Make Room For The Stuttering

I participated in a great conversation yesterday with people who stutter from around the world, in a Stutter Social group video chat. The discussion started out with one person asking for tips about giving presentations. He had one coming up at school and was nervous that his stuttering would interfere with his ability to do a good job.

Several people offered suggestions, such as practicing, trying not to read verbatim from notes and advertising that you stutter before beginning the presentation. One person suggested that he try and be as fluent as possible. He talked about practicing speech techniques daily in order to achieve fluent speech.

I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to chime in that I thought this was an unrealistic goal. People who stutter are going to stutter and we should not strive for fluency. In my opinion, that often results in feelings of disappointment and failure, which just exasperates our stuttering.

Instead, I suggested that we aim for being fluid while communicating. Being fluid can be described as having or showing a smooth and easy style. That’s what I shoot for when I am giving presentations.

My years of Toastmasters training helped me build excellent speaking skills, which I use every day. I’ve grown comfortable with eye contact, gesturing, vocal variety, and speaking without using notes. I became a much more fluid speaker when I began to focus on what I was saying and trying to convey. In other words, I wasn’t trying to be perfectly fluent.

I am a more natural and comfortable speaker when I move easily from topic to topic with good transitions and flow. I am more fluid when I am very comfortable with what I am talking about so that I don’t need to use notes.

You can stutter and be a very effective communicator. Stuttering doesn’t have to interfere with the message you are conveying. As the name of this blog implies, you can make room for the stuttering by being fluid, going with the flow, being comfortable when speaking and enjoying the experience.

Making room for the stuttering will help lessen any anxiety you have about trying to be perfectly fluent. That’s just not going to happen for people who stutter.

 

PamEpisode 160 features Bailey Palmer, who hails from Port Orange, Florida. Bailey is 22 years old and is going to college to become an elementary special education teacher. She also plays tennis (and is quite good!) and has a mirror image identical twin, who doesn’t stutter.

Listen in as we discuss how tennis has really helped Bailey with her stuttering. In college, being part of a team has made it easier for her with regard to advertising. She already has friends who accept her. And tennis always gave Bailey a sense of control that that she didn’t feel she had with her stuttering.

We also discuss how in college Bailey is able to ask more questions, since she is in small size classes. She is able to ask her professors what they would do if they had a student who stutters in their class.

We also discuss the recent NSA conference in Atlanta, to which Bailey brought her whole family. This was so important to Bailey, to share her NSA experience with her family. She wanted her family to experience the acceptance and support of the NSA community.

She says it was quite emotional for her family and they already want to go back next year. Bailey talks about a workshop that she and her siblings did for siblings and how successful it was.

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

Six degrees of separation is the theory that everyone and everything is six or fewer steps away, by way of introduction, from any other person in the world, so that a chain of “a friend of a friend” statements can be made to connect any two people in a maximum of six steps.

I think the same theory exists in the stuttering community. Last week, I had the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people from all over the world at the joint conference of the National Stuttering Association (NSA) and the International Stuttering Association (ISA) in Atlanta, Georgia.

I did not get a chance to meet everyone I wanted to at the conference, but I feel I am just one introduction away from meeting those who I didn’t. I met Keisuke from Japan and he introduced me to another friend of his from Japan. Keisuke and I will work together on the board of the ISA and will likely really get to know one another. We had some trouble communicating because his English is not strong but we are connected through stuttering.

I met Bruce and John from Australia and felt an instant connection with both of them. We talked and laughed like we were old friends, but in fact we had just met. And it was great to meet Cameron, also from Australia. He is the author of the book, “First Person Shooter,” which I read and reviewed for this blog several months ago. When I finally met Cameron, I felt like I already knew him.

I have been in contact with Nancy from Western Australia who was going to come to the conference but her plans changed at the last minute. We had a chance to meet last night through Stutter Social – for the first time, she joined in the group video chat and we finally met and talked, and again, I felt like I’d already been connected to her.

It’s funny how connected we all are in the stuttering community. Technology has allowed our worlds to become much smaller and we connect through social media and Skype and Google Hangouts and it feels like we already know each other.

I can’t wait to continue to be introduced to more and more members of the community and share our similar stories. It is special to be so inter-connected with people world wide.

communitySeth Godin in his book “Tribes” writes:

“A tribe is any group of people, large or small, who are connected to one another, a leader, and an idea. For millions of years, humans have been seeking out tribes, be they religious, ethnic, economic, political, or even musical (think of the Deadheads). It’s our nature.”

People who stutter are connected. That is never more evident than at a stuttering conference.

I just returned from the National Stuttering Association‘s 33rd annual conference, which was held this year in Atlanta, Georgia. The conference was held jointly with the International Stuttering Association‘s World Congress For People Who Stutter, so there were people at the conference from all corners of the world. We came together 825 people strong to celebrate the connection that we have with each other – stuttering.

