Make Room For The Stuttering

When We Are Offended

Posted on: July 26, 2013

I participated in a discussion this week in one of the stuttering groups about how we react when we are offended. Specifically, someone started a thread about how thick-skinned we are when it comes to negative reactions to our stuttering.

We can’t account for another person’s ignorance, stupidity or callousness, but we have a choice as to how we act or react.

Do we get defensive, defiant or confrontational? Or do we take offensive remarks and behavior in stride and take an opportunity to educate folks about something they may know nothing about?

In that discussion, I shared that I “choose my battles” wisely. If a stranger mocks or laughs at me, and I’m likely not to see that person ever again, I probably will not say anything and just let it go.

But if someone I know makes fun of my speech, or someone I know I’ll see again, then I may seize the opportunity to educate and raise awareness. But that does require a thick skin and right motive.

In the past, when someone has been rude or hurtful, I would get very upset, tear up and often be too embarrassed to say anything. As I’ve become more comfortable with my stuttering, I have found the courage to disclose that I stutter and that their comment or behavior offended me.

I try not to disclose just so that someone feels bad and apologizes profusely, but will admit on more than one occasion I didn’t mind seeing the person squirm in embarrassment.

I remember the time when I was signing up for a new job and an administrative assistant laughed at me during conversation. At first, I didn’t say anything, thinking I must have misunderstood. But when it happened a second time while I was still speaking, I knew I had to say something.

I told her I stutter, and she immediately looked embarrassed and apologized profusely. She even said she never would have reacted like she did had she known I stuttered. We finished our business and before I left, she apologized again. I believe I educated her that day about stuttering and she may have become just a bit more tolerant and patient.

How do you react when someone offends you, whether intentional or not?

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1 Response to "When We Are Offended"

This is thankfully something I haven’t run afoul of much…

In my experience (and I may have been lucky), I find that mean or ignorant comments or jokes usually occur when the person is, for some reason, not reading me as having a speech disorder. I remain curious as to what on earth they *think* is going on (what, you think I talk like this for fun?), but no one’s enlightened me… at any rate, usually I just kind of go “um, yeah, I have a speech disorder,” and maybe toss in some more information like probably neurological basis, incurable, etc. to really frame it as disability, which makes them back down immediately. In my experience, people usually believe that making fun of someone’s disability is a really horrible thing to do and puts them roughly on the same level as people who kick puppies for fun, but can’t always make the connection between that and the real life situation where they have just made fun of my disability. If I draw the line for them they generally dissolve in apologies.

Of course, anecdotes from other people I’ve run across make me think I may have been lucky in that regard. Well, should my luck run out, this is an area I’m pretty confident in – I’m perfectly willing to make clear that *I* think mocking my stutter puts them on the same level as puppy-kickers until the message sinks in.

Trickier is when people have well-meaning beliefs about my stutter that are horribly, horribly wrong, because we’ve never spoken about it because it’s never come up in conversation and they thought it’d be horribly rude to ask. I’m trying to work out ways to bring it up and leave openings for people to ask me about it but haven’t come up with much. I’m pondering tacking a “by the way, I have this speech disorder and I’d *really rather* you asked me about it if you want to know more about it” section to future introductions.

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