Make Room For The Stuttering


Posted on: May 26, 2010

One thing (of many) I am learning as I undertake this new venture with podcasting is how hard it is to not interrupt a guest as she is speaking. This has never  been much of a problem for me, but I am aware of it as we are talking. I also notice it in the play-back of some episodes while editing.

What is happening may or may not be unique to stutterers having a dialogue. When the guest pauses, I notice I have been jumping in, eager to make a point or ask a question. Sometimes, it is a stuttering moment that I am stepping on.

The guest might be engaged in a hesitation or a block and I do not realize it until they continue to speak, and we then are both speaking at the same time. I wind up saying I am sorry. It feels so awkward!

This is new territory for me. I don’t like being interrupted myself or having someone step on my words, or finish my words for me. In this new venture, conducting an internet radio show, I am now conversing with different women with different stuttering patterns and sometimes I find myself stepping in at the wrong time. Ouch!

So far, no harm has been done.  “No problem”  has been graciously uttered several times to my “I’m sorry”.

I might be a little too self-conscious of this myself, as I strive to find my groove in this new role as podcast host. It makes me wonder if fluent speakers ever have to think of this. Probably not. If you listen to a podcast or radio talk show with fluent speakers, there is a natural ebb and flow to the back and forth dialogue.

There isn’t the same natural flow with stutterers who are conversing. We have involuntary stoppages and prolongations. It seems we have to be more poised to listen if the speaker is finished with a thought, or caught in a stuttering moment. Hey, wouldn’t that be good for fluent speakers to work on too?

I find it incredulous that I am even thinking of this, and making myself more cognizant of my own need to sharpen my active listening skills. Which is a good thing. After all, 90% of communicating is listening.

Has anyone else experienced this? Does it make you feel awkward? Is it just a “stuttering thing”?

13 Responses to "Interrupting"

In my experience, it’s not just a stuttering thing because I do it too. I’m afraid of the phone sometimes, although I’m working on it, and there are some people with whom, when I’m talking on the phone, I *never* get a good conversational groove going. It goes both ways, both of us talking over each other, awkward pauses, etc.

Active listening is good for everyone, as you say. Some people-combinations just seem to be tougher than others due to divergent conversational styles and expectations.

For me, it is surely a stuttering thing. I am anxious to get everything out that I want to say, before I get too selfconscious and start to stutter more and so I jump in, when the person is in the middle of their statement.

It makes me feel bad, like I am a selfish communicator, who only thinks that only what I have to say is really important and relevant.

Yes Pam I do find this happens a lot to me. I also find that when talking to a friend who stutters over the phone, WE BOTH DO IT. So it is not only you. But I think seeing we both stutter we accept it more. Now if a non stutterer would do that we would get annoyed. But we really shouldn’t because a lot of times they have no clue. But it happens and we deal with it.
This would be a good topic for a NSA meeting …thanks Pam 🙂

Interviewing isn’t an easy skill to learn — but the great interviewers make it look that way. Same with being interviewed. It’s even harder if you can’t see the body language. You’re doing great.

It’s a combination of both – stuttering and interviewing, to be a good interviewer I think you may need to be able to interrupt, most interviewers (fluents) are really really fast talkers.

I myself have worked hard on not getting ‘hung up’ about being interrupted because in all fairness to the listener, it can be very difficult to know when a pws has finished speaking. In Mcguire we are taught to carry on saying what you want to say AFTER being interrupted with a smile on your face and the listener will get the message in the end. Of course in a telephone interview situation , this is very difficult!!!

I think you are doing a fabulous job and to recognise that you are not happy or comfortable with the interview after listening back is very honourable of you Pam but I wouldnt expect anything less. 🙂

keep rocking them out girl !

I have learned and am continuing to learn to be a good listener. It think PWS are always thinking a few sentences ahead so we can jump in when we feel comfortable. I think the natural ebb and flow will come. You are really doing a terrific job!

Honestly, so far, I have not noticed anything akward regarding interruptions in your interviews. I guess this means that either (1) anyway I’m used to being interrupted myself or (2) you don’t quite interrupt people more than average 😉

More seriously, I think you are having an excellent point in saying that the flow of a discussion between two stutterers is necessarily different form that of a conversation between fluent persons.

In my opinion, this means that we have to sort of invent our own pace of communication, all the time, also because no two stutters are the same. By doing that, I think we always end up being better listeners. And obviously you Pam are already way ahead of us all in that !

Thanks Burt, for listening to the episodes, and reading and commenting.
Yes,maybe I am self-conscious, but I feel I have stepped on a couple of the women while they were still talking – or more correctly – still in a stuttering moment.

I am glad you will be a regular listener. I look forward to your feedback.

This continually amazes me just how blog writers such as yourself can find some time plus the commitment to keep on composing terrific blog posts. Your site isgood and one of my must read blogs. I just want to say thanks.

I have the same issues and I just googled and here is an article saying exactly what I was thinking. I also find I think 5 steps ahead of what someone is saying and afraid if I don’t get my point out I will forget it and I think at the time it is the most important thing to say.

I am an SLP who works with a student (6th grade) who has recently reported this as his only remaining concern regarding his stuttering. Now that he has eliminated many secondary behaviors, he finds that people do not realize he is blocking, and they will begin to speak before he has finished. I’m considering this an opportunity for him to exercise his self advocacy skills regarding his speech by explaining to the listener that he was stuttering and wasn’t finished talking. Maybe even using a hand gesture like holding up your finger to indicate “what a second” when actually in the block as well? I figure it is another “tool” that he could use at times if it is excessive and he feels frustrated that he is not being heard. Does this sound like a reasonable approach? Over the phone is a different issue, but I’m finding most young people never talk on the phone…they mostly just text. Even ordering pizza is done online rather than over the phone. As a result they never report any concern with talking on the phone.

Hi Sharon – thanks for checking in and leaving a great comment and question. I too have had people interrupt me before I’m finished speaking and have found the best way to deal with it is to be upfront and say, lightly, “Hey, I wasn’t finished speaking yet.” And then I proceed to finish. Hopefully your 6th grade student would feel OK with a similar approach. I feel it is so important to teach good self advocacy skills to kids when they are young so they can become ingrained. I also think holding up a finger as a gesture like “wait a sec” is a good idea as well.
I agree that kids hardly ever use the phone anymore – they have texting and messaging to do all that for them these days. But I worry that kids won’t know how to have a phone conversation when they need to – like in an over the phone job interview. Anyway, thanks for the great comment and hopefully I’ll see you again on this blog. ~Pam

Thanks so much for this post and the thread. I came here looking for a good strategy to impart to my 7th grade student. I completely agree with the “be upfront” approach and I especially like it combined with the “wait a sec” gesture – it will work well in a classroom environment. I want him to feel empowered by directly communicating his needs; this is a big task for a young person – whether they stutter or not. Thanks for this resource!

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