Make Room For The Stuttering

Posts Tagged ‘negative stuttering self-talk

I recently asked a question on one of the Facebook stuttering forums. I was interested in what people think about when stuttering. So I posed the question, “What do you think about during a moment of stuttering?”

I was amazed by the number of responses. This question drew about 40 comments.

And guess what? Most of them were negative. People shared that what they think during a stuttering moment is usually tied to shame.

Here’s a sampling of the responses.

Embarrassment.

“I should have kept quiet.”

“I’m thinking about what the other person is thinking.”

“Panic, panic, panic.”

“My mind goes blank.”

“When will this be over?”

“Scanning my brain for words I can substitute.”

“Please just let this moment end.”

“Why do I bother?”

“Uh oh, too late.”

“Here we go again.”

“How stupid I sound right now.”

“I hope my face isn’t getting red.”

What do you think? What goes through your mind when you are in a stuttering moment? Is there anything we can do to change the way we think so that it’s not negative or shameful?

I am definitely guilty of wondering what the other person is thinking when I’m stuck in a block. I wish I could get myself to think, “it’s OK, I got this.”

 

How many times have you encountered a situation where a listener reacted negatively in some way to your stuttering? He or she either laughed, rolled their eyes, spoke over you or interrupted, or mimicked you.

When this happens, the person who stutters often winds up feeling angry, ashamed or hurt. I know when this has happened to me I often walk away from the situation feeling like a failure. I often rethink the scenario countless times and wonder what I could have done to make it easier or better. I automatically assume the “failed” speaking situation was my fault. When I say “failure,” I mean that the speaking situation was not a positive, two way engagement. To me, that’s what communication is all about, two way engagement.

I can remember a situation from well over a month ago now where I was giving a presentation to a group of 10th grade students. Mostly everyone in the audience was 15 years old. 15 year old students are immature and don’t have the longest attention span, but I did expect a certain degree of respect and decent behavior as I was a “guest speaker” in the class.

As I was talking, I noticed one girl having a really hard time composing herself. She was laughing and trying to cover it up. She continued to laugh with her hands over her mouth, trying to stifle the laugh, but unsuccessfully. She kept glancing over at another kid who grinned but managed to keep himself composed.

This girl was clearly laughing at me and making me very uncomfortable. After about 10 minutes, I stopped and “called her out.” I asked if she was OK and if she maybe needed to get a drink of water or move her seat. She said she was fine, but I stated that I noticed she was laughing the whole time I was talking and was there something funny about my presentation. She said everything was fine but looked embarrassed that I had called her on her behavior.

I felt better after addressing it the way I did. I was able to go on with my presentation, but did notice when I glanced her way that she was still laughing and had her hand over her mouth. I tried to chalk it up to her being 15 and very immature.

As I’ve thought about this, I’ve come to the conclusion that I hadn’t done anything wrong or that was so funny that it warranted laughter. No, I concluded that this girl was just a poor listener.

Poor listeners abound. People who stutter and fluent people alike encounter people who are poor listeners. We see them not paying attention, trying to speak over the person speaking and not making eye contact. Active listening requires that we be present with the speaker, that we take turns and that we make eye contact. Listening is a very big part of communication. It’s a two way street.

When we encounter a poor listener, it’s really important that we don’t take it personally and think it’s our fault for the poor speaking situation just because we stutter. It might have absolutely nothing to do with that at all. Or it might. If possible, be assertive and say something to the listener that you notice that he or she is not paying attention and is there something you can do to help him. Although this might make you “gulp” a bit, being assertive will help lessen any negative self-talk you might take away from the encounter.

Because we do not have to take anything negative from a speaking encounter. If we speak and stutter, it’s up to the listener to be a good listener. They have that responsibility in two way communication.

 

I just posted a comment to my sister on Facebook that there is no such thing as coincidence, as that has been told to me many times.

I started a blog post last night on self-compassion, as I am reading a great book on that subject right now, and went back to finish the post today. I happened to check into one of the stuttering email groups I belong to, and someone asked an interesting question that I responded to. And I realized that my response to him was about self-compassion.

So I deleted what I had written and decided to post my response to his question. This was his question: “What tips have any of you used to get turned in the opposite direction from negative thoughts and start convincing the Subconscious mind to ”Believe” in positive ones?”

Here’s how I responded to his question.

It sounds like your “inner critic” is running roughshod on you. That inner voice we all have that has been with us for as long as whatever “it” is that we don’t like or wish we could change. Mine still shows up a lot too, way more than I wish she would!

In your case, (and mine) “it” is stuttering. We hate it, we fear it, we wish it would go away. We feel inadequate, inferior, guilty,shamed, and scared of how other people will react.

People who are overweight have that “inner critic” too. In that case, the inner critic says things similar to what yours has said about stuttering:

“I don’t care how much you have learned about eating better

I don’t care how much you have learned about exercise

I don’t care that you feel better when you skip desert

I don’t care that your doctor says you would be healthier if you lost even 5 pounds.”

“We know that you are a big fat loser and are never going to change, so why bother doing any of those things? You are never going to change, no one is ever going to think you are attractive, so go ahead and eat that whole pizza or gallon of ice cream. It doesn’t matter”

It is very hard to be kind to ourselves and not beat our self up all the time. I am reading a good book on self-compassion right now, which reminds us/me that the best way to turn that inner-critic dialogue around is to literally “turn it around.”

When you begin to feel hopeless or anxious or scared or angry – try to be aware of that in the moment and try to say things to yourself like,  “I know its hard for you when you stutter and you think everyone is judging you – but they are really not. It’s OK if you just let yourself stutter. You still are a good and valued person.”

Or, “it’s uncomfortable to stutter and see someone break eye contact or make a face, or even laugh. It hurts, doesn’t it? It’s OK to feel hurt once in a while. We all do. It’s OK to cry too”. (That part about crying I am still working on. I frequently have to remind myself that it really is OK.)

The more you tell yourself that you are OK and that whatever change you are attempting is going to take some time, the more practice you will give yourself  being more positive with your thoughts instead of negative.

It is by re-shaping these negative thoughts into kinder, gentler ones that we are more able to accept that there are some things about us that we may not be able to completely change, but we are still lovable.

I think that is the whole crux of the matter with stuttering  – we feel not good enough, and fear rejection. Being rejected means on some level that we feel unloved.

As hard as it is, allowing yourself to talk kindly to yourself, instead of letting that “inner critic” have free reign and hog up all the space, makes much more sense.

Having compassion for ourselves allows us to see that we are not perfect, and that we do not have to try to be. When we can be compassionate and gentle with ourselves, we then can be for others.

Huh! As I read this back, I was pretty impressed with how good that came out. I guess this book on self-compassion is really hitting some chords with me. What about you?


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