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I read a post on a stuttering forum about a woman who has been asked to record a training video for her job.

She was asked to make this promotional video because she is good at her job and has a great attitude.

She posted that she really wanted to make the video but is afraid of “messing up” since her speech has been “really bad” lately. She said she wouldn’t want to do the video and have it turn out less than perfect.

Several people replied, encouraging her to take the chance and do it. Several other people wished her good luck and that they hoped she has good speech on the day of the recording.

I replied as well, encouraging her to do it and to be happy with her efforts no matter how her speech is on that given day. I said that imperfect people will probably be encouraged by seeing someone who isn’t perfect either.

None of us are perfect. Perfect doesn’t exist. Especially when it comes to the speech of people who stutter.

It has taken me a long time to believe this, for I grew up under the burden of trying to be a perfectionist in order to compensate for my speech. I thought if I was perfect at everything else, my stuttered speech wouldn’t be noticed and judged.

I was afraid of the judgement. If I didn’t sound perfect, I feared people would judge me negatively. Some did, as evidenced by the teasing and mimicking I tolerated growing up. Hell, I’ve been teased and mocked as an adult.

But I’ve slowly learned to shed the drive to be perfect. I think I am in recovery.

We can use all the tools and techniques we have to shape our speech into fluent speech. But if we stutter, we’re going to stutter. That’s all there is to it.

I hope the woman asked to do the video does it and stutters well. She doesn’t have to be perfect.

There is no perfect.

I participated today in a great conversation about all things stuttering on the weekly Wednesday Stutter Social hangout.

We were talking about stuttering with confidence and whether practicing our speech increases confidence.

A couple of people mentioned that they intently practice speaking every day for one to two hours, to themselves. This practice helps those particular individuals feel more confident when they are speaking to others.

One guy mentioned that sometimes after practicing and feeling more confident, when he is speaking with others that he actually forgets he stutters.

I did a double take and mouthed “what?” I couldn’t wrap my brain around this.

The facilitator of the hangout asked us to reflect on “forgetting that we stutter” and think of a time where we might have experienced this.

To be honest, my first instinct was, “Nope I have never forgot that I stutter.” For years I tried to hide my stutter. I dealt with the mental gymnastics of word substitution and avoidance,which was a constant reminder of stuttering.

Now that I no longer do that (mostly) and stutter openly – more on some days than others- I am reminded every day that I stutter. Sometimes those stuttering reminders come at the most inopportune times.

But after the hangout was over and I thought about this some more, I found myself thinking that I sort of knew what the guy meant. There are times when I am very fluent and if I have a stuttering moment, it’s not really noticeable. At those times, when I’m not thinking of stuttering, I can understand how you can actually forget about stuttering.

At these times that I am not thinking about stuttering, I am also not acknowledging it. Perhaps by not acknowledging it, for a brief time, we can actually forget we stutter.

What do you think? Can you fathom ever forgetting that you actually stutter?

Interesting reference to stuttering!

I was watching an episode of “Nurse Jackie” on Showtime this week with a friend that also stutters. There was an interesting reference made to stuttering, which was comedic and meant to be funny.

A doctor character out of the blue grabbed the breast of the main nurse character. She became angry and immediately pulled away, saying something like, “are you kidding?”

The doctor explained that this was a reaction to stress that he gets, similar to Tourette’s Syndrome.

The doctor grabbed the same nurse’s breast later in the episode. She reacted the same way and the doctor responded with “I can’t help it. When I get stressed, I react like this. It’s like a physical stutter.”

Both my friend and I laughed. We weren’t at all offended by the reference to stuttering, which of course does not manifest itself in such a way.

What do you think? Would you have found it funny? Or do you think it was in poor taste?

Like most people who stutter, I often find myself feeling self-conscious and vulnerable when I stutter publicly. I do a lot of public speaking for my job, and this is my busy time of the year. I have been conducting tours and presentations to prospective students interested in applying to our school.

Sometimes, I find myself hoping that I’ll be mostly fluent in my presentations so I don’t encounter teens snickering when I stutter during my talk. That’s happened often, as my fluency has been very inconsistent and teens don’t quite know how to react when they hear an adult unexpectedly stutter.

Today, I had a big group that was touring. I make a 15 minute presentation at the start of the visit and then take questions as we walk around on the tour. Sometimes, I find myself very fluent when giving these presentations, as I have to project my voice to a big group and that really helps with my control.

I was very happy today that I had a great speech today. What does that mean, a “great speech day?” For me, it means that I felt comfortable and in control while speaking and took the stuttering in stride. I had a few moments of stuttered speech but felt so comfortable that I didn’t let it bother me. I did not feel self-conscious or embarrassed and I did not experience any physical tension or blushing.

