Make Room For The Stuttering

Posts Tagged ‘feelings about stuttering

It is very interesting to review the words we use to describe stuttering. Very often, the words are negative or paint a negative image in the mind. Words like “disabled,” “disorder” and “debilitating.” When we use these words along with the word “stuttering” we get an image in our mind that there must be something wrong with the person.

It’s not often that we hear positive words to describe stuttering, like “successful,” “strong” and “confident.” But there are many successful, strong and confident people who stutter. We just don’t always know that based on the words that are often chosen to describe stuttering.

A prominent writer in the stuttering community, Katherine Preston, blogs for The Huffington Post and Psychology Today. She has a great piece out Tuesday, titled Stuttering and the Power of Suggestion. In it, she examines how the power of suggestion paints those negative or positive images in the minds of people trying to understand stuttering.

If negative words are chosen for the description, people will naturally think of stuttering as negative, a challenge, or as a deficit. This then clouds the perception we have of the actual person who stutters.

If positive words are chosen for the description, then we view the person who stutters in a positive light. We can see the person from a reference of strength and confidence.

The words we use are important. If we who stutter use negative words to describe our stuttering, how can we expect any differently of the people we are interacting with. It’s important to make a mind shift and re-frame our stuttering into positive words whenever possible.

Words make a big difference.

In one of the stuttering groups, a woman recently shared her experience with disclosing her stutter to a guy she liked. She was surprised that he was actually OK with it.

She thought he was going to reject her because she stutters. She further shared that she felt so much more comfortable knowing that he knows. They have gone on a couple of dates and are enjoying their new relationship.

Disclosing that we stutter has so many benefits. Like this woman shared, it made her feel relieved that her partner knew. She didn’t have to work to keep it hidden, like she said she had done in the past.

Trying to hide stuttering is a lot of work. I know, as I did it for years. I was always tense and afraid that I’d be exposed as a stutterer and people would think less of me as a person. Or would reject me. That was always my biggest fear – rejection.

So I switched words, avoided speaking and pretended to be a shy introvert, something that I am not. I felt such relief when I stopped trying to hide my stuttering and just stuttered openly and actually talked about it.

People’s reactions were surprising to me at first, just like the woman in above’s anecdote. Most people didn’t care – it was like disclosing that I am left-handed. So? There’s nothing wrong with being left-handed, just like there’s nothing wrong with stuttering.

And many people already knew that I stutter, which was a big surprise.  I always thought that since I didn’t talk about it and worked so hard to hide it, that I of course no one knew I stuttered. Wrong!

Disclosing that we stutter also lessens anxiety, as we are not so fearful that we are going to be found out. And disclosure also often leads to a real connection with another person. By being brave enough to disclose, often another person will share something personal about themselves and before you know it, a connection is formed.

Finally, disclosure that we stutter opens the door to questions. Often, we’ll find that people are very interested in learning more about stuttering and will ask questions. They were just waiting for us to signal that it was OK.

Disclosure can be powerful. It can open doors for us that we thought maybe were closed. And that brings good things to life.

 

Whenever I advertise my stuttering, I always reassure people it’s OK to ask me to repeat something if they didn’t understand it due to my stuttering.

I often wonder why I do that. Why would I want to risk stuttering again on the same word or phrase and perhaps have the listener still not understand? And have somebody ask me to repeat it yet again.

This has happened to me a couple of times and it’s pretty uncomfortable.

I pride myself on being upfront about stuttering and I encourage people to ask questions. But when someone actually asks me to repeat myself and indeed I do that – repeat myself, or get stuck in a block – it can be embarrassing.

This happened yesterday when I was talking with a small group of students about school program options. I mentioned that I stutter and for them to feel free to ask me to repeat anything they did not understand.

I was having a stutter-y day and of course had a lot of repetitions. One girl shyly asked me to repeat myself and I did, stuttering on the same words I did the first time. She nodded and said thank you. I’m not sure if she was just being polite or if she really did understand me, but I didn’t think so.

But I let it go. I didn’t want to stutter yet a third time on the same phrase and didn’t want to make the girl feel uncomfortable. I was worried that she might be thinking she was embarrassing me.

Isn’t it funny the self-talk we have with ourselves?

Has this ever happened to you? Do you ever offer to repeat something and then regret it? Because you’re really repeating it?

How many times have you encountered a situation where a listener reacted negatively in some way to your stuttering? He or she either laughed, rolled their eyes, spoke over you or interrupted, or mimicked you.

When this happens, the person who stutters often winds up feeling angry, ashamed or hurt. I know when this has happened to me I often walk away from the situation feeling like a failure. I often rethink the scenario countless times and wonder what I could have done to make it easier or better. I automatically assume the “failed” speaking situation was my fault. When I say “failure,” I mean that the speaking situation was not a positive, two way engagement. To me, that’s what communication is all about, two way engagement.

I can remember a situation from well over a month ago now where I was giving a presentation to a group of 10th grade students. Mostly everyone in the audience was 15 years old. 15 year old students are immature and don’t have the longest attention span, but I did expect a certain degree of respect and decent behavior as I was a “guest speaker” in the class.

As I was talking, I noticed one girl having a really hard time composing herself. She was laughing and trying to cover it up. She continued to laugh with her hands over her mouth, trying to stifle the laugh, but unsuccessfully. She kept glancing over at another kid who grinned but managed to keep himself composed.

