Make Room For The Stuttering

Posts Tagged ‘authentic stuttering

PamEpisode 190 features Saundra Smith, who is originally from Chicago, Illinois but currently lives and works in the suburb of Joliet, IL. Saundra is a wife and mother and an elementary school principal.

Saundra had teachers who told her when she was 5 years old that she was amazing and wonderful and could do anything she ever wanted and she believed them. That set her course for a wonderful career in education, where she is currently in educational leadership.

Saundra went to her very first National Stuttering Association conference in Chicago in July 2018. She was only able to stay for one day. But as she tells us in this heartfelt conversation, she was profoundly affected by what she learned and discovered about herself. A particular “aha” moment at the Women’s Empowerment workshop really made a big difference for her.

Listen in as Saundra talks about how much she has done to finally release her true authentic self in just over two short months.

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

 

Someone asks you to repeat something you’ve just stuttered on and you stutter again the same way?

You’re remarkably fluent all day and when something important comes up, you have a huge, ugly block?

Someone uses those annoying hand gestures to hurry you along in your speaking?

You’re on the phone with a doctor’s office and you stutter on your date of birth and the receptionist asks, “are you sure?”

Someone rolls their eyes at you when you’re in a mid-stutter?

You begin to stutter and your listener looks so uncomfortable you actually feel sorry for them?

You can’t get hazelnut out in the Dunkin Donuts drive-through, so you order french vanilla, even though you don’t like it?

A grown adult mimics your stuttering and then laughs, thinking he’s just told a great joke?

Someone finishes your word or sentence for you and they’re right?

A waiter brings you the wrong thing and you’re afraid to speak up to send it back because you might stutter again?

A friend from the National Stuttering Association and Stutter Social, David Resnick, recently gave a great TEDx Talk on using technology to build empathetic resonance. I’ll let him explain in his talk exactly what that is.

I was thrilled to see another TED Talk where someone openly stutters and still communicates beautifully and effectively. Of course, my thrill was enhanced by the fact that I know David!

And it was great to see Stutter Social featured and explained. I have been a Stutter Social host for two years now and I love it. The sense of community from a virtual stuttering support group certainly does build empathy.

Enjoy David’s talk! It’s great!

I just returned from the annual National Stuttering Association conference, held in Baltimore, Maryland this year. I spent a week at the conference site, catching up with friends for a few days before the actual conference started.

To say I had an outstanding experience would be an understatement. It is hard to put into words what it is like to be immersed in the stuttering community for 5+ days. It is a time filled with connection, bonding, laughter and tears. Even though it had been a year since I had seen most people, we picked up as if it had only been a week. That’s the beauty of community.

It is also the time each year where stuttering is normalized. It is freeing to stutter openly with hundreds of people who share and get the otherwise isolating experience.

I was very involved in first timer activities at this conference, hosting the first timer’s orientation workshop and welcome luncheon. It was great to meet new people just coming into the community who have not been in an environment where stuttering is the norm.

Everywhere I turned, I heard people stuttering. It is almost magical to hear the different types of stuttering and to see people thrive in a patient, non-judgemental environment.

One first timer I met in person after having “met” him online in Stutter Social hangouts was Shane. He kept looking around in wonder and exclaiming how unbelievable it was for him to be there and to hear so much stuttering. He kept saying “thank you” to us “old timers” he met, as he was so grateful for the experience to be in a normalized, inclusive stuttering environment.

The sense of community at a stuttering conference picks you up, holds you up and surrounds you with love and support. People meeting each other for the first time hugged in greeting, as if they were old friends. Sharing something as personal as stuttering is an almost instant bond. Lifelong friendships are made at conferences and people eagerly look forward to the next one before the current one is even finished.

On my last day, I became overwhelmed with emotion as I was saying goodbye to new and old friends. As I hugged people, tears flowed and I got choked with emotion so strong it surprised me.

I guess I figured after 10 years of attending stuttering conferences, saying goodbye would be easier. Not true. I felt sadness and a yearning to stay with the community rush over me like waves crashing against a shore. It will be another year before I see most of these people and get to experience the magic of the stuttering community again.

Now, I am transitioning back into a world where fluency is the norm and I am in the minority. But I take the love and support of my stuttering family with me and I will remember the power of support and community. I can’t help but remember – it flows through my veins.

Finally, a person getting media attention who actually stutters! And she’s a SHE!

Swedish golfer Sophie Gustafson did a media interview that got lots of attention from the stuttering community this week. This was a big deal for her, as she has shied away from most public speaking due to her stuttering.

It is refreshing to see someone who has dealt with the physical, emotional and social aspects of stuttering actually talk about it, and stutter. She is not one of those who miraculously outgrew or overcame her stuttering.

She still stutters and lets it be known in this NY Times article published March 27 and her television interview (which made the rounds this week on social media, even though it aired back in November 2011.)

In this 2002 Sports Illustrated interview, she talks about how she has tried to manage her stuttering throughout her life, including therapy at the Hollins Institute.

A couple of my friends suggested I try to contact Sophie and see if she would consider being a guest on the Women Who Stutter: Our Stories podcast. I contacted her through her Twitter account, and she actually responded. When I asked her if she would consider being a guest and sharing her story, she said she wasn’t ready for that.

Those of us who stutter can certainly understand that!

