Make Room For The Stuttering

Posts Tagged ‘authentic stuttering

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.

 

Special note: It’s so exciting and gratifying for me to share this 200th episode of the voices of women who stutter from all over the world. I never believed in 2010 when I started this that it would still be going strong nine years later. I have talked to women from 41 different countries around the world. So this latest episode is a proud milestone.

PamEpisode 200 features Betony Kelly, who hails from Kent, England, in the United Kingdom. Betony keeps quite busy. She is a new mom to her first child. She enjoys connecting with interesting people. She works with the UK Civil Service in a behavior change and engagement role and chairs a stammering network. She also works with the British Stammering Association to help support people who stammer in the workplace.

Listen in as we talk about how there is really something beautiful about stammering and that it should be OK, but it’s really not yet in our workplaces. There is such an emphasis on sounding slick and competent and being an impressive speaker. Stammering is such an integral part of who we are yet so many of us still are compelled to hide it. Particularly women. Why?

We take a deep dive into authenticity and how employers say they want that but really only want the version of ourselves with boundaries. Employers don’t want our emotional baggage, do they? They want us to be our “adult selves” and leave our real selves at home. We talk about inclusion and what it really means and that it can’t just be “token” inclusion. There is absolutely a continued need for crucial conversations such as this, especially with those who don’t stammer and still take fluent communication for granted.

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

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!


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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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