The Stuttering Hexagon – The Theory Behind Stuttering and How TISA Acceptance is linked to it

Hi, I am Suraj Kumar. I am 23 years old. I am an IIT Delhi graduate. To more about me, visit my page at

The Stuttering Hexagon
The Stuttering Hexagon

The Stuttering Hexagon is theory put forward by John. C. Harrison (look at Source below) to explain stammering. It is the most complete theory behind stammering as believed by the author. Author has mentioned, in brief, the components of the theory below. For more details refer to Author’s book Redefining Stuttering

6 components of Stuttering Hexagon

  1. Physiological responses
    1. It’s simply means its biology or genetics, you can’t do anything about it. That is people react differently to stimulus. For example some people are predisposed to be overweight because of their genes. Similarly in some people, stress in some people can lead to disfluency
  2. Behaviours (or Secondary Symptoms)
    1. There are some behaviours that are counter productive to losing weight. Similarly there are some behaviours which are counter productive to fluent speech. For examples, Holding the breath, pursing the lips or locking the vocal cords. If these behaviour are curtailed, then the person can speak fluently.
  3. Emotions
    1. People who are obese have experience negative emotions such as self-hate, embarrassment. So the find solace in food and this over eat
    2. Similarly people who stammer developed this cycle of chronic stuttering. First their normal fluency upsets them. So it leads to blocking. So when they are unable to speak at opportune moment then that’s emotionally upset as deal with frustration, fear, embarrassment, helplessness or rejections. Such negative emotions further lead to more struggle with the speech blocks
  4. Perceptions
    1. Perceptions are defined by two things, fist is what we experience at the moment and  second is that these experiences are decided by our beliefs, expectation and state of mind
    2. E.g. If we perceive that we are odd because the way we talk differs us from the rest. Then we may interpret, whispered comments about us while we are speaking to a group of people
  5. Beliefs
    1. Beliefs are different from perceptions.  Perceptions are somewhat short-term and can be easily changed. While Beliefs are somewhat fixed in the short-term.
    2. We should be more worried about negative beliefs as they will keep us directed in negative direction or towards our fall. Here are some examples of such negative beliefs
      1. We will not get good-looking girls/boys because we stammer
      2. We are different from other people because we stammer.
    3. Beliefs shape our perceptions. It’s like tinted glasses through which we see the world.
    4. Beliefs are formed by two ways
      1. Authority Figures (Our parents, teachers): whatever they say we believe it on face value without even questioning anything
      2. Experiences: Beliefs are formed when our experiences are somewhat in same way or particular way. For example, if we get rejected in interview 3 or 4 times, we might get perception that stammerers are not good for jobs
  6. Intentions
    1. I want to speak but can’t speak because in reality I don’t want to speak because if I do then I will experience some kind of pain or people will get to know about my imperfection.
    2. So yes my apparent intention is to speak but my hidden intention is hide or hold back. Thus in this conflict which takes us in opposite direction, we experience blocked and unable to move anyway. This phenomenon is also called approach-avoidance conflict

How the Stuttering hexagon works?

  • Stuttering hexagon works on system mentality. Systems mentality means that every part of system is affected by other parts and affects other parts of system.  So for example behaviour is affected by all the rest 5 components of stuttering hexagon. If majority of components are in negative way, then it’s very hard to be fluent even though you might have taken speech therapy.
  • Consider for example the following case which does not supports fluent speech.
Unsupportive Hexagon System
Unsupportive Hexagon System

  • In authors words (John C. Harrison)
“Let’s say a person undergoes a successful program of speech therapy. He (or she) achieves a high level of fluency. But in the weeks and months that follow the person does nothing to modify (1) his negative emotional responses; (2) his negative perceptions; (3) what he negatively believes to be possible, and that includes every belief he holds about who and what he is; and (4) the negative psychological programming or patterned behavior that leads him to react in self-defeating ways.
What is likely to happen?
His blocking will return (or in the case of weight, the pounds will reappear.) This is because each of these points is continually exerting a negative influence on the only positive point in the system (Point #2: fluent speech), and over time the person’s speech will gradually slip back into the old familiar dysfluency. In short, the original system will reestablish itself.”
  • Now consider the case which supports fluent speech
Fluent Hexagon System
Fluent Hexagon System

How TISA acceptance is linked to Stuttering hexagon

(I am still very new to acceptance as advocated by TISA, but these are my views which might be inconsistent with TISA)
  • TISA wants to works on acceptance mainly by working on emotions, perceptions, beliefs and intentions component of Stuttering hexagon. Following is the way in which TISA works on them
  • We have to believe that stuttering is just a different way of speaking or say as Dr. Sachin puts it “It’s a diversity”.
  • We also have to believe that there is nothing inherently wrong in our speech mechanism by which we might face problem in speaking our name or any sound.
  • We have to believe that we should become a good communicator rather than a fluent speaker.
  • Here I think Voluntary stammering or purposeful disclosing to people that you stammer hits the bull eyes.
  • As STAMMERER we usually feel that we have done a crime when we stammer and thus are filled with shame and guilt. These negative emotions (such as embarrassment, shame, guilt, frustration) needs to be changed to Positive emotions..
  • Emotions can also be controlled by meditation. As we are encouraged to go in Vipassna
  • In TISA we are told to develop new habits or hobbies. So we are made to engage in newer habits or hobbies.
  • One friend in Bangalore SHG once told me that we stammerers focus too much on speech but not on the other areas of life which requires urgent attention.
  • These newer hobbies or habits could be dramatics, meditation, toastmasters, sports, etc.
  • As mentioned earlier, perceptions are based on beliefs. And they can be changed into positive only when we changed our beliefs. To change our beliefs we have to work on acceptance.
  • They can be improved further by positive experiences. Positive experiences can be gained by working on new things
  • Through practices such as prolongation or bouncing, It wants to work on our behaviours which are responsible for disfluent speech
(This article was first published on Thinking on India (Author’s Blog) at

Author Details
Suraj Kumar

Post Author: Harish Usgaonker

6 thoughts on “The Stuttering Hexagon – The Theory Behind Stuttering and How TISA Acceptance is linked to it


    (February 14, 2016 - 2:28 am)

    Nine article, Suraj. I find the hexagon quite relevant in my life.

    The only thing I would like to add is that our negative beliefs, perceptions and feelings may not be just about our speech. We could be carrying baggage or emotional wounds in other areas as well. All of them do have an impact on my confidence and my fluency or (the lack of it).


    (February 14, 2016 - 5:51 am)

    Correct Tanveer. I 100% agree with you.

    Just wait for my next article on my stammering where I explains how other areas of life affect our stammering. It could be your physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, social or economical aspects.

    Just Wait 🙂


    (February 14, 2016 - 8:41 am)

    Hi Tanveer, I have wrote it. You can access it from below link


    (February 14, 2016 - 12:37 pm)

    Nice deep thought, Suraj.
    Keep writing such intellectual articles.


    (February 14, 2016 - 3:32 pm)

    Tanveer- very true. We tend to get limited by our stammering- like a child who cant see because he is holding his palms against his eyes.. If we could truly accept it- then, moving on wont take more than a blink of an eye.. I think.

    Prasannajit Khatua

    (February 16, 2016 - 5:31 pm)

    Thanks a lot for the nice explanation. You are too good at analysis.

Comments are closed.