Make Room For The Stuttering

If Anyone Stutters, We’ll . . . .

Posted on: May 14, 2010

At my Toastmasters meeting last week, I winced a little when a member stood up and explained his meeting role to the group. We do that in Toastmasters -we have people fulfill roles, and always explain what it is we are doing and why. Its good protocol and helps guests and new members to understand what is going on.

The guy who was to be the “Ah Counter” and grammarian for the evening stood and introduced himself and began to explain what his role for the evening would be and why it mattered. The “Ah Counter” has the dubious job of keeping track how many times filler words -such as uhm, ah, like, you know-are used throughout the meeting.

This is so people are more aware of doing this, so that we can encourage speakers to pause briefly or use transition phrases. The grammarian report is to help people use grammar and sentence structure more effectively.

So I was a bit surprised when the guy adds to his explanation, “if anyone stutters, we’ll hit them over the head with this (Toastmasters) manual”. Not one person in the room batted an eyelash or seemed to react that this was anything negative, except me. Of course! I felt my face flush, and said to myself,”what did he just say? No, he didn’t!”

But he did and I didn’t say anything! I am sure he meant no disrespect and  may not even have been aware that he said it. I was aware and so flirted with the idea of saying something quick like, “unless of course you’re me and can’t help it”.

It didn’t seem appropriate to embarrass him, if he would have even been embarrassed by any reaction by me. It’s a moot point now, as I let it pass.

Except it just reminds me that it is up to us, those who stutter, to keep educating and raising awareness so people don’t think its acceptable to make flip comments like that.

Because it’s not!

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9 Responses to "If Anyone Stutters, We’ll . . . ."

Who is leading the group? You might want to drop the group leader an email suggesting that this member threatened an act of violence against you, since it’s well known to them that you stutter, and you no longer feel safe. Just to see what would happen. 😉

Either that or at the next meeting, you could stand up and say, “If anyone makes fun of stuttering, we’ll hit them over the head with this sock full of nickels.” ::no, just kidding, just kidding::

Yes, the unawareness of stuttering might be a problem, and I know he was joking, but seriously? Acts of violence? Over a speech? That’s over the top.

Ooh, that is a tough one. I applaud you for not calling attention to it as to not hurt his feelings, however, you might want to pull him aside and explain how that could make a person who stutters feels. I think that man needs some serious stuttering education. Maybe refer him to your new podcast. He would learn alot!!! tks Pam.

ouch! Um, somebody needs to be set straight, but if the group knows you well, maybe you can let me try to throw the book at you. He’ll be very embarrassed in the end, and look like a creep.

Actually, I think what Lori said (pulling him aside) is probably your best bet, either that or waiting for him in a dark alley.

Sounds like he’s the sort who would joke about “the guy in the wheelchair blocking the door to the washroom.” (Was going to say “Emergency Exit”, but that’s a different level of urgency.) He’s trying not to ignore the elephant in the room, which is good in a way, but he doesn’t know how do do it gracefully.

Do most Ah Counters in your group handle it well? If so, encourage their example.

If there are new people in the audience and you stutter in your speech, what would you like them to hear from the Counter?

What do you tell Counters you don’t know before you speak?

If you were the Counter, realized the speaker stuttered but didn’t know how he felt about it, and/or didn’t know the audience, what would you do?

Most “Ah Counters” handle this really well. They simply watch for filler words and report on them generally just to help people be more aware. In my case, as a stutterer, I tend to use “uhm” quite a bit more than I ‘d like, as part of my stuttering pattern. IO am not using it as a filler word, but its actually an unconscious way that I get a running start on a word I think’ll stutter on or its an unconscious avoidance. I have never been more aware of it than lately, since I have started the podcast amd hear myself on the recordings.

I don’t tell the “Ah Counter” anything before my speeches – I suppose because I stubbornly don’t want to be treated differently than any other Toastmaster.

Maybe he forgot I stutter. I doubt it, but thats a possibility.

As to your last question, if I was the counter, heard stuttering and wasn’t sure how the speaker felt, I would not draw any attention to it. The goal of any role in Toastmasters is to be positive and encourage speakers to want to come back and keep taking risks.

Good questions. Good insight. You made me think!

That’s why I phrased them as questions.

As for the previous Counter:

Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence.
Napoleon Bonaparte

Hi! If that were me, and I know it’s not! With my mouth, I probably would have just gotten up and hit him with the Toastmasters manual, right off the bat, just so he got the point! But that’s just me! Anybody out there feeling me? I mean, my sister happens to stutter, and so what! It’s just another unique part of her beauty! Need I say more! I think not! We all have differences, and they just make us all the more special, don’t you think? My Sister totally rocks! You go, girl! And keep on going! Stutterockstar!!!! I Totally feel you, Bye…..Kimberly!

Ever hear of that phrase “Did I stutter?” It happens when someone is trying to sound assertive. Great for them to sound so confident, but it makes me feel terrible.

Stuttering is a tricky problem. It’s not visually apparent so unless a person speaks, it’s hard to pick out. And sometimes, there is that fluke of fluency so others don’t find out immediately.

In the Toastmasters’ situation, I would have stayed quiet also but part of me would have given the person one cold stare (assuming he looked around to gauge the reactions). That in itself should send a message.

Pam,
I must be really out of it, because I barely remember him saying that. I’m not sure if I even remember who it was. As far as none of us “batting an eyelash” when he said it, I would first like to apologize for not speaking up. I would assume that many of us were too shocked to respond right away, since we all know that his statement was out of place.

Before I would let it get to me anymore, if it was who I think it was, I would mention it to him. He’ll probably be very sorry, since he really is not a mean person in any way. But, it’s definitely worth talking to him, so that we can all increase our sensitivity!

Thanks for this post, so we can all continue to strive to be better Toastmasters!

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