfy the needs of others. Self-respect leads to a healthy self-image and to self-confidence and we all know what that helps?

5. Learn and use the formula for Assertive Communication:

I feel………

When you………


What I would like to happen………

What do you think?

A little too “touchy/feely” for you? Give it a go! It works!

I’ve only just touched on a few ideas in this book and my own personal perspectives on the topic.

To close, I wanted to share a joke I read the other day which illustrates a state of Optimism.

A family had twin boys whose only resemblance to each other was their looks. If one felt it was too hot, the other thought it was too cold. If one said the TV was too loud, the other claimed the volume needed to be turned up. Opposite in every way, one was an eternal optimist, the other a doom and gloom pessimist.

Just to see what would happen, on the twins’ birthday, their father loaded the pessimist’s room with every imaginable toy and game. The optimist’s room, he loaded with horse manure.

That night the father passed by the pessimist’s room and found him sitting amid his new gifts crying bitterly.

“Why are you crying?” the father asked.

“Because my friends will be jealous, I’ll have to read the all these instructions before I can do anything with this stuff, I’ll constantly need batteries, and my toys will eventually get broken.” answered the pessimistic twin.

Passing the optimistic twin’s room, the father found him dancing for joy in the pile of manure. “What are you so happy about?” he asked.

To which his optimistic twin replied, “There’s got to be a pony in here somewhere!”

Author Unknown

As the book says:

“Change the way you see everything……

(+) Change the way you see yourself

(+) Change the way you see others

(+) Change the way you see situations

for the better, from this moment on.”

One comment

  1. Holly-Ann Thyagarajan says:

    Sums up the recovery process in a nutshell !!
    Keep the “Whatever-happens-i’ll-handle-it-attitude” going, and the stutter will take care of itself :)
    Works for me.
    Age 44
    McGuire first course – October 2009

    June 13th, 2011 at 10:50 am

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