Make Room For The Stuttering

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.

PamEpisode 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.

 

 

 

 

 

PamEpisode 119 features Heather Cazares, who hails from Edinburgh, Texas. Heather is studying to be a speech language pathologist at The University of Texas – Pan American. Heather is also mom to a three year old daughter.

Heather is a NSA Chapter leader for a new chapter she founded just last August. Heather was looking for ways to advertise her new chapter and sought out an opportunity to be interviewed on TV.

Listen in as we talk about Heather’s experiences with leading a new support group. We also talk about the importance of self-advocacy.

Heather also shares that stuttering runs in her family, on both sides. I ask Heather if she worries about her own child stuttering.

This was a great conversation with a strong young woman who is making a difference in her community. Feel free to leave comments or ask questions in the comment section, for feedback is a gift.

The podcast safe music used in this episode is credited to DanoSongs.

 

PamEpisode 118 features Natalie, who hails from London, England and currently is based in Bristol, England. Natalie is a beauty therapist and absolutely loves her job. She enjoys helping women look and feel good about themselves and looking the part herself.

Listen in as Natalie talks about the challenges and opportunities of a service profession that requires constant communication.

We talk at length about The McGuire Program, which has helped Natalie become a competent and confident communicator. She aspires to one day be a coach and course instructor for the program.

Natalie is an upbeat, social and bubbly young woman who doesn’t let stuttering stand in her way. It was a delight to chat and get to know her.

Feel free to leave comments below, for feedback is a gift. The podcast safe music used in this episode is credited to ccMixter.

 

I had the wonderful opportunity two weeks ago to speak to 9th graders about my stuttering and how it has impacted my career. I really should say that I “took” the opportunity to speak about stuttering.

You see, I was invited to speak to the students about my career as part of their annual Career Day. Since it was on May 15th and during National Stuttering Awareness Week, I felt I needed to weave my stuttering story into my talk. I find I can no longer talk about my career without also talking about stuttering.

I took a pretty big leap of faith that this would be OK and I faced stiff competition. The students were also going to be hearing from people who do cool things with science and who get to design video games for a living. One guy even brought a robot.

But I decided to talk about how my career has changed over the years and how being open about my stuttering has helped make me memorable.

Yep! I talked about being memorable and used stuttering as an example. I reminded the kids that we all have “something” – mine just happens to be stuttering. Being successful includes shifting whatever the something is that we maybe don’t like and turning it into an asset. I shared how that mindset shift has helped me come to terms with my stuttering and “use” it in a way that people will remember.

It’s important in job interviews to “stand out from the crowd” in some way. I have done that by openly disclosing that I stutter and by openly stuttering.

The kids were great. I had to do my presentation 6 times to 6 different groups, so I was tired by day’s end, but the kids were engaging and asked lots of good questions. They were curious about stuttering. Some mentioned that they have a sibling or cousin who stutters. Their questions were thoughtful.

One girl came up to me after class and told me that she has a brother who stutters and she was very glad I had come in to talk to their class. She gave me a hug.

Another girl came up to me in a different class and gave me the below note. It brought tears to my eyes. I definitely believe I made the right decision to talk about stuttering that day. Any time you can go and talk to kids about stuttering, differences, tolerance and respect, do it. It makes a difference.

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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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