Make Room For The Stuttering

That Silent Space

Posted on: May 21, 2012

Have you ever thought about ordinary people who are uncomfortable with silence during a conversation? I remember an English teacher talking about how it’s important to pause while speaking and give people time to process what was said.

But she also said that many people can’t bear a long silence and will rush to fill in that silent space. I certainly can recall this. I have heard people rush to fill in that silence with anything, even if it doesn’t relate at all to what has been said.

I have been thinking about silence, specifically about that silent space we have when we have an unusually long pause or block.

I am usually panicking during that silent moment! Lots of thoughts have gone through my mind: “Oh no! Not again!” “Why now?” “She’s going to think there’s something wrong with me!” It’s amazing how many thoughts can go through one’s mind in a matter of seconds!

I have wondered what goes on in the mind of the fluent listener during that silent space? If they know us, are they aware we are stuttering? Are they giving us that space to stutter, and straining to not fill the space?

If they don’t know us, what might they be thinking?  I’m curious – but apprehensive to ask someone! 

What about you? Is that a conversation worth having?

8 Responses to "That Silent Space"

Pam that’s a really interesting question. I will link to your blog on my FB status and ask my fluent friends what they think

This is a great topic. I struggle with this often. It took me living on the other side of the country for years to realize even some of the role this has played in my life. I love my family, but being “typical” Nee Yorkers, most of them interrupt me constantly, by jumping in that silence space (or sometimes at any time! Haha). I never realized and thought it was normal. I later realized how much I struggle and put time pressure on myself to prevent that silence and not have someone “jump in”. Some people are patient, and then I do wonder what they’re thinking..

in the church to which I belong, we once had a minister who, though he didn’t have a stammer, seemed to struggle with spontaneous conversation, there would be long pauses as if he was desperately thinking of what to say next, I felt at the time that he was not suited to pastoral work, and my feeling was borne out when eventually he suffered a nervous breakdown and had to leave the ministry. I am glad to say he rebuilt his career, he is now a lecturer in a college, it seems he is better suited to giving prepared speeches than participating in spontaneous talk. I found his long pauses uncomfortable because I was concerned that if I started talking I was interrupting his train of thought. I have had many conversations with people who stammer and have never felt the same level of discomfort, yes, the conversation may progress at a slower pace than normal, but it does progress.

“I’m this way, if I”m with someone or a group and no one is talking, I have to ask questions or say something, I can’t stand just sitting there and looking at across the table at someone. hehe..

HI Pam, I have pauses at times and in the past I have had to make important phone calls. One was to a Doctors office and was serious and the nurse kept hanging up on me. I finally had to wake my husband and tell the nurse to stop hanging up. Which is another story but it is hard with those Pauses especially over the phone.

I wonder about this too. There’s so much silence with me. 🙂 I make a lot of videos talking about my stuttering (mostly blocking), but I want so much to hear the other side. It would help how I feel about my stuttering if I knew how my non-stuttering listeners felt about it.

Hi Marissa, Thank you for your comments and sharing your concerns too. I looked at two of your videos. You appear to be a very confident communicator. I admire how you openly talk about your stuttering experiences. It’s not always easy to do, but I am a firm believer that we all have a story and that sharing ours helps others.
I am glad you commented on both the blame piece and the silence piece.
I too don’t feel we should blame ourselves, but in some ways I feel that we (especially as women who stutter) are almost conditioned to do exactly that – blame oursleves and then feel guilty.
I hope you keep reading here and sharing your thoughts.

Hi Pam

Another really interesting topic! I find myself most relaxed with people who take their time in their speech and think what they want to say before they speak. I really admire and envy them at the same time! The most intelligent and grounded people I have found are the people who really don’t care about time pressure and don’t give in to it. I know a psychologist who came to speak at one of our stuttering meetings here in Dublin about his thoughts on stuttering and he was magnificent! He really took his time with answering questions and didn’t seem at all phased by these long pauses. What a great way to live! I’m trying to practice pausing in my speech at the minute as I find its vital for our wellbeing and just in general for really listening and engaging in what the other person is saying!


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