Make Room For The Stuttering

Switching Words and Being Bored

Posted on: February 11, 2010

Sometimes I switch words intentionally. If I know I am going to stutter on a particular word and I would rather not,  I substitute a word I “think” I can say more fluently. Sometimes, the word switch happens unconsciously. It happened Monday night at self-help group. For the first time, the group supervisor called me on it and put me on the spot a little bit. He asked me if I had switched the word purposely, or had I even been aware that I had done it.

I honestly did not realize I had done that!  He pointed out what word I had started to say and what word I had actually said.  He asked me this in front of everybody at group. About twelve groups members and at least 30 SLP students. This was a big risk for him to do, as its been a sort of unwritten rule that no one is supposed to offer feedback like that publicly to me! Maybe he thought I was ready.

He caught me off guard.I may have flushed a little, but sorted out a response and realized I had not set out to change the word. And it was OK to have him mention it and have me think out loud about it with the group. Maybe that’s what I need someone to challenge me a bit when I am doing something I say I don’t want to do.

The next day, the supervisor called me to let me know he was glad I had returned to group and to reassure me it was ok to stutter freely, especially in group. He wanted me to know it really is okay.

That same evening, after getting home, a friend who also attends group called me to see if I was okay. He too wanted to offer feedback! Geez! He said he thinks I talk way too fast. His exact words were, “Hey, we stutter. Don’t forget that. It’s best to slow down a bit.” He laughed, and asked if I was okay hearing that from him.

He also mentioned that I seem bored. I asked him what he meant by that. He said it seems I am not fully engaged and maybe I am not challenged enough by the happenings of the “fluency” support group. My friend suggested I need more challenge in my life, and that may compensate for the lack of challenge I feel while working on my speech. He suggested I take up skiing. Skiing! He actually suggested this. All I could do was laugh at that. He did too, although he was dead serious. He stutters and skies, so he thinks it’s a perfectly normal connection.

Ahhh, good thing for stuttering friends. They help me to keep things in perspective.

What do you think? Do any of you still switch words, and not even know you are doing it? And is it possible to be bored with our attempts to “work on our speech”? Should we add something more challenging?

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3 Responses to "Switching Words and Being Bored"

Bored? Given your schedule, “exhausted” might have been more accurate.

Congrats on surviving the public feedback. Was it anything like receiving feedback at ToastMasters?

Fluents sometimes substitute, too. Usually means we’re talking faster than we can think, or, for storytelling, that we haven’t learned the story well enough — the right word doesn’t feel right, or we used the word earlier. Not saying the cause is the same, or that it shouldn’t be on the list of things to work on, but regular audiences don’t notice unless it’s extreme. In voice lessons, we’re working on a huge list of things. She doesn’t pick a topic until after I’ve sung a bit that lesson, so she can see what I can make the most progress on, or what is holding me back.

There’s a belief in some quarters that all substitutions = avoidance = bad. If you do it smoothly and the meaning of the sentence remains intact, then you’ve just communicated properly – that’s a good thing. There’s enough to concern yourself with in stuttering without beating yourself up for getting your ideas across well.

If you were to set yourself the goal of never substituting as a self-therapy goal, then have at it. Just don’t have this little devil on your shoulder constantly criticizing you, like in the old cartoons.

If you woke up tomorrow with no stuttering, but occasionally you felt the urge to substitute a word here and there, wouldn’t that be a pretty good thing? I just don’t see substitution as a battle worth fighting all the time, unless you scramble your sentences totally when you do it. I once saw a transcript of President George H.W. Bush talking. There was hardly a single sentence that made any sense – he kept interrupting himself and going off on tangents. The transcript made him look like a total moron. The author of the article pointed out that it wasn’t fair to criticize him on a transcribed conversation – everyone does similar things when we talk. It’s just that most of us don’t have someone taking down our words and putting them on paper.

Thanks Cricket and Mark!
I know that regular fluent people often switch words or sometimes sound like a moron. Certainly we all are capable of that all by ourselves.
I just find it interesting that I notice when someone calls me on it. It bothers me that I still do it, after advertising that I am so over doing that.
And Mark – I went and checked out your blog; interesting stuff.
Thanks for dropping by over here.

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