Make Room For The Stuttering

A Big Block Moment

Posted on: March 24, 2012

Yesterday I had a really big blocking moment while talking with a co-worker one-on-one. I had facilitated a staff training earlier in the day, for six hours, with a group of about 15.

For most of that time, I was fairly fluent. Meaning, I had some stuttered moments, but they didn’t bother me and I continued to move forward with my speech. Just once or twice, I was aware of blocking, but I didn’t let it bother me, as everyone in my group knows I stutter. I don’t make any efforts to hide it at work.

Afterwards, I was in my office, winding down, catching up on emails and voice mail. A co-worker came in to chat for a few minutes and ask about a meeting we have been trying to schedule.

While talking, I attempted to say something that began with “r” and couldn’t get it out. I got stuck like, “ruh-ruh–ruh-ruh-ruh-ruh . . . . . ” for what seemed like at least 60 seconds. I maintained eye contact with her, as did she, until I broke and looked down. It was then that I managed to forcefully push the word out.

I was so conflicted by this! I felt bad, like I had given in by breaking eye contact. But it didn’t seem natural to maintain eye contact for that long. Kind of like the staring game, who is going to give in first.

I’ll give my co-worker credit – she hung in with me, stayed in the moment and didn’t try to finish my word for me. And she maintained eye contact.

Once I broke contact and finally got the word out, our conversation continued. Neither of us made any reference to what had just happened.

It was one of the longest blocks I have had and I felt very self-conscious, which makes no sense. She already knew I stutter. It must have been because I felt so vulnerable.

Has this ever happened to you?

3 Responses to "A Big Block Moment"

PAM – believe me, I have been there ! I take your point about eye – contact – in the sort of work that you and I do, eye – contact is quite important, isn’t it ? Aren’t you lucky to have such a supportive colleague ? I lost a job because of my stammer, on the grounds that I “couldn’t be trusted to say the right things to people!” I sometimes find, like you, that breaking off eye – contact, even briefly, solves the problem and the word comes tumbling out. I also guess that, like me, you have fall – back words lined up in your head and if you do stumble over a word, you can quickly call up the alternative. I once stumbled over the word “permanent” as in “permanent job” and it came out as “proper job!” which got me into all sorts of trouble! I also understand, and sympathise, with your feelings of vulnerability and self – consciousness : I am of an age now (nearly 65 !) when I have ceased to worry quite so much about what other people think, and any idiot who finishes off my sentences for me is to be pitied. Mind you, you and I both work in what could be called “caring professions” and should expect our colleagues to be more supportive than if we worked in, say, telesales or banking. I have had the good fortune to have worked with some very supportive colleagues (as well as some total idiots, I have to say !) as, it seems, have you. Good that you can talk about the incident so freely. Good luck as always, COLIN

Thanks for the insightful reply, Colin! I find that sharing as many experiences about my stuttering, or what I reflect upon with other stuttering experiences, is such good self-therapy, as well as hopefully giving others something to think about.
I do think the “image” we have around our jobs plays into how much we let stuttering moments bother us.
I too was fired from a job due to stuttering – being a poor role model, and acting too nervous to be around young people. And this was after being employed by the same company for over 20 years.
So those fears of looking inadequate, even though it is behind me, still crop up.

Pam, I had big blocks for 40 years of my life. I always would look away until they passed and I was able to speak. As if i was in some kind of limbo, where I could safely keep pushing. Even now, when I never block for that long, I immediately break eye contact if I start blocking. You are very brave that you kept the eye contact. Anna

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