As someone who mumbled from the time I was in 3rd grade until I was almost 30 years old, I can tell you that my inability to speak clearly met with all sorts of rude responses that only made me more likely to mumble in the future, assuming I dared to try speaking again at all. Here’s a list, in no particular order, of ten things you should never say or do to someone mumbling.
Almost everything on this list is hurtful, makes me less likely to speak to you again (or if I do, makes it more likely I’ll again speak poorly), makes you look bad, and makes me disrespect you. Is that what you really want?
1. Mock or imitate me
I’m already overly sensitive to my speech problems and this only humiliates me and makes me more sensitive, compounding the problem.
2. Snap “Would you stop mumbling?”
Telling me that my speech irritates you just makes me less likely to speak again and also makes you come across as a self-important jerk.
3. Snap “Speak up!”
Showing anger punishes me for trying to communicate with you, like most things on this list.
4. Scornfully say, “I can’t understand you!”
I’m well aware that I’m hard to understand. This scorn humiliates and demeans me.
5. Yell, “Where did you learn how to talk?”
Probably the same place you learned manners.
6. Don’t pretend you heard me and understood when you didn’t
If I say something and you act like you heard me, it will often be apparent when your response has nothing to do with what I just said. You might fool yourself, but you’re not fooling me. I’ll resent that.
7. Don’t pretend I didn’t say anything or otherwise tune me out
This is even worse than #6. You may be taking it for granted that I’m never going to say anything you’ll understand, but you should still be trying instead of just writing me off.
8. Tell me, “Nobody cares what you have to say anyway.”
Being fairly certain of this is one of the reasons I’m mumbling to begin with so you’re part of the problem by actually telling me that.
9. Don’t interrupt me
This only makes things worse and this sort of intimidation is why I’m mumbling in the first place. When you destroy my confidence that I’ll be heard, it makes things worse.
10. Snap, “Would you mumble that again?”
Your expectation that I’ll just mumble it instead of repeat it clearly is probably well founded, but that doesn’t mean you should make it clear you’ve lost all hope for me. I likely have, too, and don’t need your added vote of no confidence.