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A lot of us who stutter have had to deal with people who react negatively when they hear us stutter. I have had people laugh, mimic, roll or avert their eyes and say things that have made me feel hurt, frustrated and angry.

Over the years, I’ve gotten better at standing up for myself and using tough moments like that to educate the listener, which sometimes actually resulted in listener embarrassment and then apologies. I have also learned to pick my battles and sometimes I just let stuff go, especially if I will likely not see that person again.

Sometimes though I am still shocked when this happens, especially in the case of adults.

A few days ago, I visited my physician’s office for an appointment that they fit me into rather quickly because I was having a serious medical issue. So, I wasn’t feeling well when I went in.

When I was called in by the nurse, she had me go through the routine and stop to get weight before heading to the exam room. As I was putting my stuff down before stepping on the scale, she asked me for my birth date. I always stutter on numbers and have stuttered on my birth date many times. As I began and stuttered on the “tw-tw-twelve,” she started laughing. I was so not in the mood for this. I glanced up at her and continued on with “thir-thir-thir-thirteen,” and she laughed some more and said, “it’s not a trick question.”

I said, “what do you mean? I stutter and I’m stuttering. You’re laughing at me.”

She said. “no, that’s not what I’m laughing at.” I said, “Oh, then what’s so funny?” She said, “you looked confused when I asked you your birth date.”

I said, “I know my birth date. I stuttered on it. I stutter. And that’s when you laughed.” She looked away and said, “that’s not what I meant.”

And then silence. I didn’t say anything else. Neither did she. She didn’t apologize. I wasn’t expecting her to but I guess I did expect to see her register some acknowledgement that she had laughed and made a stupid comment towards a person with a speech impairment.

I felt belittled and disrespected in just that 60 second encounter. I stood up for myself but still walked away feeling like crap. I’m not sure what I could have done differently to feel better about the situation.

Thoughts?

 

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I have to share this.

Three days ago I received an email out of the blue from someone I communicated with about stuttering quite a few years ago. We last chatted in 2012.

This is what she said (with just some minor edits)

I have a very important job interview this Thursday for a position that I really want. I have been considering being completely open and honest about my stutter during the  interview, something that I have never done before. I know you are a big advocate for being open about our stuttering, so I was hoping you could pass along some wisdom or advice. I am terrified. It’s a corporate position and while they state that inclusion and diversity is a part of their company values, I am so terrified of not getting this job because of my stutter.

I feel like I will be taking a gargantuan risk by letting my interviewer know about my stutter. I am also just simply terrified because I know how “badly” I stutter during high-stress events, and nothing could be more high-stress than this job interview. I would really appreciate any advice or words of encouragement you might offer.

Of course, I emailed her back and shared my thoughts. I asked her to let me know how the interview went.

I heard back from her today. The interview went well and she did disclose that she stutters right at the beginning. She said the interviewer wasn’t phased at all, which she found comforting. In fact, when she asked the interviewer if she had any questions about stuttering, she was a little bummed out that she didn’t because she was ready to be open and share.

I wished her luck on the second round of interviews and asked her to let me know how everything goes. I thanked her too for remembering me and reaching out.

She said she reached out to a couple of friends locally who stutter but also wanted to reach out to me. She said “you are very well known in the stuttering community.” I can’t tell you how good that made me feel.

You just never know. When we talk about our stuttering and share our stories and put ourselves out there, people listen and pay attention and remember.

And that makes a difference. And means a lot.

PamEpisode 196 features Yuka Fukuoka who hails from Tokyo, Japan and presently resides in NYC in the United States. Yuka is a professional designer by day and on weekends she works on app development to benefit people who stutter and increase awareness of stuttering for people who don’t.

Listen in to this great conversation and hear what Yuka is up to. While in Japan, she worked on a “wearable device” that allows fluent people to experience what it actually feels like to stutter. And here in the USA, she is developing a prototype app for people who stutter to practice speaking situations that also create anxiety for stutterers.

We talk about workplace stuttering, preparing for job interviews, whether to disclose stuttering or not, and using your stuttering as a strength. We also discuss the importance of changing mindsets about stuttering and breaking down biases.

Finally, we give a shout out to SMBC, a financial powerhouse with a location in NYC, who offered mock interviews to people who stutter. High level managers served as interviewers and talked about how helpful it was to openly talk about stuttering at work. Yuka attended this event and found it extremely helpful.

The music used in today’s episode is credited to ccMixter.

 

I have been reflecting a lot on the value of being authentic in all of my places. I have been reading and boning up on being courageous at work.

I came across this great Forbes article called The Importance of Being Courageously Vulnerable at Work. 

The author, Patrick Williams, a leadership coach, asks, “Is there a gap between who you say you are and how you reveal yourself in the world of work?”

We all have things we hide due to shame, embarrassment, guilt or even unexpressed dreams we may have given up on, and we often put those in our shadow. Williams challenges us to acknowledge and own your (shadow) or it will own you.

