Make Room For The Stuttering

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How many times has this happened to you? You’re in a conversation with someone, either someone you know well or someone unfamiliar. You’re going along fine with what you are saying and then it hits – a big block.

You get stuck and nothing comes out. You feel helpless and the moment feels like an hour. Your mouth is open and nothing is happening. Or sound is coming out but not the word.

And then your listener tries to help and finishes the word or sentence for you. Maybe they even got it right.

Or maybe they get it wrong, and say something not even remotely close to what you were actually going to say.

How does this make you feel? What do you do?

When this has happened to me, sometimes I feel angry. Angry that the block has happened in the first place and that someone has seen what I look like when I get stuck. I imagine it looks awful, but I’m sure in reality it doesn’t.

I also might feel angry if the listener has finished my word and they guessed wrong. I do one of two things: finish what I was going to say anyway and move on, or move on and pretend like nothing happened.

I don’t like to do that – pretend nothing happened, because something did. I got stuck in a block and someone reacted to it.

I wish I had the guts to acknowledge my feelings when this happens but I often don’t. I don’t like to draw more attention to my stuttering.

What about you?

I wrote a post on Loss of Control five years ago! And it still rings true today. I want to share parts of that post in today’s blog post.

Probably one of the most helpless feelings a person can have is that feeling you get when you lose control when speaking. You probably know what I mean.

My stomach feels like its going to bottom out, my chest gets tight, and my heart starts to pound so hard it feels like everyone can hear it. And my face heats up, I feel a lump in my throat and then my eyes start to well up. If the feeling lasts longer than a few seconds, my eyes spill over.

I feel loss of control when I get embarrassed, because these reactions happen automatically and involuntarily. I also feel loss of control when I get angry, or sad. I always felt like I should be able to control my reactions to feelings. Almost all of the same physical reactions occur.

I used to feel I had some control over my stuttering. Fairly early, I began to know which words or sounds I might stutter on, and concentrated on switching words or doing the avoidance thing. That stopped working for me long ago.

I started feeling more in control when I dropped most of the covert stuttering and just let natural stuttering out. Since not fighting so hard to not stutter, I have felt pretty controlled with my easy, relaxed repetitions.

But sometimes my speech is messy. I can’t predict stuttering moments like I used to be able to, and I feel more tension and lack of control.

I often feel helpless, especially when around someone new or who is impatient.

Even though I tell myself I don’t care what others think, I still sometimes feel the sting of judgment and fear rejection.

What do you think? Do you feel out of control when you get really stuck in a stuttering moment? Does this feeling ever go away?

I just finished reading a great article in my Toastmasters magazine on the importance of body language when speaking, whether to one person or a large group.

As a Toastmaster, I know the importance of body language. It helps us to convey feelings and emotions and shows our level of confidence. People pick up on our non-verbal cues and then often know how to react or respond.

As I read and reflected on body language, it made me wonder how it relates with our stuttering. I posed this question on an online forum for women who stutter and got some good responses.

Several said something similar – standing with pride. Friend Amey writes: “Shoulders back, head up, eye contact. Keeping this posture during stuttering can be liberating. It rips down stereotypes of us being scared and curled up in a ball.”

Amey goes on to say that seeing a proud person who stutters is powerful. It conveys confidence. She says, “Watch me stutter!”

What do you think? Is body language important to keep in mind about our stuttering? Can you feel pride while stuttering?

I participated in a great conversation this week about ways to build confidence if you stutter. During a Stutter Social chat, a young person asked how some of us more “seasoned stutterers” deal with the anxiety of stuttering in certain speaking situations.

Some people shared their experiences from speech therapy, some shared from their perspective on acceptance and two of us talked a little about Toastmasters.

The following are some of the ideas that we shared about building confidence. Maybe you’ve tried some of them. Maybe you’ve got a suggestion to add.

  • Don’t obsess or rehearse before hand. That increases anxiety and decreases spontaneous conversation.
  • Consider advertising and letting listeners know that you are a person who stutters.
  • Try using voluntary stuttering to help you gain some control during the speaking situation.
  • Seize opportunities to speak, such as Toastmasters clubs or other speaking forums. Practice helps reduce anxiety and build confidence.
  • Remind yourself that you have as much right to be in that speaking situation as the next person, that your voice deserves to be heard.
  • If someone interrupts you, calmly let them know you’re not finished speaking yet and then proceed to complete your thoughts, no matter how long it takes.

What do you think? Do you have anything to add?

