Make Room For The Stuttering

She Sounded Flustered

Posted on: January 12, 2010

Well, I am not sure how I felt about this one. In my mind, making room for the stuttering means that I am supposed to be able to take both the good and the bad. Take it in stride. Listen, let it in, see what it can teach me.

One of my office mates, Pat, casually mentioned a comment that a friend had shared with her. Her friend had called Pat at the office and while chatting asked if we had a new receptionist. Pat said she explained no, there wasn’t a new receptionist. That I (me!) was helping out by answering the phones. Pat’s friend asked her if I was OK, as I had “sounded flustered” when I answered her call. Pat said she explained to her friend that I was just new to answering the phones and that I was doing fine.

I remember Friday afternoon was very busy, but I actually felt more at ease handling the phones as I had done it for most of the week. I was pretty sure that I had stuttered while answering her call.  As Pat told me this, rather out of the blue, I remember thinking, “what did Pat think” when her friend said I sounded flustered. Did Pat tell her friend that I stutter, and that was probably what she heard? Or did she not mention it because she was embarrassed? Or did the friend mention it and Pat didn’t want to tell me?

I found myself thinking about this much more than I probably should have. Obviously, since I am also writing about it. Is that how stuttering on the phone sounds? Like I am flustered? Why didn’t she tell me Friday? Why did she tell me at all?

Aye aye . . . . every time I think I am close to figuring it out, something reminds me that I still need to make room for it, all of it.

Have you ever had someone make a comment like this? Do you agree with my assessment that I read way too much into this? Why do I still keep doing this? Do you know?

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8 Responses to "She Sounded Flustered"

Oh yes Pam, I get that all the time. Some even commented that I do not sound like someone who knows what they are saying. I even had a few encounters when asked whats my name when I answer the phone, if I do not know my own name. I stutter on Annetta and often had thoughts of changing it to a name that I can pronounce.

People who dont stutter just wont get it without being told and even if they are told, it will still be hard for them to understand.

Annetta,
I get the same thing when I am asked my last name and I block very hard. They ask I guess trying to be funny, what did you forget your name? And man that hurts, even though I try to pretend that it doesn’t affect me.

Pam,
your post made me think of the time that I was in therapy and I had to watch myself stutter on video. I could handle hearing myself stutter OK, but watching myself and hearing it at the same time, it was horrible. I felt so uncomfortable. I remember thinking is that what I look like when I stutter? Before that time, I had never seen what I looked like when stuttering.

Hi Pam. Your story hurt me as I was reading it. I too get told I sounbd flustered (even when not on the phone) and I HATE it. I hate it because I’m not necessarily flustered at all, just stuttering, which might make me feel like talking fast – but I hate it when people attribute psychological states to me because of the way my speech sounhds. Would you have wanted your friend to say “she wasn’t flustered, she stutters and that’s just how she talks sometimes”? I think that’s what I would have wanted.
I don’t blame you for stil thinking about it at all. Would you want to talk to your friend about it or is it not that kind of relationship?
I’m so with you on this one!

Hi Pam. Sorry if you get this twice. I am with you on this. Having people attribute psychological states because of the way you talk is somehow so hurtful. I HATE it when people say I sound flustered, when in fact I am stuttering. I guess it’s about not feeling heard – like someone minimising an experience you had. Would you have wanted your friend to say “she wasn’t flustered – she stutters and that’s how she talks sometimes”? I would have wanted that I think.

Hi Lisette,

I do think I would have wanted Pat to tell her friend that what I was doing was stuttering. Its not like its hidden in the office, and we have talked about it. I think maybe Pat felt she was “sparing” me from acknowledging to someone that I stutter. Better to have someone think I get flustered answering phones?
So yes, I would have preferred that. And we don’t have that kind of relationship where i feel I could tell her that I wished she had just been upfront. Maybe I am making too much of it. Or maybe I worry that Pat will think I am obsessing over it if I mention it.
Its funny – fluent people NEVER have to worry about this!
Thanks for sharing!
Pam

Pam, I’m fluent, and I have an unreasonable fear of the phone. Just about every job I’ve ever had has required heavy phone duty, and in order to survive, I’ve had to write down, “Good Morning, ####### Corporation” on an index card (and onthe other side, Good Afternoon,etc, then remember to turn it over after lunch.) I would read off the card and by the time the other person finished speaking, I’d generally be clear-headed enough to deal with the call.

I also avoid placing calls if I can.

In Pat’s position, though, I probably wouldn’t have said, “Oh, she wasn’t flustered. She stutters,” because that feels as if I’d be sharing something that wasn’t mine to share. I also wouldn’t say, “Oh, do you like our new secretary? She has a pierced navel” or “The new science teacher is really good with the students, and he had cancer six years ago.” We all do our best at figuring out what’s okay to share in the workplace. In this case, your co-worker misjudged. I doubt she meant any harm or judgment.

Pat is probably working through things herself, and it was the “elephant in the room” when she talked to you. She wanted either forgiveness or guidance.

Unlike you, she’s not used to saying, “Oh, Pam stutters. No, it’s not because she’s nervous or [insert usual myths]. It’s just the way her speech center is wired.” She’s probably as worried about disclosing on your behalf as you were the first few times you disclosed.

I agree with Lisette. Tell Pat it’s okay if she discloses for you, and would actually help spread the word. It doesn’t require a close relationship, just that she be caring and supportive in general.

Another idea, involving way too much planning: Disclose while you’re on the phone and she can hear you. Nothing elabourate, just, “Man, my stuttering’s active today.” “Ack! That’s a tough word for a stutterer.” That way she’ll have quick lines she can use next time it comes up.

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