This really resonated with me. I try to be authentic at work, as I truly believe it invites others to do so as well and then stronger relationships are forged.

I have been actively involved in the National Stuttering Association for about 12 years now. I am proud to share that a workplace advocacy initiative that I’ve been championing for over a year has launched. We Stutter @ Work is ambitious, new and requires that people who stutter be willing to be open and stutter nakedly at work.

I do that. I stutter openly and nakedly at work. It’s OK. People are listening to what I say and not how I say it. Occasionally I might get unsupportive remarks or reactions when I stutter on the phone. I usually say something, like “Oh, I stutter. No biggie, right?” I don’t apologize. I used to, years ago. I never do today. There’s nothing to apologize for.

The workplace is no longer the 9 to 5 we used to view it as. It’s at least one-third of our daily life. We are “human beings”, not “human doings.” More of our “being” needs to be present in the workplace, and we should encourage others to do so as well. It makes workplaces better, stronger and helps people feel like they belong. Right?

What do you think? Have you had any experiences where you’ve been courageously vulnerable at work? How did it make you feel? Do you and can you stutter openly at work?

PamEpisode 195 features return guest Aileen Quattlander, who is presently living in Washington, DC. Aileen was a guest way back in 2010, when she was a senior in high school and looking forward to heading off to college the next year. It was such fun catching up with Aileen and hearing her perspectives on where her life has gone since she was 17.

Aileen works in accounting in a real estate investment firm. She enjoys being a part of the stuttering community she has found with the DC Chapter of the NSA. She started out in the stuttering community with FRIENDS and now enjoys being part of and contributing to both life changing organizations.

Listen in as we discuss how important it has been for Aileen to seize opportunities and not let stuttering limit her the way she felt it did when younger. As an adult, she really wanted to do a reset on how much stuttering had impacted a lot of her decisions.

We talk about disclosure, handling negative reactions from listeners, and stuttering in the workplace. Aileen talks about job interviews and what she learned from being asked to lead a new hire orientation training at work.

We wrap up talking about how being vulnerable really invites others to share more about themselves, thus building meaningful relationships.

I loved this conversation with Aileen. It was so meaningful to catch up with someone who greatly inspired me when I first met her and continues to do so today with her courageous vulnerability.

PamEpisode 194 features Adrienne who hails from San Jose, California. Adrienne is a 4th grade teacher who loves traveling, karaoke and yoga.

Adrienne discovered her passion for teaching after having some amazing experiences all over the world. She has taught English in Jordan, Spain and Korea. Empowered by her success, Adrienne enrolled in a graduate program to earn her Master’s degree in education.

Stuttering was challenging for Adrienne in grad school and she says that a one year program took three years to complete. She talks about the misunderstandings and bias she discovered that exist about stuttering.

Listen in as we discuss disclosure, securing accommodations in college and her first experience at a NSA conference. Adrienne plans to attend her second conference this year and wants to help out with first timers.

The music used in today’s episode is credited to DanoSongs.

Lately I’ve given a lot of thought to all of the different places I stutter and the observations that I’ve had that I stutter differently in those places. I am sure this is not a novel thought but is one that I’ve noticed I’ve paid attention to more recently.

I stutter at work. But differently in the many roles I play. When I cover for the receptionist, I almost always stutter when I answer the phone. I always repeat a couple of times on the “R” that begins the name of my school. Sometimes that brings laughter from the caller and it really bothers me, even after all these years of being OK with stuttering.

In small group conversations with the office staff, I almost never stutter. In larger group meetings, I might stutter when called on spontaneously. When I go out to my district schools and deliver outreach presentations to large groups, I stutter, but variably. Not so much for the first one or two, but I observe much more noticeable stuttering towards the end of the day as I tire. Also, I stutter much more when reading from prepared notes or a script and much less when I am just speaking more conversationally.

I stutter at home on the phone. It doesn’t seem to matter much who I am speaking with. It happens and for the most part I am OK with it, probably because, unlike at work, the caller doesn’t laugh when I stutter.

I don’t seem to stutter much at family gatherings but I do tend to be more on the quiet side, so not as much opportunity for stuttering if I am not talking, right? That is a long ingrained habit from my childhood. I was always quiet because of the negative reactions I received from my father. I enjoy being social and chatty when with friends but still retain my quiet, reserved, guarded side when with family.

I stutter when with friends who stutter, comfortably and easily and probably even more so than when I’m at work. My guard is down when with friends who stutter as I have absolutely no fear of judgement.

What about you? What are the different places that you stutter? Have you observed this or paid attention? Do you have different feelings about your stuttering depending on where you are and who you are with.

I’m interested. Please share your thoughts.


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© Pamela A Mertz and Make Room For The Stuttering, 2009 - 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Pamela A Mertz and Make Room For The Stuttering with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Same protection applies to the podcasts linked to this blog, "Women Who Stutter: Our Stories" and "He Stutters: She Asks Him." Please give credit to owner/author Pamela A Mertz 2019.
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