On Being Laughed At
Posted January 27, 2012on:
I read a piece on laughter on another blog (Brian Scott Herr) and was really able to resonate with what he wrote. He talks about being laughed at by a customer service person when he was purchasing tickets and stutters.
All of us who stutter have had this happen, as kids and teens, and into adulthood. I know – it has happened to me more as an adult than as a kid!
Why? Because I am more open with my stuttering now as an adult. When we stutter openly, we can feel vulnerable and exposed. We feel particularly vulnerable when we encounter someone unfamiliar with stuttering and their first reaction is to laugh at us.
It hurts when that happens! I used to get really upset and feel my eyes fill up with tears, and struggle to compose myself until I was done with whatever I was doing and then I would practically run out to my car. And cry! Tears of embarrassment and anger!
Anger at having been laughed at for something I can’t help. But also anger at my own inability to say anything. My shame would paralyze me to the point that I just froze and couldn’t say anything.
It still happens! I get laughed at or mocked occasionally. It hurts! Sometimes my eyes fill up right away, because it stings. And then I get mad at myself for letting those tears well up.
But one thing has changed. Now I am confident and comfortable most of the time (notice I say “most”) to say something when someone laughs or mocks my stuttering. I usually say something like, “just so you know, I stutter. I am OK with that, but I am not OK with someone laughing or making fun of me. It hurts my feelings.”
People are usually surprised when I say that. Some get embarrassed and apologize profusely. Some turn red and don’t say anything. Some say, “oh, you do not.” Or, “I stutter sometimes too.”
I do not address someone who laughs at me because I want them to feel bad or embarrassed. I do it for ME! That’s right, ME!
I don’t deserve to be laughed at or mocked just because I stutter or sometimes have a long pause when a word gets stuck. No one does.
Not everyone is in the place on their journey where they feel comfortable addressing someone who laughs at stuttering. It takes courage. It involves taking a risk. Not only have we stuttered, but then we are going to call more attention to it.
Laughing is good for the soul. We all need to laugh – at things that are funny, not hurtful.
And we need to laugh at ourselves once in a while too, meaning not take our self too seriously. I still have to work on that. I have to work every day at believing that I deserve to be treated and listened to with respect. That starts within.
We should always be laughing with someone, not at someone’s expense.
What are your thoughts?