What Goes Unsaid
Posted May 9, 2011on:
An article was posted in the UK newspaper “The Telegraph” (May 5, 2011) with the headline, “Colin Firth admits he is struggling to lose his stutter.” Firth portrayed Bertie in the movie “The King’s Speech”, the reluctant king who stammered. Firth, who does not stutter, learned to deliberately stutter for the role.
He did a brilliant job, as we know, as he won the Academy Award for Best Actor and the film also swept the other top awards, Best Screenplay, Picture and Director. Firth showed with grace and dignity the difficulties faced by a person who stutters. But Firth is an actor, only portraying stuttering. He has not lived with the daily challenges of not being able to speak easily and effortlessly like most people do, without even thinking about it.
In this article, Firth is quoted as saying (about Helena Bonham-Carter, who played his wife, Elizabeth), “Whenever I was stammering if I caught her eye she was usually looking at her watch or yawning, hoping the moment passes as quickly as possible, fortunately when the cameras are on her she looks delightfully supportive.”
I wonder if Firth was even remotely aware that people who stutter often face listener reaction just like he described. People often look away when someone is stuttering, or glance at their watch or look otherwise uncomfortable or impatient.
This is the body language of negative listener reaction that is often so tough for people who stutter to face. When a listener looks away or yawns or tries to interrupt us or finish our sentences, it is not uncommon for the stutterer to feel invisible, de-valued, unimportant.
This is what makes stuttering so complex. It is often that which goes unsaid that results in stutterers feeling shame, embarrassment and/or inadequacy. Non-verbal body language is powerful and conveys just as much, if not more, about how a listener is listening and responding to us.
Firth may have been joking or just making an indifferent remark when he mentions that the actress portraying his wife, Queen Elizabeth, would look away when he was stammering. He also states in this article that he is having a hard time “losing the stammer” he deliberately practiced and performed for the role.
I wrote a post just about two years ago called The Things We Take For Granted. In that post, I wrote this line: “It is not what is uttered, or heard or seen. It is what is not heard, what is felt and what matters” (most).
It felt like the same theme again. We very often are more affected by what goes unsaid than what is said by us or our listener. Non-verbal body language says a lot!
What do you think about what Firth says about his co-star looking away and wishing his stammering moment would pass quickly? And what do you think about Firth struggling to lose a stutter/stammer he never had?