Man who beat stutter helps others do same
For nearly a decade Lee Lovett has worked free of charge, seven days a week, helping others.
The retired lawyer, who was involved in several telecommunications-related entrepreneurial start-ups, does it because he remembers just how tough life once was.
For years and years, he stuttered.
Fresh out of law school in his twenties, he was horrified when he could not even say his name on his first day in court.
“There were probably 30 or 40 people in the courtroom including my father, who was an excellent lawyer and a great speaker. In some environments I didn't stutter at all. My family never heard me stutter unless I was in a non-family situation — with strangers, with authority figures and when giving presentations.
“In court, I couldn't say my name and the judge had to say it for me. And then I tried to say my client’s name and he had to say that. I humiliated myself and hurt my client and embarrassed everybody who was there. It was pathetic.”
“Traumatised” by the “disaster”, he went to see a psychiatrist.
Frank Caprio prescribed self-hypnosis.
“I began giving myself three treatments a day,” Mr Lovett said. “I did it for years and years and years.”
First, he stopped stuttering and then he lost his fear that the stuttering might return.
Delighted with the result, he shared his method in a 220-page book he published in 2015, Stuttering and Anxiety Self-Cures: Become the Boss of Your Mind. In it, he put his e-mail address and invited anyone who needed help to make contact.
“People started writing to me so I started Skypeing — with no charge. One after another after another after another, we stopped the stuttering.”
It’s estimated that 70 million people around the world stutter.
Lee Lovett understands just how “crippling” it can be. He’s spent 7,000 hours coaching people to “fluency” after stuttering impacted their work and social life.
“If you were a stutterer, every time you had a job interview you'd stutter enough that the person wouldn't hire you. I have one woman, she had over 200 job interviews without success. There was nothing wrong with her mind or her but she stuttered so badly,” he said.
“I've got another girl who is just a wonderful – charming, effervescent personality- but in a job interview, she went silent.”
Both followed The Lovett Method and went on to success in their fields.
“Stutterers tend to look for jobs where they don't have to speak; the phone is a huge problem for most. So it faces them at work. Then it begins to face them in their relationships – they want to meet someone but they can't get a conversation going. In school, they can't they can't answer questions in class; they can't make a presentation.
“We have an estimated 70 million that are out there who, basically, when push comes to shove, they can't talk. There's probably ten times that number who don't stutter but who simply don't speak under pressure. It's just crippling.”
The suggestion was then made that he “post some stories [to] give other people hope”.
“I don't know anything about computers so I got a tech and he got me a YouTube channel and I started doing them on there,” said Mr Lovett, who has more than 1,000 subscribers.
He took the information he gleaned from his “students” and wrote a second edition of his book, bumping it up by 100 pages.
“Two years after that I wrote the third edition, which was 550 pages, and two years after that, in 2021, I wrote a 700-page book which I consider to be my magnum opus on the subject.”
For anyone put off by the length, he wrote “an 86-page digest”.
His heart, however, is in his coaching. He has donated 7,000 hours of his time so far.
Encouraged by their success, his students created the World Stop Stuttering Association; he reluctantly agreed to be the “titular head”.
“I don't want to do anything there. I want to continue to write and I want to coach, that's what I like to do. I don't want to administrate any more businesses,” he said.
Still, he is proud that WSSA is “the only community in the world of ex-stutterers”.
“It was created right here in Bermuda,” said Mr Lovett who was born in Maryland but has lived here since 1988. “It's beginning to take hold but we're losing money every month, so I pay cash to coach for free.”
Despite the many messages he receives from grateful people he has helped, he insists he’s “not a martyr, not a saint, a healer, or any of that stuff”.
“I'm simply somebody who hates stuttering and I will do anything legal and moral to get it off the planet. And that's what I'm doing.”
Stuttering can show up when people are filled with anxiety, anger, greed, jealousy and similar problems but there are two main causes, Mr Lovett said.
“The first is that most stutterers are dyed-in-the-wool perfectionists. Perfectionism is not a bad thing, but the problem is, when you are a perfectionist with your speech, if you make one mistake, if you try to force a word, then you dwell on it.
“And the second element is you are unduly concerned with the opinions of others. One of the things that we preach to our students is there's only one opinion of you that truly matters in the long run and that is your opinion of yourself.”
Most of the people he coaches are between the ages of 18 and 35.
Mr Lovett encourages them to “be as loving as you can be” and to “do your best at everything you do”.
“It’s important to train your brain to think this way. It’s the most important thing of all. At the beginning of all my books, I put a quote from a psychiatrist [that] I call ‘the daily declaration’ and I ask everybody to say it multiple times every day: ‘We have free choice to accept or reject us. Nothing compels us to fake anything except our own desires.’
“So use your mental switch and dictate your thoughts. Believe that you can improve and you will. That is our bible. That's our daily declaration and I ask them to give themselves two 20-minute treatments of mind training daily — once before bed, and once when they get up.”
It’s only because he stuck with his own training that he was able to become the lawyer that his firm “picked to push out front; to give talks and to go to conventions and go fishing for clients”.
“I was constantly speaking. It's like vaccinating yourself against a disease. The more you do it, the more immunity you build against it.
“Once I developed methods of avoiding going off the cliff, then I was able to constantly expand my stutter-free zones, my comfort zone, so that I could talk anywhere. It took me ten years to overcome my fear of speaking. By the time I was 40, I was no longer fearing anything in the way of speech.”
It got so he was able to speak about his profession on live radio and television programmes without any concern that he might stutter.
He insists that 90 per cent of all people who stutter, can do the same if they follow The Lovett Method.
“I was terribly nervous about all those things, but in the process of constantly doing it, the easier it got until finally I enjoyed doing it.
“Every stutterer is unique and their problems are unique but there are a lot of similarities, and if they will follow our general programme, if they work at it, [it will work].”
There are three parts to the programme. First, stutterers must commit to reading aloud for at least an hour every day.
“When you read aloud, you hear yourself speaking fluently and it makes an impression in your brain and your memory bank. When you read aloud, if you read things like you really mean what you're saying, you will teach yourself to focus on the message,” Mr Lovett said.
“And the second you focus on your message, you will be devoid of speech issues. That's really all you need to do. You don't need my book. You don't need me. You don't need anything if you focus on your message. I wrote 700 pages and all of it boils down to one sentence: focus on your message, please.”
• For more information on The Lovett Method visit www.worldstopstuttering.org