This girl was clearly laughing at me and making me very uncomfortable. After about 10 minutes, I stopped and “called her out.” I asked if she was OK and if she maybe needed to get a drink of water or move her seat. She said she was fine, but I stated that I noticed she was laughing the whole time I was talking and was there something funny about my presentation. She said everything was fine but looked embarrassed that I had called her on her behavior.

I felt better after addressing it the way I did. I was able to go on with my presentation, but did notice when I glanced her way that she was still laughing and had her hand over her mouth. I tried to chalk it up to her being 15 and very immature.

As I’ve thought about this, I’ve come to the conclusion that I hadn’t done anything wrong or that was so funny that it warranted laughter. No, I concluded that this girl was just a poor listener.

Poor listeners abound. People who stutter and fluent people alike encounter people who are poor listeners. We see them not paying attention, trying to speak over the person speaking and not making eye contact. Active listening requires that we be present with the speaker, that we take turns and that we make eye contact. Listening is a very big part of communication. It’s a two way street.

When we encounter a poor listener, it’s really important that we don’t take it personally and think it’s our fault for the poor speaking situation just because we stutter. It might have absolutely nothing to do with that at all. Or it might. If possible, be assertive and say something to the listener that you notice that he or she is not paying attention and is there something you can do to help him. Although this might make you “gulp” a bit, being assertive will help lessen any negative self-talk you might take away from the encounter.

Because we do not have to take anything negative from a speaking encounter. If we speak and stutter, it’s up to the listener to be a good listener. They have that responsibility in two way communication.

 

It’s that time of year. Restaurants and bars are very busy, with people getting together for the holiday season. People are often very close to you when you are ordering food or drink, just because the places are busier than at other times of the year.

Has this ever happened to you? You’re placing your order at the bar and stuttering extremely well. It’s loud at the bar, so you are speaking a bit more loudly than usual, so stuttering loudly. As you are trying to remain composed, you are aware that the person next to you is staring at you with great interest.

Your face turns red, as you are aware that the person is probably trying to figure out what the hell is happening next to him. You can read his facial expression. You can see a “WTF?” spread across his face. What do you do?

I usually don’t like to draw more attention to myself when stuttering publicly like this, but sometimes “the stare factor” demands some type of response.

Resist the urge to say something smart, like, “do you want to take a picture? It will last longer.” That’s childish. I used to say that when I was younger when I would get angry when someone was obviously staring at me or a friend when we were out. Not necessarily for stuttering, but for just about anything.

As an adult, when this has happened to me, I’ve reacted several ways. I’ve said or done nothing, just dealt with the embarrassment, got my order and moved away. That is not very satisfying, however, and sometimes leads to negative self-talk.

One way I’ve dealt with this is when I turned to the “starer” and very calmly said, “haven’t you ever heard anyone stutter before? It’s OK, I’m OK, thanks for the concern.” That caused the “starer” to get a little embarrassed, which was not my intention but allowed me to be assertive and not left feeling embarrassed myself.

What about you? Has this ever happened? How have you responded? It can be extremely annoying when this happens but we can have the upper hand and leave the situation with our dignity intact if we can figure out a good comeback. Let me know your thoughts.

 

 

 

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  • Comments Off on Using Speech Techniques

I am not a fan of using fluency shaping techniques. When I participated in speech therapy about 6 years ago, I was really resistant to the traditional techniques that would theoretically make my speech more fluent. I felt like the therapist was trying to “fix me” and I didn’t need fixing, then or now.

But lately, I have been feeling quite self-conscious when answering the phone at work and stuttering on the same word, every time. I’ve been helping to answer the phones more over these summer months because we are short staffed and we all pitch in to help.

When we answer the phone, we state the name of our school building so that the caller knows they have reached the right building. It’s a three word name, and I always stutter on the third word. Every single time. And it’s been bothering me that I stutter like that identifying our school name.

I can’t quite identify why it’s making me feel uncomfortable, because if I stutter later in the conversation, it doesn’t really bother me. It must just be something about those introductory words that I want to be able to say smoothly and confidently. Maybe it doesn’t feel confident to stutter on the same word every time.

So, I’ve been using a prolongation technique on the first letter of the third word, so I can slide into it without repeating the letter/sound. It’s working, as long as I concentrate and remember to do it. I am not feeling as self-conscious when answering the phone.

What I am feeling like is a little bit of a hypocrite. I have not wanted to use fluency techniques because I am comfortable with myself as a stutterer. But here I am, feeling uncomfortable and resorting to a technique.

Hopefully, I’ll get over this quick. Have you ever experienced conflicted emotions about using fluency techniques?

PamEpisode 138 features Mery el Idrissi, who hails from Mehdia, Kenitra, Morocco. Mery is 17 years old and is in her last year of high school. She wants to be a doctor someday, specifically a dermatologist.

Listen in as we discuss growing up with a stammer, teasing as a youngster, friends and support, and stammering openly. Mery also discusses the challenge she has with relationships. She feels a lack of confidence when it comes to talking with boys, even though they know she stammers.

We also discuss the support and inspiration Mery gets from the Facebook group, Women Who Stammer, the only Facebook group exclusively for women who stutter.

This was a fun conversation with a lovely young lady who is a great communicator. Mery ends the conversation by sharing that we all have a voice and it must be heard.

The podcast safe music used in today’s episode is credited to ccMixter.


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© Pamela A Mertz and Make Room For The Stuttering, 2009 - 2016. 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 2016.
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