Being able to take the stuttering in stride is what it’s all about. We need to remember that good communication is about the message we are conveying, not whether we stutter or not. We can be excellent communicators and stutter.

When I was younger, I never believed that. I thought my stuttering meant I was doomed to be a poor communicator. Well, that is so wrong. I stutter and I’m a great communicator. Take it in stride.

What about you? Can you take your stuttering in stride and just be OK with it?

 

This morning I was involved in interviewing high school students for a competitive, accelerated health and scientific research program for next school year. The teacher and I had a standard list of questions that we were asking all of the candidates.

These students are juniors in high school and most of them were quite nervous.

We asked questions geared to discover whether the students would be a good fit for a demanding, rigorous year-long program that requires a lot of reading, writing and public speaking.

One of the candidates shared that she is very shy and one of her weak areas is “talking out loud in front of people.” She went on to say that when she does, she often finds herself stuttering and stumbling and feeling embarrassed.

I mentioned to her that many people have a fear of public speaking and that practice is key. The teacher commented that I probably had a lot more to share on that. She knows I stutter.

So that opened the door for me to share with the student that I stutter, but I don’t let it stop me from public speaking. I shared with her about my involvement with Toastmasters and my years of practicing and honing my communication skills.

I could see the student visibly relax as I briefly shared with her about this.

After her interview was complete and she had left, the teacher and I talked about perhaps me coming into her class sometime and doing a presentation on stuttering, as it’s a fascinating subject that has research implications and the students spend a significant amount of time in this class on research.

We talked about genetics and the different brain studies that have been done. I was already beginning to flesh out in my mind what such a presentation to accelerated high school seniors would look like. We agreed to schedule a date for me to present in May. I’m going to try to make it during National Stuttering Awareness Week.

You never know when you might get a chance to talk about stuttering, so be ready!

Last night, in my bi-weekly Stutter Social Google+ Hangout, we had a great conversation about whether stuttering is part of human nature. There were varying opinions among the eight people involved in the discussion. Some felt pretty strongly that stuttering can’t be part of human nature since it only affects 1% of the population.

Others felt pretty strongly that it must be part of human nature since differences in height, vision and intelligence are part of human nature.

We got into discussing nature vs. nurture and whether stuttering is environmentally based.

And we discussed what is normal vs. abnormal, as somel felt that stuttering is abnormal speech.

Towards the end of the conversation, people pretty much decided for themselves personally whether stuttering is part of their human nature.

Stuttering is part of my nature. And I’m human, so I’d say stuttering is part of my human nature. It is a part of me that makes me ME. It’s in my makeup, part of my being, part of my brain. So, yes, I believe that stuttering is part of human nature.

Let’s continue the conversation. What do you think? Is stuttering part of human nature?

This comment was left on my blog last night. I wanted to share it with readers, because, it has to be shared. This could be any of us!

I am considering joining Toastmasters, something I’ve been advised to do for years, but am now getting nervous because I’m finally going to do it. So..I’m here researching what to expect from Toastmasters and I came across your blog.

I have been a closeted stutterer most of my life and the fear of being exposed as a stutterer is often greater than the actual emotional pain of stuttering. Your blog is very inspiring to me and I hope that one day I can reach your level of acceptance. I think you make great points about how choosing not to hide your stutter can open up a new world for you.

For some reason, when I was approaching middle school, it didn’t bother me to tell people that I stuttered when they’d ask (usually with a grin or impending giggle on their face) “why do you talk like that?” It was nothing, back then, for me to respond by saying “well, because I stutter!”..a year later, my stutter went away for some reason.

I remember volunteering to read aloud, always thinking that my stutter might present itself–but I didn’t care, I spoke freely. I joined the Spelling Bee, I could show my classmates and teacher just how articulate I really am; I was confident, for real, for once. Then, for whatever reason, my stutter and all of its insecurities came back the next year.

I began stuttering when I was 9 and throughout the course of my life, thus far, my speech impediment has gone away 3-4 times in my life. I have finally reached a point, now that I’m pushing 40, that I am not trying to ‘make it go away’–I am merely trying to be the best person I can be. I am finally ready to eliminate my fear and conquer what I have allowed to hold me back in so many ways throughout my life.

I will not allow this to control me, instill fear in me or take hold of me any longer. I’ve “dumbed it down” and relaxed myself in slang because it proved to be an easy out for me. I could navigate that, and all the persona that comes with it much easier than I could master working on speech techniques and trying to overcome the only thing I needed to overcome–my fear of being laughed at. My fear of being pointed at. My fear of being rejected for something that is a part of me.

Your blog gave me the validation I needed to go ahead and join a Toastmasters chapter and work toward becoming that articulate person once more. Thank you!

 


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© Pamela A Mertz and Make Room For The Stuttering, 2009 - 2015. 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 2015.
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