Make Room For The Stuttering

Posts Tagged ‘listener reactions to stuttering

I’ve recently been thinking about disability, as I just finished writing a paper for the October ISAD conference. In my paper, I talk about the role other people play in defining a disability. Sometimes, society regards us as having a disability when we might not.

Interestingly, this coincides with the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA,) which was signed into law on July 26, 1990.

I also recently listened to an episode of the Stuttertalk podcast, where the social model of disability was discussed.

My mind wandered back several years ago to this amazing TED Talk by Sharon Emery, who talks about the person who listens as being disabled, as opposed to the person who stutters. I blogged about this a number of years ago, and included the link to Ms. Emery’s talk. It’s so worth watching again.

Also, I’m pretty excited to note that this is my 700th post on this blog. Pretty impressive, if I must say so myself.

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I had this article published today in my local newspaper. The commentary editor told me they don’t usually take “issue” pieces because it might sound like a PSA (Public Service Announcement.)

But he told me it was well written, interesting and effective and they would publish it as is, this week for National Stuttering Awareness Week.

PamEpisode 135 features Ashley Marcinkiewicz, who hails from Clifton Park, NY. Ashley is currently a PhD student at the University of New Hampshire, where she is studying microbiology. As a PhD student, Ashley teaches biology courses. She also enjoys hiking and outdoors activities.

Listen in as we discuss what it’s been like teaching and how Ashley has handled advertising her stuttering. We also discuss techniques and tools Ashley uses for when she gives presentations.

We talk about speech therapy experiences, the importance of attitude in how we approach our stuttering and how stuttering can be used as a benefit.

We also discuss the importance of community and learning from others’ perspectives about stuttering.

This was a great conversation, full of honesty and humor. Feel free to leave comments or ask questions in the comment section.

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

“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?

Someone wrote this on one of the stuttering email groups I participate in. It really resonated with me.

“The pain of stuttering is not in speech interruptions as that just takes an extra moment… And the speaker sometimes doesn’t even know it’s happening.  What’s painful is feeling different and feeling that the difference is unacceptable to you and to the world….”

How many of us can relate to this? How many of us have had a stuttering moment happen and we felt so embarrassed that we felt different? That stuttering was unacceptable?

I first experienced the pain of stuttering as a young child. I don’t remember what stuttering was really like for me at 5 years old, but I do remember the pain I felt when it seemed that my father was ashamed of me. He would yell at me when I stuttered and make me feel as though I was doing something bad.

As an adult, I stutter pretty openly and confidently but sometimes I still experience the pain and shame of stuttering. And I believe some of that rises up from those early painful memories.

I feel the pain of stuttering when I get stuck and someone laughs at me. Or looks at me quizzically, asking if I’ve forgotten my name or where I work. I am sure everyone who stutters has experienced that and probably more than once.

I feel the pain of stuttering when I feel I’m being judged by someone in authority. That makes me feel inadequate, thankfully only momentarily, but inadequate nonetheless.

I feel the pain of stuttering when I explain myself to put a listener at ease. Sometimes it’s painful because there’s times I just don’t feel like explaining.

I feel the pain of stuttering when I want to chime in with a joke and I stutter on the punchline and people give me “the look.”

There has been more and more awareness of stuttering in the media, especially over the last year. But I’m not convinced that the world is ready for stuttering yet. It’s still not acceptable.

What do you think?

 

This is a clip from the 2014 movie, “The Angriest Man in Brooklyn,” starring Robin Williams and James Earl Jones, an actor who stutters in “real life.”

I think Robin William’s character expresses some of the impatience that listeners often experience when listening to someone who stutters.

What do you think? Do you find this funny or in poor taste? Personally, I found it funny.

Caution: adult language at the end of the clip.

PamEpisode 123 features Carmen Shapiro, who hails from Downington, PA. Carmen is originally from Spain and has been in the US for 23 years.

She works as a project manager in an IT department of a pharmaceutical company. She is also the new leader of the Philadelphia NSA Chapter, since November 2013.

