Make Room For The Stuttering

Will I Be OK With It?

Posted on: September 3, 2009

I had a BIG deal presentation yesterday, at our opening day Orientation for all school employees, to celebrate the start of a new school year. I was asked by the Superintendent to be on a panel with other colleagues that he would facilitate. We were to dialogue with each other for about an hour. We were asked to not rehearse, because he wanted it to be conversational.

I was anxious about this presentation, not because of normal public speaking nervousness, but because I was telling myself that this was an important enough event that I should try and be as fluent as possible. I hated that I was thinking this, but I was. I felt I had to make a good impression.

Of course, guess what happens when we try not to stutter?

I was fairly fluent for most of my talk time, and then as happens with me, towards the end, as I was tiring, my stuttering slipped out. But I was OK with it at that point.

This was in front of about 500 employees. We on the panel had wireless mics on, and our images were projected up on a big screen projector so that everyone could see us! That was really weird. At one point, I couldn’t resist turning around to take a peek. It was surreal. It didn’t even seem like me up on the screen. But it was!

After wards, people came up to all of us, said we did a good job, great, wonderful, blah blah. Many people came up to me individually and offered congratulations.

But a couple people came up to me and said things like, “Wow, you stuttered much less than you usually do.”

“Are you aware that you didn’t stutter that much?”

“You hardly stuttered!”

One guy came up to me and said, “Very good job. I was sitting next to someone and told her you were doing a very good job for someone with a stuttering problem. The person said ‘no way, she doesn’t stutter’.” The guy told me, “yeah I kept telling her you really do, I’ve heard her stutter at school and I’ve seen her on TV talking and stuttering. She really does.” I couldn’t believe that they were actually spending time talking about this. And that he felt the need to share all these details with me. Before he walked away, he said, “I hope you don’t think I am being a jerk or anything.”

I felt these were somewhat mixed messages. And somewhat judgmental, in a bittersweet way. I wondered, why did they feel the need to point that out to me? Did they need to “qualify” a congratulatory remark with some reference to my stuttering?”

And then I felt, why did I feel such a strong need to be as fluent as I could be in this situation? Is some of my perfectionism coming back out? Do I feel I need to be perfect,so it will be easier for people to love me? Because I have been covert for so long, it was a natural instinct. I am also coming to realize that I have been covert about my emotions for a long time too.

I will be curious how I “rate” myself when I see the recording, because yes, it was recorded. Clips of it will probably end up on our school web site. Will I be ok with that?

This covert phenomena is really complex. Especially when I am overt a lot of the time. I should have been comfortable with colleagues feeling comfortable enough with me to make honest comments like this. But something about those comments that mentioned stuttering made me wonder: “Would someone have commented to a person with a bum leg, gee you hardly limped at all today?”

All in all, I was proud of myself.  People who don’t stutter would have felt understandably challenged in this situation. Right?

4 Responses to "Will I Be OK With It?"

To answer your question; yes we would!

I’m sorry you felt that you had to try and hide your stuttering during this presentation Pam. I so wish this was easier for you! It’s a good thing that you realize you’ve been covert about your feelings as well though. I hope you find the strength to be more open with yourself and others about how you really feel.
Please remember that nobody is perfect, and that people like and love you for who you are, not who you want to be. And for those who don’t, you don’t need in your life. I know I’m making it sound easier than it is now, but this is what I truly believe.

And damn! What a jerk! In my eyes he showed shockingly little respect for you. “You did a good job for someone who stutters.” Like it’s a given you would do a bad job if you stuttered?! You totally rock giving presentations Pam!! Whether you’re having a stuttery day or not has nothing to with that! It’s the way you present, your presence and your words that make you a great speaker, not the absent of stuttering. Although, often times I’ve experienced that your stutters have made your message even stronger.

I’m gonna stop rambling now, and look forward to seeing the video!! Hugs 🙂

I felt compelled to respond to the point you made about the guy making the judgemental comment.

This comment to me smells of deep insecurity and ignorance on his part. He probably has some serious problem, and these types of comments make him feel better in a sick kind of way….

But what people say about us, or think about us is none of our business. If we can keep our self-esteem and confidence in tact, despite such comments, then we are well on our way…

I had a relative once, who when I disclosed I stammered, started to tell me stories about this one guy who he knew in college stammered so bad, and couldn’t do this and say this blah, blah… It was like he was getting pleasure out of saying these things.

But mixed with this, I saw insecurity in his eyes…

Yep, Hiten, you are right. As a matter of fact, someone recently told me the same thing. What other people think is not my concern.

But when he came up to me and wanted to tell me this, I guess I couldn’t help but let it in and feel conflicted by it.

That I, and certainly others, should remember – our self esteem is measured in our eyes, not in the eyes of others. Thanks for sharing.

For him, your stuttering is still a big elephant in the room, getting in the way of your actual presentation. His problem, not yours. When you feel ready to show him how to escort the elephant out of the room, and what the elephant is hiding, do so, but even then he might not be read. Keep on proving that the stuttering, although very important, isn’t as important as what you have to say.

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