 

 

One of the most popular posts on this blog, the one that gets the most visitors, is a post titled Breathe In, Breathe Out, that I wrote on April 15, 2010. I think it’s so popular because people who stutter are often looking for techniques that can help to manage stuttering.

The program that focuses most on breathing is the McGuire program. This program stresses the use of costal breathing, where students are taught diaphragmatic breathing techniques. Graduates of the McGuire method practice breathing techniques daily in order for speaking to sound natural.

When I attended speech therapy a few years ago, one of the techniques that the student clinicians taught us was “full breath.” This was part of traditional fluency shaping therapy.

For me, I always found it difficult to concentrate on my breathing and trying to speak at the same time. Both are automatic, things I do without thinking. I breathe with ease. Sometimes I speak with ease, sometimes I struggle when I speak.

When I block, I can sometimes feel myself run out of air and feel breathless. That can be such a helpless, out-of-control feeling. But I still don’t want to take the time to stop and think about breathing and speaking on a full breath.

To me, breathing is just breathing and shouldn’t require extra, specific thought. I’m curious – what do you think?

 

NSA DCI just returned from the NSA annual conference in Washington DC. This year’s conference had a record number of 975 attendees, one third of whom were first timers.

I met a lot of new people and connected with friends that I really only see once a year.

It was a great experience. I co-facilitated several workshops and attended several that pushed me out of my comfort zone.

The best workshop I was part of was the First Timer’s Orientation. I co-facilitated this with friends Landon and Lott. Over 200 people came to the workshop, where they had the chance to meet and interact with each other. I met some of the people I had called in advance of the conference.

Some of my favorite moments:

16 year old Jeremy came and introduced himself and his parents to me. Jeremy told me that he and his speech therapist have used articles from this blog and some of my YouTube videos in his speech therapy sessions. Jeremy was thrilled to be at his first conference and had set as a goal for himself to speak at an Open Mic session. He came and told me about it afterward and said it was a success and that he felt great.

Rehan, who I corresponded with pre-conference, came up to me and said he was glad I had been so honest in my introduction during the workshop by saying that it can be overwhelming and scary to introduce yourself to strangers. He acknowledged that he was feeling nervous about doing that, as he has never introduced himself to so many people.  After the conference, he told me he had met many people and was grateful for the opportunity to stay in touch during the year. He also said in an email:

As per my thoughts … well, wow. It was way beyond my expectations. I didn’t really know what to think going in to it, but when I got there and [tried] to introduce myself only to have people patiently wait for my name, I knew I was in the right place. I was definitely apprehensive about continuing to go up to people and introduce myself, but everybody was just so friendly about it! I stuttered, they stuttered, and it was fine!

Natalie came up to me one of the first evenings and introduced herself to me. We had talked on the phone before the conference and she recognized me from some YouTube videos.  Natalie had traveled to the conference alone from Maine and was nervous about what to expect. Here is an excerpt from an email Natalie sent me the day after the conference:

Pam, you are a lovely person and I want to thank-you for all that you did for me at the conference.  You may not think it was much, but simply being kind, talking to me when I first got there, inviting me out with you and others, calling me before the conference and just being around really made me feel at ease.  You are an asset to the stuttering community.

I also met Rohan, who was one of our keynote speakers. I had the opportunity to speak to him before the conference as well, so it was pretty cool to meet up and talk a bit during the conference and then hear his amazing speech about “making things happen” and “no excuses.”

There were so many other amazing moments, but these are an example of how little moments can easily add up to a really big deal.

 

 

 

I’ve been working on a talk I will give at a workshop this week at the annual NSA conference. It’s about being memorable and using what makes us different as an asset.

I’ve talked about this before on this blog – the idea that stuttering makes us memorable. My talk for the workshop centers on the premise that if we have something that makes us stand out, why not use it to our advantage?

Stuttering is unique. It applies to only 1% of the population. It makes us different. We stand out because of it. Is that a bad thing?

I remember when my sister told me about six years ago that she was jealous that I stuttered and she didn’t. I had to really wrap my brain around that at the time.

But it makes sense. In today’s world, we need to be remembered in order to get ahead.

Why not use what makes us unique? What do you think?

 

 


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© Pamela A Mertz and Make Room For The Stuttering, 2009 - 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Pamela A Mertz and Make Room For The Stuttering with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Same protection applies to the podcasts linked to this blog, "Women Who Stutter: Our Stories" and "He Stutters: She Asks Him." Please give credit to owner/author Pamela A Mertz 2014.
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