Carmen recently returned from her first conference of the National Stuttering Association and we discuss her experience and reflections. She shares how welcome she felt at the conference and how that made her feel more confident about introducing herself to so many people.

We also spend a good amount of time discussing disclosure and why it can be so hard to do. Carmen opens up to her fears and we talk about some different ways to disclose.

This was a wonderful and insightful conversation. Feel free to leave comments or ask questions or just let Carmen know what a great job she did.

The podcast safe music used in this episode is credited to ccMixter.

I was at a meeting earlier in the week to begin planning for an upcoming large event. There were about 10 people on the committee and we all did not know each other.

So, we did the round robin of introductions, with people saying their names and which building or department we worked in.

I shared my name and then started to say which building I was from, but blocked as I was saying the first word. The block lasted only about 5 seconds, but was long enough to be noticeable.

A woman across from me laughed and said, “what, did you forget where you work?”

Ah, we’ve all heard this or been asked the equally ridiculous “did you forget your name?”

I’ve been so good over the past few years in not letting this bother me as it once did, but on this day, it did. The woman who laughed is a special needs teacher.

I didn’t expect for someone who works with people with differences and disabilities to be so quick to laugh and make such an offensive comment. I expected her to be more sensitive and professional.

That’s what stung the most. The expectation that someone “in the know” would be the last person to laugh and be rude.

I shared this with some friends in a Facebook group and they asked me how I responded. I didn’t respond – I said nothing as I didn’t want to draw any attention to how embarrassed I felt.

I wish this stuff wouldn’t happen but it still does. I’m an adult who stutters. Imagine how a kid would feel if they had been laughed at like that.

This really needs no words – it’s a great short animated film that perfectly captures what stuttering is.

Ahhh, the phone. A simple electronic device designed to make our lives easier. But for people who stutter, the phone can be our nemesis.

Talking on the phone can be a struggle, even a nightmare for those who stutter. The time pressure and being unable to see our listener often adds to our anxiety, which in turn can increase our stuttering.

Over the years, I’ve had my hiccups with the phone. For a long stretch, I can remember never answering the phone. I would always let the call go to voice mail, and I would return the call when I was ready. For some reason, I was (and still am) more comfortable when I initiate the call.

I’ve had my times when I re-record a message I have to leave on someone’s voice mail if I think there was a stuttered word in my message. And I’ve re-recorded my own personal greeting on my voice mail numerous times until I got it “perfect.”

These days, on my voice mail, I allow a repetition so that I’ve left a cue to callers that I stutter.

At work, I often have to pitch in and answer the main phone lines in the office. For the most part, I am alright with it. I always say the same greeting and always stutter the same way when I say, “May I he-he-help you?” Usually, I’m fine with that. Sometimes I find myself wincing, wishing I could say it without stuttering.

I covered the phones for a bit on Friday. When I answered in my usual way, the caller immediately said “Hi Pam.” I winced. I felt like she recognized my stuttering and therefore knew right away it was me.

Now, maybe that wasn’t true at all. Maybe she just recognized my voice (although I don’t think so, as I don’t answer the phones often enough to have my voice recognized.) Whatever was the case, I felt uncomfortable and a little embarrassed. Which bothers me, because I shouldn’t be feeling embarrassment anymore because of my stuttering. But I do.

What about you? Is the phone (still) difficult for you? Or have you found a way to just take it in stride?

Pam

Episode 111 features Lois “Cookie” Green who hails from Fremont, California.

Lois is presently a photographer, owning her own business after retiring from a 25 year career working for an automobile manufacturing company.

Listen in to a great conversation about how Lois has managed her stuttering over her life time. She shares how she got the nickname Cookie, which is a story that many of us will be able to relate to.

Lois also shares about how a visit to a reflexology practitioner helped her to become fluent on two key words.

We also chat about management strategies, taking risks and becoming a leader. It was great getting to chat with Lois after getting to know her a bit through the Face Book stuttering groups.

Feel free to leave comments or questions for either of us, or just let Lois know what a great job she did. The podcast safe music used in this episode is credited to ccMixter.