First timers to the conference and veterans alike all feel an instant connection when they meet someone else who stutters. We feel an incredible sense of community, empathy, freedom and vulnerability. Sharing these feelings and connections together makes us a tribe, at least as far as I’m concerned. And I like being a part of this tribe.

I feel full and whole when I am with other people who stutter. I feel gratitude when other people “get me” without me having to fully explain myself or how I feel about stuttering. A new friend I met at the conference, Dustin, put it quite simply and well: “I’ve never felt more human.”

This was my 11th consecutive conference and I felt the same emotions and sense of family that I did at my very first conference in 2006. I  met a lot of first timers this year, who got to experience the life changing impact that being part of a tribe, or community, has on us. I heard first timers comment that they felt instantly loved and connected upon entering the mix.

And I heard veterans reflect on how amazing it is to catch up with old friends and meet new ones as well. I seized that opportunity – I hung out with friends from previous conferences but also made it a point to meet and interact with as many new people as I could. It was so gratifying to meet people in person that I’d already “met” online in the many stuttering communities, which are also our tribes.

I am at my best when I am with my stuttering community. I feel the sense of belonging and wholeness that I don’t feel in other parts of my life.

The workshops, keynote speakers, and conversations in the hotel lobby and bar, and over dinner, were priceless. But more so was just the general sense of community and being with my tribe. That sense of community was palpable and hung in the air.

It was a great conference. I feel a little “let down” now that I’m home but writing and reflecting always helps me, as does carrying my tribe in my heart.

PamEpisode 159 features Jaime Habing, who hails from Westerville, Ohio. Jaime is married to Andy and has three wonderful kids, Kerrigan, Jameson and Finn. Jaime is a registered nurse and currently works in a plastic surgery doctor’s office.

Listen in as Jaime tells parts of her story, from initially studying communication and journalism to eventually choosing nursing. We talk about how challenging nursing school is, and that she had teachers along the way who asked her if she was sure she was making the right choice, because of her stuttering.

We also speak about moments of shame and turning points for Jaime in her journey with stuttering, which were her first National Stuttering Association conference in Cleveland in 2010 and attending intensive therapy last year at the American Institute for Stuttering. Jaime shares that the more she talks about stuttering, the better she feels about herself.

And Jaime shares the very personal story about having an accident that has left her chin and bottom lip permanently numb. That coupled with stuttering certainly brings challenges. We wrap up this fantastic episode talking about Jaime’s 3 kids and their understanding of mom’s stuttering.

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

 

 

When I think of my identity, I think of things like brown hair, blue eyes and being short. I think of the tattoos I have and the fact that my initials spell my name.

I also think of my stuttering when I think of my identity. Stuttering makes me unique. It is very much a part of my identity. People know me for my stuttering. I’ve heard people at work (a school) refer to me as, “You know, the one that stutters.”

Dictionary.com defines identity as a noun: condition or character as to who a person or what a thing is; the qualities, beliefs, etc., that distinguish or identify a person or thing.

So stuttering is one of my qualities, a distinctive characteristic that distinguishes me from other people.

There was a time when I thought stuttering was bad and shameful and I did everything I could to try and hide that part of me, that part of my identity. But I was never truly successful hiding it. It was there, not going anywhere, like my blue eyes are always going to be blue.

This reminds me of an exercise I do when I talk to kids who don’t stutter about stuttering. When explaining what it was like to try and hide my stuttering, I have the kids experience a physical and visual exercise. I ask for a volunteer from the audience and give the child a large grapefruit. I ask her to try and hide it somewhere on her body where it’s not going to show. The audience enjoys the child trying to hide it in her clothes – in her sock, in her pocket, in the hood of her sweatshirt. No matter where she puts the grapefruit, it’s lump can still be seen on the person. Trying to hide it is fruitless!:)

Like trying to hide stuttering was fruitless. It didn’t work. Over the years, I’ve grown to accept all parts of my identity, both the things I like and the things I don’t like so much.

Having identity makes us human. It makes us unique. It distinguishes us from the pack. Stuttering is part of my identity and I no longer try to fight that fact.

 

PamEpisode 158 features Jennifer Allaby who hails from Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, Canada. Jennifer retired from a career in social work, most recently working with First Nation communities.

Listen in as Jennifer describes how about a year ago she began to seriously look at the stuttering part of her life. For about 30 years, she had been covert. She says it had become like work to keep up the façade of not stuttering.

She explored the stuttering community and marveled at how open and welcoming people have been. She also shares that since becoming involved in the stuttering community, she’s learned a whole new language.

We also discuss Jennifer’s involvement in Toastmasters, which she describes as the best thing she’s done for herself. Jennifer’s initial goal with Toastmasters was “to stutter,” and to be the best communicator she could be as herself.

Jennifer also explains what Toastmasters is for those who may not know, and shares how welcoming and supportive other members are. Nobody expects perfection, she says. It’s gentle and you don’t feel pressured but you do feel accomplishment and appreciation for what you’ve done.

The music used in today’s show 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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