Make Room For The Stuttering

Archive for the ‘Posts’ Category

Over the last few days, I have been thinking and talking a lot about stuttering. That’s not all I do – Eat, Sleep and Dream stuttering.

I need to acknowledge this which is true. I have been home everyday since losing my full time professional job in June. So, it’s been more than 5 months that I haven’t had any kind of typical day; no coworkers to catch up with on Monday; no students to give them the look and ask them to remove their hats.

Yep, suffice it to say, I have been isolated and find myself staying in 3-4 days a week. Not going out to drive to work, making errands on the way, and no “happy feet” dance on Fridays, when all of our feet were trying to leave a few minutes before our regular time, when the bells would ring 4:30 pm and we’re on the run to our cars.

Now, with talking to only a few people for a few minutes a week, I haven’t been able to have conversations often. So, when I do, I’m struggling a little more because I just haven’t talked to enough people today.

So how does all of this pertain to the title, “The Essence of Stuttering.” I’m titling this piece such because I have thought about what the true essence of stuttering really is. For me, the essence of stuttering is “what’s left unsaid.” We, me, people who stutter feel emotional and physical signs of struggle – our faces flush, our chest tightens, we squeeze one or both eyes shut while talking/stuttering because it seems that might loosen the words to fly out.

In addition to those physical feelings, we have the emotions: shame, guilt, fear, helplessness, self loathing.

I spoke with someone last week in a video chat and we were discussing anything positive that has come out of stuttering. We wanted to have a short list of attributes and assets that validate the reasons why companies should hire people who stutter.

We shifted so far from that conversation, that it became something else. We acknowledged that having dealt with stuttering and false assumptions for so long, some may think that since we have stuttering superpowers, we should always get the job or promotion.

Nah! What my friend and I came up with is this:

People who stutter have many strong workplace aptitudes, such as strong listening skills, the ability to be empathetic, always over prepared. But the thing with this is – there are thousands of fluent people out there with those same skills. Having those attributes is great for any employee hoping to be the next hire. But we who stutter want the world to see that aside from stuttering, we have all of those other traits too. The difference is with the “false assumption cloud” hanging so close, it clouds our ability to see the skills the candidates have, both the persons who stutters and those who don’t.

If an employer can see past the stuttering and look for the strengths that person brings (whether they are the stutterer or the fluent) then we will have captured the “essence of stuttering.”

Not long after this conversation and encounter, I happened to get an email from good friend Barry, who penned a stellar article about stuttering, published in The Baffler. Read his article here. His article also sums up the true essence of stuttering.

Even though I really think every day is our day!

IMG_1332

I am repurposing this blog post today because I noticed a colleague posted this on Twitter, in explanation of what presidential candidate Joe Biden may actually be doing when he looks for words or pauses too long. The colleague on Twitter pulled this up from 10 years ago. This brought me comfort, knowing someone found something I wrote so long ago, that still feels completely relevant.

So here’s the post I wrote way back in 2009.

We have all done it! Got stuck on a word, got frustrated and fearful that it might never come out, and switched to another word. I hardly do it any more, because I feel more comfortable with just stuttering freely. But sometimes it happens and honestly surprises me when it does.

I was on the phone with a good friend that stutters, having a relaxed conversation. I tend to stutter more on the phone anyway, as many people who stutter do. But when the person on the other end also stutters, forget it, I can really let go and just speak freely, with almost no self-consciousness. We both understand how to listen to each other.

So, I was really surprised when I word switched anyway. I guess it speaks to the complexity of stuttering. Even though I was at ease, the word giving me trouble really made me feel uncomfortable. Like I went to that “nowhere place” and was afraid I wouldn’t come back. If I didn’t come back, where would I go?

I was trying to say the word “easier”. It came out “eeee-eeee-eeee-eeee” and that’s all, at least four or possibly five prolonged attempts. It was not coming. I felt myself tense up and get frustrated.I just wanted to get to my point. So after a pause, which added to the feeling I already had that this was an incredibly long stuttered moment, I abruptly switched and said “better”. I felt a hot flash come over my face as I said it, because I knew I had given in to something I don’t want to give in to anymore.

And I knew my friend was going to catch it, because as a stutterer herself, she was patiently with me in the blocked moment. So it was no surprise when she did say something like, “Ohhhhh, what are you doing? Noooooo!” Unlike a fluent listener who may have no idea of the struggle I felt at that moment, she knew and stayed with me, patiently and unconditionally. I wasn’t patient. I still chose to bail myself out. Why?

I don’t remember doing this so consciously when I was actively trying to be covert and keep my stuttering largely hidden. I think now that I am not fighting my stuttering so much, I am having more surprising moments. More teachable moments, perhaps? Hmmmmm.

I honestly don’t know why I felt I had to switch like that to move past that stuttered moment. Except for just the pure desire to do just that – “move past the moment.” I did not like how it felt. It was slow motion, “eeeeeeeeee – eeeeeeeeee – eeeeeeeeee” , like the sound a creaky floor or step makes when you step on just that right part. It can be kind of jarring to step on that creak and just as quickly, you move to another spot on the floor where it doesn’t creak. So maybe that’s what I was doing. Not liking the sound of the creaky step and moving to a spot where the creaking would stop.

But this I know: I do not want to switch words. Creaks in steps or on the floor are OK.

Does this happen to you? At those unexpected moments? How does it make you feel?

Each year, the International Stuttering Association helps to coordinate a 3 week online conference where anybody who is interested can learn more about stuttering from experts in the field, first and foremost, people who stutter.

