Make Room For The Stuttering

Are You Sure?

Posted on: February 3, 2015

“Are you sure?”

I was covering the phones this past Friday afternoon in my office for colleagues who were in a meeting. We answer the phones by saying good morning or afternoon, and state the name of our school building.

One call I answered I stuttered pretty good on all three words of our building name. The caller laughed and then said, “Are you sure?” and laughed again. I so wanted to say something to her, but didn’t.

She went on to introduce herself as being from the department of social services. I wondered if she laughs at clients who might sound different than she does on the phone.

I wasn’t in the mood to hear a sarcastic “are you sure?” that day. I politely and professionally helped her and then cursed at myself when I got off the call.

Would you have said anything to her about laughing?

6 Responses to "Are You Sure?"

While tempted to respond, I likely would have also resisted. Having been in that situation several times, I’ve found polite directness to work well. I don’t laugh or play along, but rather just pause and say, “How can I help you?” or something to that effect. The listener usually gets the point more clearly than if I had explained her rudeness, and I don’t have to resort to being snarky.
Thanks for all your great posts. You are always insightful and inspiring.

Hi Dan – thanks for reading and for the great comments. I agree with you – it’s important we resist the urge to be snarky! 🙂

My usual response if I get the “oh, did you just forget your name?”-style treatment is to go “no, I have a speech disorder,” possibly with an added spiel about how I am happy to repeat myself or write something down/spell it out if they’re having trouble understanding me.

This tends to shut people up quite well (and once ended with the person in question basically grovelling in apology). It also has the advantage that you can basically vary the style of delivery anywhere from “polite and helpful, treating this as an understandable lack of knowledge on your part I can alleviate” to “WTF I cannot believe you just said that do you point and laugh at people in wheelchairs too” depending on the situation and how nasty the person in question was.

That said, I’ve never used it in a professional situation and am not sure I’d have the courage to in one like you describe!

Kaz – thanks for the reply and feedback. I always worry about embarrassing the person who just embarrassed me by pointing out that I stutter. I feel bad when someone apologizes profusely and is clearly mortified, as that is never my intention, but I suppose I shouldn’t really worry about that. Right?

i get that alot. Almost every job I’ve had involves some heavy phone time. Sometimes if I’m in a pleasant mood, I laugh it off and say, “oh my gosh it’s Monday, you know how it is!” or “Guess I’m just too ready for the weekend!” But I always, always ALWAYS got joy out of not responding, allowing an uncomfortable (for them) silence and then saying “so… how may I help you?” Only once did I say to a caller, in a lighthearted and jovial, but stern voice: “well (chuckle) I have a slight stutter so I guess it’s funny but it’s the way God made me”. Nothing is better than saying that to someone who asks the old “(ha ha) are you sure??” question

do any of you also seem to gravitate to another stutterer when you meet them? I attended a conference once and one of the speakers was a stutterer. he was just speaking on zoning and land use and I don’t think anyone picked up on his stutterer. But, we know our own (lol) and I walked up to him after and said “I enjoyed your presentation, very interesting!” because, you know, I had to sound like I was actually paying attention to the words coming out of his mouth not HOW the words were coming out of his mouth. Then I said, “do you stutter?!” he was hesitant–I imagine because, as we all do, he’s wondering what the result of the inquiry will be. He said “yes” and I responded “me too!” I think he was totally weirded out but to meet someone like me, when I had been hoping to have to not engage with networking small talk with strangers was like a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. I always feel like I’ve found my long lost family member when I meet a fellow stutterer. LOL

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