Make Room For The Stuttering

There Is No Right Way

Posted on: March 31, 2009

I subscribe to and actively participate in an email group for covert stutterers. It’s a small but sturdy group of people who are trying to find their way in a world that is often caught in that space between fluency (whatever that is) and stuttering. The list has its regulars and many lurkers, those who read only and very rarely post, unless a particular topic resonates.

Today there was discussion from someone new on whether or not the tricks and avoidance techniques that a covert uses to appear fluent is really all that bad. And he ponders that maybe his coping strategies haven’t really been “UNsuccessful”, so should he change after 20+ years?

He further says “the kind of language used to describe what I’ve been doing is typically couched in terms of deceit, deception, and dishonesty – or at the very least inauthenticity.” So he is at a crossroads, much like I was almost three years ago. He is considering speech therapy and has reached out to other coverts. I could feel his pain across cyberspace.

He asks another question, one that I felt compelled to respond to, which I did on the covert list.

It also became fodder for today’s blog post, as I had something else on my mind from last night anyway, and the two fit like peanut butter and jelly. He wants to know – is it OK to have a middle ground? To use coping strategies and appear fluent in some situations and let the stutter out naturally in other situations? Of course, this resonated with me. I had to respond. So this is the gist of what I posted on the covert group earlier.

Each of us has to do what we believe is right for us. There is no one right way. There may well be a middle ground for you, and maybe not the same for me. I find middle-ness with me a lot: sometimes I am open, other times, I revert back to avoidance.

I was feeling hugely uncomfortable with trying to keep my stuttering secret hidden, and that’s why I ultimately decided to “come out” and deal with it. It has been rewarding, empowering, and wonderful most of the time. Other times, it has been uncomfortable, scary and embarrassing.

I do me. This has become one of my favorite expressions lately. I am responsible for my self and my life, and I have the power to live my life as I see fit. That means I take the good with the bad.

Case in point. Last night at a group meeting, someone said “there is no positive socially redeeming value about stuttering”, and several people agreed with him. I felt terribly uncomfortable hearing this, as I find it to be untrue. Actually, I was angry that he said this.

I find that people who stutter are compassionate and tolerant of those with differences, and that we have a strength and resilience that comes from dealing with a challenge that many don’t get.

This statement really bothered me – it made me feel as if fellow stutterers really do think stuttering is bad, shameful, something to be fixed, hidden, corrected. But that’s not how I feel, and ultimately that’s what is most important at the end of the day. Its what I think, and what I feel, that matters for me.

By the way, I did express my disagreement and gently suggested that there is value in all of us and all differences. It was not well received (out of the corner of my eye I saw the owner of those words roll his eyes) but I was able to respectfully say what I needed and felt.

Each of us chooses how we play the cards we are dealt. Is it easy? No way. Is it predictable? No way. Will it continue to impact my life and others? Yes, every day. And I am OK with that.

2 Responses to "There Is No Right Way"

Hi Pam,

As usual–great post.

I thought about your NSA meeting for a bit, and it seems to me that this is what may be going on..

Your people seem to think that stuttering has (negatively) defined them as it relates to their lives. They fail to see that they can define stuttering (as it relates to their lives).


Thanks Greg,

The weekly group I attend is fluency council (and I think the name needs to be changed), separate from NSA. I also attend monthly NSA meetings, which generally has different attendees. But I agree – the personal definitions are very different. I believe I have reached a point where I really am defining my stuttering and thus having a relationship with it. Others seem not to want to relate like that, which is fine, of course.
Your feedback is valuable.

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