Make Room For The Stuttering

On Being Laughed At

Posted on: January 27, 2012

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?

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6 Responses to "On Being Laughed At"

Thanks for this Pam! I will show this to my son tonight… he has had people laugh and mock him as well. 😦

The more I think about this one the more I seem to have to say. You sure do post good topics.

I’ve been laughed at all my life. 6 brothers will do that. I never minded from them. We all tease each other a lot and we all know the difference between laughing with and laughing at. Sometimes their gently mocking humour helped me take things more lightly through high school when I was at my most severe and my bullies were at the top of their game. The boys’ laughter kept me grounded in the time between learning that punching people is a poor way to educate them and learning to defend myself by communicating with patience and confidence. (somedays though I really wish I could use Force Choke)

Laughter from shop keepers and service staff doesn’t even slow me down these days, maybe it’s the emotional equivalent of a calous. Ignorant people will be ignorant. If it’s a place I have to go to a lot I will take the time to teach the staff to listen but if it’s a place I go rarely I usually can’t be bothered.

There were two people who laughed at me at work. The first was in the first 2 months of my first year of apprenticeship. We were at coffee and I was relaxed and spontaneously went to respond to a comment and all I said was r-r-r-r-r- with all my secondaries. A second year (who didn’t complete the program) laughed loud and hard then realised and said “oops, sorry” My journeyman stopped himself from punching the guy (barely from the look of him) and I said it was ok. As an aside, my journeyman can tease me almost as well as my brothers.

The second was a lady I had real problems with. Pam, you and I have talked about this one privately. After 3 years of her laughter and after several attempts to teach her I gave up and just avoided her. A few months ago we made a truce. It turns out she was trying to make friends with me and is apparently a slow learner. I’m not sure what finally got through but she hasn’t laughed at me since before Christmas and has asked some really well thought out questions. She just wants to understand I guess.

For me it comes down to not letting the jerks have space in my head. It’s hard to do sometimes but if they’re the sort of person who laughs at the unknown or the different they don’t get to have a say in my life. I would much rather spend my time and energy on the people who know me and like me and who I can laugh with.

Thanks for sharing this Heather! You are so honest and insightful. I think it’s so important that we look at stuff like this sometimes and really reflect on how it has impacted us and how it made or makes us feel.
I think our experiences only help others when we take the time to really admit how things have made us feel. It then normalizes it for others.
Thanks so much for taking the time to share this!

An exception in biology is always laughed at… be it stammering or any other thing for that matter.. its better to move on rather than complain. I know its tough but i have done that. u get life once.. its your decision either to be happy or to keep complaining all ur lif. Remember one thing people will always laugh at u. Its up to whether u want to stop their mouth cry and complain or jst prove them what u have in urslf

I was laughed at earlier today on my job. I usually take the kind of stuff in stride, but it did affect me more today than usual and I was quite embarrassed, I work in a department with a lot of older women and they usually tease me in good fun, but something was different about it today. I’m sure I will have forgotten about it all by the time I return on Monday.

myself since the age of 3 years have been suffering from stuttering (pretty extreme). Yes, I sucked at saying “present mam”, while introducing myself, while giving presentations (i still try to avoid them whenever possible) and while talking to strangers. My mom once told me you will never be able to get a job. That affected me so much that I failed to convert any interview post graduation. Finally I decided to start my own and did it for 3 years. However, couldn’t sustain it and finally had to give interiews again. This time I was able to convert one after failing in like 10. However, I never gave up and post that I have never ever failed in any interview.

I am proud to say that I now work with the co founder of skype and ebay and have worked with passouts of Stanford and Harvard. I still stutter the same or maybe little less but I have gained in confidence so much. I am still shy but I keep working daily to reduce it.

For all the people who stutter never think that you are weak and your life sucks. It might seem so, but we all are special in our own way. Have confidence and you will succeed in life. Let people mock and make fun of you. Just show them your middle finger and move on.

No life is without struggle and our life is the struggle of speech. If you can’t beat it, still try fighting it always 🙂

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