I have been lucky enough to be part of the small team that helps coordinate the conference “behind the scenes.” I help upload content, moderate and approve comments and help advertise the conference. I actually have been a participant in this annual conference since 2008, writing papers and contributing video presentations. I find this to be one of the most significant learning experiences for anyone in the world to learn more about this complex thing called stuttering, that affects 70 million people worldwide.

This conference is unique in that anyone can comment or ask questions to the contributing authors and the authors write back, so it is interactive and informative. There is no better feeling than knowing that this experience helps people who do not stutter better understand.

This year’s theme is “Growth Through Speaking.” You can interpret that anyway you wish, and read, watch and listen to how others interpret it. The conference is “live” from October 1 -22 every year, and everything is archived for viewing at any time after the conference concludes.

Visit and learn today. And hey, you might see something on there from me again this year too.

I had a wonderful conversation last week with a woman who stutters who will be featured on this week’s episode of the podcast Women Who Stutter: Our Stories.

We spoke about how important it is to own our story and be comfortable with all of it. That is the primary reason why I started the podcast, to give women who stutter a space to share their stories, because we all have one.

We talked about how sometimes we can feel so diminished when someone mentions, “Oh, you don’t really stutter,” or “I can hardly tell you stutter.” It brought back memories of a time where I found myself telling someone, “Yes, I really do stutter, honest I do!” It felt like yesterday, that feeling of having to defend that part of me. Why in the world would someone need to convince someone that they really stutter? You’d think there would surely be more important things we’d want to defend, like honor, integrity, reputation.

As I thought about this, I realized anew that my integrity and reputation is based on the very fact that I honor my story and don’t shirk from it, that my experiences with stuttering have greatly shaped and informed the person I am today.

People don’t really know me unless they know my story. How can you possibly know someone when you don’t (or won’t take the time to understand) the life cycle of all that was grappled with, reconciled and is now proudly owned as part of me?

All of us have a story, a legacy that will live on after we are gone. I want people to remember me, not just for something I did, but for who I was as a person.

What about you? What’s your story? What do you want, need, for others to know about you? What do you hope for in your legacy?

 

 

On Friday, I went for the third year in a row to help with a collaborative mock interview event held at Goldman Sach’s NYC office. Employees from Goldman Sachs volunteered to help people who stutter practice interview skills in a stutter friendly environment that simulated real interviews.

A small team of people who stutter educated the volunteers who were spending their day learning about stuttering and how effective communication is not attributed to fluent speech.

I knew several of the volunteers as they’ve participated in each event, and they remembered me. Several indicated that this day has been very meaningful and helped them realize this is a way to “give back” and help job seekers in a very tangible way.

It was hugs all around when I arrived and greeted these who are now friends.

It is so empowering to share stories of stuttering and vulnerability to people who don’t share that experience and see the power of authenticity.

One guy came and spoke with me and shared that he vividly remembers when I participated in the first event in 2017. He said he was mesmerized by my story and how I commanded the room when speaking. We talked about how he raised his hand and shared with his colleagues for the first time ever that he also stutters and had always hid it. That was a powerful moment for him.

And it was an extremely powerful moment for me when I saw him on the diversity and inclusion panel at the end of the day. He shared his story of how much easier it’s been for him to build relationships with colleagues because he’s no longer covering up such an integral part of his self.

Honesty and authenticity fosters deeper relationships, which in turn increases productivity and team work.

What an exciting, life changing experience this has come to be and not just for those who stutter.

Everyone benefits when everyone can feel free to be true to themselves in the workplace, the place where most adults spend most of their time.

 

There is so much truth to the fact that a job interview can be the single most stressful speaking situations anyone might have. You spend time trying to look the part, sound competent and informed and you practice many possible interview questions so that you will sound prepared to blow the interviewers away with great answers. No matter how much time you prepare and rehearse, you are likely to still be nervous and feel pressured.

It’s also true that for a stutterer, the stress of a job interview for a person who stutters is 10 times than that of a typically fluent person. We worry about possibly not be able to say our own name fluidly, we worry about hesitations or pauses that are too long and we worry that the interviewer may be drawing an incorrect conclusion about us based on our different speaking pattern.

I recently had the first interview I’ve had in 11+ years and not only was I nervous, but I also had to prepare a 5-7 minute presentation on a topic of my choosing and deliver it to the panel of interviewers. When I entered the conference room where we were to meet, the interviewers said that we’ll start with my presentation. I wasn’t expecting that to be the first thing, but it helped calm my nerves to get it done and out of the way. I chose to do my presentation on “How To Nail A Job Interview.” It was something I could speak about quite comfortably and it was relevant to the very job I was vying for.

I felt that the interviewers liked my topic and how I presented it. The question and answers part that followed seemed standard. They both had a list of scripted questions they asked and they tried to go back and forth. I had a couple of questions for them at the end of our conversation, which I hoped showed my genuine interest in the job.

I intentionally decided against doing any formal advertising of my stutter. It only came out a few times, multiple repetitions but without any struggled behavior or tension. I’m hoping they didn’t even notice.

I find it quite incredulous that I am at this stage in life and in my career that I have to interview and find another job. This was not part of the plan. I had thought I would work about 10 more years where I was and retire from there and then look for a part-time role that I’d enjoy and still get paid for,

It’s challenging to be doing this in your 50’s. Yes, the job market is tight right now, but most vacancies seem designed for younger workers, recently out of college. The worst thing is loosing employer sponsored health insurance.

Another thing that I did not see coming at all.

I hope I hear something soon, because I haven’t had any other interview invitations and have had two rejections via email. I don’t care for those at all.

Wish me luck as I try to start all over again.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Podcasts, Posts, Videos

Glad you're stopping by!

  • 580,596 visits

Monthly Archives!

Copyright Notice

© 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.
Follow Make Room For The Stuttering on WordPress.com