Conversational Use Of The “S” Word
Posted June 18, 2012on:
You all know that I write about my experiences involving stuttering. I have wondered what will happen when the day comes when I don’t have anything more to say. Well, I am not wondering today.
Last week, I presented a training to a professional audience on public speaking and communication. The group consisted of speech therapists, occupational therapists and training coordinators who are all terrified of public speaking.
As an ice breaker, I asked everyone to introduce themselves and use one word or phrase to describe what public speaking means. Like expected, most of the responses were negative. We heard words like nervous, anxious, stressful, shaking, sweating, fear, and embarrassment. The last person said she didn’t want to stutter when speaking.
I felt my face flush when she said that. I had not yet disclosed my stuttering. She provided my cue. I reintroduced myself and said my word for public speaking was opportunity. I then added, “oh, by the way, I stutter, and I am OK with it. I hope you all are too.”
No one said anything, but I did notice a few glances toward the woman who had mentioned stuttering. I did not say this to embarrass her. It just seemed like the perfect time to disclose and advertise.
As soon as I did, I put it out of my mind and proceeded. Towards the end of the training, someone asked me why I had used the word opportunity.
I was the only person who had chosen a positive word to describe public speaking. I replied that it allows me to grow and push outside of my comfort zone, and that I don’t let stuttering hold me back.
This past week, I facilitated the second of two adult education graduations in one week. I had coordinated both events, arranged for speakers, and was the emcee at the first one. One of our district superintendents spoke at both affairs. He spoke on the same theme, changing the second speech up just slightly from the one he gave earlier.
After the ceremony, and before we proceeded to join the graduates for a reception, the administrators were chatting and I happened to be close by.
I overheard one assistant superintendent say to the one who had spoke, “hey, you did a nice job. You didn’t stutter as much as last week.” And she laughed. I glanced at them both – she was laughing, he was not.
I felt uncomfortable. It seemed like an insensitive remark to make, given that I had stuttered openly when I had emceed last week.
Maybe I am overly sensitive. What do you think? Would you have said anything?