Today’s post is inspired by new friend Anna, who was featured in the January 2011 edition of the Toastmaster magazine. She was also a featured guest on “Women Who Stutter: Our Stories”, in Facing The Monster – Episode 44.

Anna contributed some great comments on the most recent episode featuring Nina G – Standing Up. Anna notes the importance of “fluent stuttering”, which is a term described by Van Riper in the classic stuttering book, The Treatment of Stuttering.

Someone once told me, “if it’s any consolation, at least your stuttering is easy to listen to”. I remember thinking, “why did she have to add the disclaimer phrase, if it’s any consolation?” To me, it sounded like she was paying me a compliment, but framing it as a negative, as if we are not ever supposed to say something positive about stuttering. Well, Anna de-bunks that and more!

I want to share Anna’s recent comments about “fluent stuttering” and how it can be attained by focusing on “the outside” rather than “the inside”.  I like to think of that as quieting our inner self-talk!

Pam,thank you for yet another wonderful pod cast. Nina is another example (one is you) of a person who has something that I call “fluent stuttering”. This means speaking confidently and passionately, without avoidance and fear. The difference with this kind of stuttering from “typical stuttering” – that which can be monotone, deliberate, struggled, or covert speech (I had this too) – is that such fluid stuttering is easy to listen to. In a while you stop noticing the stuttering just as you stop noticing a bit of an accent or some other different speaking pattern.

Speaking openly, expressively, without holding back is a very real goal. I myself aim for total fluency, but if I end up with fluent stuttering instead, I will be just as happy. By the way, I also learned a lot when I enrolled in a clown class – I am not performing on a real stage, but the whole approach to performing – learning how to interact with an audience and feeling confident on stage – is very valuable.

One great thing I learned in clown school is about directing your attention outward. We have lots of exercises to make sure that we focus on the outside rather than staying inside our heads. We, people who stutter, are usually all inside our heads – watching ourselves, anticipating stuttering, trying to figure out listeners’ reaction etc.

Having your attention concentrated on the outside allows you to enter the state of fluency and freedom of fear. The moment you go inside your head (I wonder how I am doing, do they like me?), you get tense and nervous. Nina’s confidence  on stage indicates that her attention is out there, she is connected to her audience. This is what makes Nina and others so fluent, despite stuttering. Fluent stuttering sounds strange, but it is a real phenomena and one that everyone can learn how to do.

I just loved Anna’s thoughts and honesty, especially sharing that she took classes at Clown school. How exciting is that? What do you think of Fluent Stuttering? Can you see yourself doing that and being happy with it, as Anna suggests? Let us know your thoughts!

As a person who stutters, I once believed no one would want to listen to me talk for any length of time. I had gotten “the look” too many times. You know the one I mean. When the listener first realizes something is different, and the look of surprise appears.

Their eyebrows arch, eyes widen, and then they quickly glance away. Then, maybe thinking that to be rude, they look back for a second, and quickly break eye contact again. Then they look distracted, looking at their watch, or a clock, or suddenly seem fascinated with the cracks in the ceiling tiles. They look everywhere but at me, the person talking and stuttering. Amazing how this can be read in seconds.

This week, I am pushing outside of my comfort zone in a new way. I have been a member of the Inter-Faith Story Circle of the Tri-City Area for just less than a year. I will facilitate the December circle and talk about my stuttering journey, to people who don’t stutter. Some of them may have never heard a real stutterer stutter.

I have a theme, “Stories of Trust, Leaps of Faith and Courage”.  I plan to open with a reflection and tell three stories. Then, circle members will be invited to share a story of their own, if they wish. It becomes a story swap. We do not process, offer feedback or applaud. We just listen and let the stories in. As a gesture of acknowledgment, members gently rub our hands together after a story is told.

In preparation for the circle, one of the seasoned tellers offered to “listen out my stories”. We met last week in a coffee shop, and over tea, I told my stories and she listened, really listened. She had a notepad with her and shared that she might jot some thoughts for feedback after. I was a little worried about that. But I didn’t need to be. She was a seasoned listener.

As I told, I “watched her listen”. She never took her eyes away from me. She was entirely present. Her facial expressions matched my tone. She took notes without ever looking down at her pad. Her eyes showed emotion, sometimes a smile, or look of surprise, or sadness, or wonder. Mostly presence though.

I stopped “watching her listen”, and just relaxed and told. I did not gaze directly at her, as suddenly I felt so free that someone was listening with intent, that I found more passion in my voice, used more imagery to describe a memory and used my hands to gesture. When I glanced at this woman, she was totally with me, listening, feeling the emotion of my story. As I neared the end, I felt overwhelmed with what I had shared to a near stranger. I choked up and my eyes brimmed over. I looked down for a second and back up. Her eyes were also watery and it was OK.

I had never had someone listen so intently, even as I openly stuttered. We paused and smiled at each other and then she said she wanted to share with me what she had heard. She offered me “appreciations” – told me all the things that had moved her and that helped create images in her mind as she listened.

I had expected to get “feedback” such as things I should change in my stories. Nope. This woman who I did not know very well just listened, appreciated, and told me that.

What an intimate experience to have had. I felt that what we had done had mattered a great deal that evening in the little coffee shop. I felt valued and alive. When we said good night and hugged, my eyes welled up again. We weren’t strangers anymore.


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© Pamela A Mertz and Make Room For The Stuttering, 2009 - 2017. 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 2017.
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