As people who stutter, we often worry about how listeners will react to us when we are stuttering. Are they going to hang in there with us? Will they maintain eye contact?

Or will they get “the look” and avert their eyes and look anywhere but at us? Or will they become impatient and finish our words or sentences for us?

There was an interesting thread about this on Facebook, where a group member asked what we as stutterers should do to make our stuttering more acceptable to listeners.

The response was mixed – with many weighing in that it is not our responsibility to alter our stuttering in some way to make it easier for a listener.

I happen to agree with that! We stutter – most of us have lived with stuttering our whole lives, since we began talking. It can be very difficult for us – shameful and embarrassing. Why should we add to the mix by also assuming the responsibility of how a listener might feel?

In this day and age, with so much diversity, a listener should listen to us exactly the same as they would to anyone else. With respect and patience.

It might make it easier to disclose or advertise that we stutter, but that generally is for our own sake, to lessen our own anxiety. When we do that with confidence, it often provides a cue for the listener to react in kind.

But we should do that for ourselves – not the listener. That’s not our responsibility.

What do you think?

Pam

Episode 110 features return guest Carolina Ayala who hails from Ajax, Ontario, Canada. Carolina and I are friends from attending the National Stuttering Association’s annual conferences and we stay in touch throughout the year.

Carolina works in the disability field with adults with intellectual impairments and is also a part-time educator at a local college. She also does volunteer work.

Listen is as we talk about the struggles Carolina has experienced at work related to her stuttering and the strategies she uses.

We also talk about the humanitarian mission work that Carolina has had the opportunity to do. She has gone on mission trips to Mexico, El Salvador, Thailand, Cambodia and most recently India. She shares some of the significant memories of the recent trip to India, of which she is very passionate about.

Carolina worked with exploited women in the Red Light District of Kolkata, and also spent time working with children whose parents are on the street.

She had the chance to meet a child who stutters, named Nata and tells us how she was able to share the stuttering experience with him.

Below is Carolina’s favorite picture from her trip to India – giving first aid to children on the streets.

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

givingfirstaidinINDIA

My friend Burt from Belgium posed the question on one of the stuttering forums about how should one react when someone says our stuttering is cute. He wonders if people are just being nice by saying that.

Quite a few people weighed in with their comments and insights. Some say it’s never happened. Some say people refer to stuttering as cute when they don’t know what else to say. Some say they’ve heard stuttering said to be cute when the listener really feels sorry for the person stuttering.

One person indicated that she thinks that there are people out there that are genuinely attracted to flaws in people. I somewhat agree with that. I think when people let their true self shine – imperfections and all – they allow themselves to be vulnerable.

I am attracted to people who allow themselves to be vulnerable. To me, it signifies confidence. The person is confident enough to just be, and let the world see their true self.

I don’t ever recall anyone saying my stuttering is/was cute, but I do remember a friend commenting a few years ago that he found my stuttering was beautiful. I remember being so floored with that, as I’ve always hated my stutter. How could anyone possibly find it to be beautiful?

When he said that, it made me feel really good. I’ve never forgotten it either. Now, looking back (and it’s only been 4 or 5 years,) I think what may have been beautiful was the fact that I was being true to myself and stuttering openly and being vulnerable.

What do you think? Can stuttering be cute? Or attractive?

My friend asked me to raise this question on Facebook. Do people who stutter tend to stutter more when talking with people who talk very fast?

The question got a lot of responses. Many indicated that the pressure to speak faster increases anxiety, which then increases the stuttering.

Some said they know they can’t keep up, so they just don’t say anything, hoping the other person will notice eventually and invite them to respond.

Some said they speak even slower to encourage the fast talker to slow down.

Some said the pressure to keep up brings on more blocking.

I sometimes wonder where in the conversation it would work for me to jump in, as I worry I might block at that moment when I try to break into the conversation.

What do you think?


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© Pamela A Mertz and Make Room For The Stuttering, 2009 - 2022. 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 2022.
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