This is the talk that I gave at our “TEDs Talk” workshop at last week’s NSA conference. Lot’s of people gave me positive feedback and asked if I would post it.
My self and 7 other amazing people gave brief talks about our take on something from our stuttering journey. Mine is about using our stuttering to our advantage. I’d love your feedback.
I 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?
Last night in a Stutter Social hangout, a small group talked about shame and fear, and how both can still have a grip on us as adults who stutter. While stuttering may get easier as we mature, those pesky feelings can hold on and do a real number on us.
We were talking about the times when we as adults get laughed at or someone makes a joke about our stuttering. Three of us were participating in this discussion, and we all had examples of when this has happened.
One guy mentioned that when this happens, he feels like punching the person who is so insensitive. He gets all tight and angry, but doesn’t actually act on the desire to lash out. He said he actually doesn’t do anything but feels vulnerable and ashamed.
I mentioned that I sometimes feel ashamed as well, when someone laughs or teases and I don’t do anything, for fear of drawing more attention to the matter.
We discussed how it’s important to pay attention to this shame.
When we feel shame, it’s usually a sign that we need to do something – take action – to rid ourselves of the shameful feelings.
I shared that when someone laughed at my stuttering recently and made a joke, I let it bother me for a few days. Then I decided to email her and let her know it bothered me. She apologized and explained she was unaware she had made me feel uncomfortable. I felt better after doing something and not just letting the feelings eat at me.
What do you think? Do feelings of shame ever creep in? What can you do to lessen those feelings?
I was at a meeting earlier in the week to begin planning for an upcoming large event. There were about 10 people on the committee and we all did not know each other.
So, we did the round robin of introductions, with people saying their names and which building or department we worked in.
I shared my name and then started to say which building I was from, but blocked as I was saying the first word. The block lasted only about 5 seconds, but was long enough to be noticeable.
A woman across from me laughed and said, “what, did you forget where you work?”
Ah, we’ve all heard this or been asked the equally ridiculous “did you forget your name?”
I’ve been so good over the past few years in not letting this bother me as it once did, but on this day, it did. The woman who laughed is a special needs teacher.
I didn’t expect for someone who works with people with differences and disabilities to be so quick to laugh and make such an offensive comment. I expected her to be more sensitive and professional.
That’s what stung the most. The expectation that someone “in the know” would be the last person to laugh and be rude.
I shared this with some friends in a Facebook group and they asked me how I responded. I didn’t respond – I said nothing as I didn’t want to draw any attention to how embarrassed I felt.
I wish this stuff wouldn’t happen but it still does. I’m an adult who stutters. Imagine how a kid would feel if they had been laughed at like that.
Episode 120 features Gina Davis who hails from Oakland, CA. She has a doctorate in clinical psychology and is working on getting licensed. She plans to start off gradually with a small private practice in psychotherapy.
Gina is also a writer and film maker. She has a book, True Rock, scheduled to launch this fall. The book is about a rock band who wants to be terrible, in order to desensitize themselves to their fears of failure and being held back. The book has many parallels to stuttering, which we discuss, of course.
Gina has also started a blog, which showcases her writing, her book and her film making. Check out Cracklebash here.
Listen in as we discuss the covert lifestyle, perfectionism and dealing with the tough emotions of fear and shame. Gina shares an interesting observation about stuttering she once heard: “Stuttering is a disorder of self-presentation.” This was a deeply honest and insightful conversation.
Feel free to leave comments for Gina here on the blog, especially since she is not on Facebook. Remember, feedback is a gift.
The podcast safe music used in today’s episode is credited to ccMixter.
You can see the You Tube video we discuss in this episode below.