Make Room For The Stuttering

Do We Care Too Much?

Posted on: July 14, 2009

I wasn’t going to write about this, but its been on my mind since good friend Mitch told me and some others this story Friday night. I shared it last night at support group, because a young man asked me how do I handle negative reactions.

As you know, I just returned from the NSA conference in Arizona. It is a stuttering conference. There were well over 600 people there, the majority of whom stutter.  Other people there included family members, SLPs and people who care about stuttering. Anyway, down in the lobby bar late Friday evening (actually early Saturday morning), I ran into a few friends still up discussing something that Mitch had overheard earlier, out in the hotel parking lot.

He had walked by a group of three guys, talking and leaning against a vehicle. The guys were talking about their experience at the hotel. One guy said something that everything was great, except “you got these stutterers here at the hotel, and they take so fr-fr-fr-fr-fr-icking la-la-la-la-long to say anything, its ridiculous and holds everybody up.” Mitch heard this whole thing and was furious, of course. Mitch is a person who stutters and SLP. He said he walked past the group, put his hand on his chest/heart area, and said, “That hurts, man.”

When Mitch came in, he was obviously very upset and shared what happened. He was very angry that these people actually said this, and very angry with himself for not having said more. I could tell the way he told the story that he was fuming, disappointed, angry, and hurt. It was the hurt that I sensed the most. I think he reacted the best way he could at the moment of impact. He couldn’t know if these guys had been drinking, what might have happened if he really “went off” on them, or if his engaging them might have fueled them even more.

I thought a lot about this and wondered how I would have reacted had that been me.  I would have been angry and hurt as well, too, and probably very disappointed in myself if I didn’t at least say something. But it’s hard to know what one would really do in that situation.

I remember a  time when I was truly being made fun of. I felt such shame. It was about two years ago, when I went into a store to play lottery numbers. The clerk laughed when I stuttered, and mimicked how I said something. I had to repeat it, and he laughed and mimicked a second time. I didn’t say anything. I couldn’t – I was stunned, paralyzed with shame and embarrassment, and worried about what the people behind me in line must be thinking. I remember my face getting red and hot, and when I was done, I practically ran to my car. I then started crying, the big sobbing, gasping kind of crying, and just stayed there like that for about 10 minutes.

I was really ashamed of  crying like that, and more ashamed that I let the guy get away with it. I was so angry with myself for not being strong enough to correct and educate him. Just so you know how it ended, I stewed over it for about a week and couldn’t let it go. I found the courage to call the manager of the store. I almost started crying on the phone with her, but stayed composed and told her what happened and how disrespected I felt.

She was stunned into silence and apologized profusely. We actually talked for about 20 minutes, and she asked me what I wanted. I told her I just wanted her to know, and she said she would do sensitivity training with all of her employees. She also commented that it was very brave of me to call and tell her what happened. I learned from that experience.

So, I guess it depends on the moment and what we are comfortable with. There is always going to be someone who teases or mocks someone with a difference. We don’t live in a perfect world, and none of us are perfect. I am still learning to not be so hard on myself, but sometimes it just happens. And I try to learn from that. Sometimes I think I care too much what other people think. And I remind myself I am human.

My friend Mitch handled his situation and emotions in the best way for that moment. What do you think?

7 Responses to "Do We Care Too Much?"

Yes, I think Mitch handled that situation just fine. Pam, I agree with you when you said, “his engaging them might have fueled them even more.” I think that is probably what would have happened. Those guys are just jerks, and I don’t think it would do any good to confront them.

you know what, yes these guys were ignorant and it’s difficult to deal with, but, it’s not worth getting mad over. I know this sounds like advice your great aunt might give you but it’s true. They would complain if there was a United Way event at the hotel as well. Some people are just too ignorant for their own good.

I think Mitch handled the situation well. I don’t think confronting them would have helped and you never know what would have happened if he did. Ignorance often leads to stupidity.

Interesting that it was Friday night that happened to Mitch. I saw him in the hot tub later and he seemed to be having a good time. He had a glass of wine in his hand, so maybe that plus the hot tub helped him relax and forget about it. 🙂

Bravo to you for how you handed the lottery store situation. It’s perfectly understandable that you couldn’t deal with it at the moment, but great that you called the manager after the fact. It’s one thing for the clerk to maybe chuckle or take notice of a person’s stutter, but another to do it repeatedly and so cruely. I hope they fired him, but sensitivity training and awareness is also a good step. All it takes sometimes is a bit of ecucation. And for the manager to know that it’s bad business to employ idiots like that.


It actually happened on the way back to the hotel after the hot tub. It was interesting because I felt that I can take the teasing, but they were talking about a specific person and I felt like I needed to stick up for them. I know that their ignorance did not need a response, but I was a bit disappointed for not having attempted to educate. I am over it and will have plenty of other opportunities to do so. A special thanks to those of you who heard me tell my story in the lobby.

I have been picked on due to my stuttering and It really hurts. A few years ago I had a job at Best Buy and one of the mangers whom had found out I had speech impediment would come by me and stand and laugh while I was on a work related phone call. So I ended calling Human Resources on him and filed a complaint on him. Nothing happened to the manger in terms of him losing his job or being disciplined (at least nothing I found out about) but I was pleased with myself that I had spoke up for myself.

[…] Uncategorized acceptance, danistuttermom, disfluency, patience, pebbles82ul, speech impediment, stammer, stammering, stutter, stuttering, stutterrockstar danistuttermom 2:35 pm First of all, please go read Pam’s post […]

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