Make Room For The Stuttering

Letting The Struggle Show Is Hard

Posted on: November 24, 2010

I have written about  friends who stutter here before. I have many friends whose names begin with J, so if you are reading this and think its you, you’re probably right!

J and I hung out the other night. It’s good to spend time with friends who stutter. We can let our guard down, stutter freely and sometimes, offer candid feedback to each other about stuttering moments. Not always a good idea with non-stuttering friends.

I went to his place and we talked for a while before leaving to see a play. We weren’t sure where to park when we got there, so I called and asked for directions. No problem making the call and stuttering a bit during the brief conversation. I stutter more on the phone, like many of us who stutter.

J then decided he wanted to make sure the play was not going to be too “somber and depressing” for a Thursday night, (he wanted to be entertained) so he called them back. He said he would “practice his speech on the phone”, as that is when he stutters the most too.

As soon as he started talking, he started to tense up, lean forward and block. Immediately, he stood, turned his back to me and walked away as he tried to push the first word out and then move into conversation. This really surprised me. He has never reacted like this, at least around me.

Of course, I have not seen him make many calls. When he calls me on the phone, I can’t see him, only hear, and he is very comfortable with me. I rarely hear him stutter over the phone.

When he finished his call, I mentioned this. I offered that it looked like he did not want me to see his struggle. He said he always does that on the phone. He tenses, leans forward and blocks and that he needs to stand and walk to help him move through the block.

I quietly wondered aloud if he was also uncomfortable with having me actually “see” this struggle.  I asked him if he was ashamed of that, and he simply said “maybe”. 

We talked about it a little more a couple of days later, and he said it’s not really shame. He said that when he gets in a block, he can’t think. He is so focused on the block that he can’t think. He says anyone around him is a distraction, and that I was a distraction, that’s why he had to move, so he could think.

His blocks are silent blocks, that over the phone I am not going to hear. There is no audible stuttering. Watching him initiate a phone call really allowed me to see the physical tension he has.

It was good that we talked about it. I suggested that if he allows himself to struggle in front of people he trusts, he can desensitize himself when it really happens making calls at work. And I further offered that he is not always going to be able to move away from distractions, and that maybe he needs to think of a way to work with this.

I remember when we recently  listened to one of my podcast episodes together. When he heard me stutter on a “p” sound, which I always do,  I felt embarrassed having him hear it. I commented  “I hate when I do that.” He said it doesn’t bother him and asked, “Why are you so hard on yourself?” I simply said, “I don’t know.”

Yes, it’s always good to talk about our stuttering with someone else who stutters.

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4 Responses to "Letting The Struggle Show Is Hard"

you just describe a situation I’ve been in many times. For me, when I “show weakness” in any way, I try not to let other people see that. I believe it’s a natural reaction people of any kind, stutterers or nonstutterers, have. Your friend, like he said, probably wasn’t even consciously thinking about walking away, it just happened. Because that’s how we’re ‘programmed to function’.

I forgott to add that adressing the problem was a very strong move of you. Good job!

(I’m not sure if the first part got sent so I’ll quickly summarize what I said)

I think most of us people, stutterers or not, have been in the situation your friend was in in your story. When I “show weakness” in any way, I automatically try to hide it by turning away or hiding my face or something. I belive it’s how we’re programmed to function.

Hmmm…..Pam, you always have such good observations, no matter the situation! You, and your friend are lucky to have each other to bounce things off one another. And I believe we all get into uncomfortable situations and try to deflect the feelings we experience by trying to “hide” them. As always you ROCK!

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