Make Room For The Stuttering

Posts Tagged ‘public speaking,

I participated in a great conversation yesterday with people who stutter from around the world, in a Stutter Social group video chat. The discussion started out with one person asking for tips about giving presentations. He had one coming up at school and was nervous that his stuttering would interfere with his ability to do a good job.

Several people offered suggestions, such as practicing, trying not to read verbatim from notes and advertising that you stutter before beginning the presentation. One person suggested that he try and be as fluent as possible. He talked about practicing speech techniques daily in order to achieve fluent speech.

I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to chime in that I thought this was an unrealistic goal. People who stutter are going to stutter and we should not strive for fluency. In my opinion, that often results in feelings of disappointment and failure, which just exasperates our stuttering.

Instead, I suggested that we aim for being fluid while communicating. Being fluid can be described as having or showing a smooth and easy style. That’s what I shoot for when I am giving presentations.

My years of Toastmasters training helped me build excellent speaking skills, which I use every day. I’ve grown comfortable with eye contact, gesturing, vocal variety, and speaking without using notes. I became a much more fluid speaker when I began to focus on what I was saying and trying to convey. In other words, I wasn’t trying to be perfectly fluent.

I am a more natural and comfortable speaker when I move easily from topic to topic with good transitions and flow. I am more fluid when I am very comfortable with what I am talking about so that I don’t need to use notes.

You can stutter and be a very effective communicator. Stuttering doesn’t have to interfere with the message you are conveying. As the name of this blog implies, you can make room for the stuttering by being fluid, going with the flow, being comfortable when speaking and enjoying the experience.

Making room for the stuttering will help lessen any anxiety you have about trying to be perfectly fluent. That’s just not going to happen for people who stutter.

 

Earlier in the week, I did a presentation on stuttering to high school seniors who are taking a scientifc research biology class. In addition to talking about stuttering in general and my own experiences, I also touched on genetics and the neurological basis of stuttering.

The students were wonderful and asked so many smart and thoughtful questions. Truth be told, I was a little intimidated by them because they are so smart and all biological science enthusiasts. But they made me feel so comfortable and welcome, our time together just flew by.

Below are some comments from the students, which their teacher emailed to me. Feedback is so important. It helps us determine if we met our objective and did a good job. I felt I had and these comments made me feel so good!

Ms. Mertz

Your presentation was such an inspiration. I never fully recognized the emotional trauma that can accompany a stutter. It takes a strong person to be able to accept that and continue living their life. The video you showed us was especially moving, proving that a stutter can’t stop someone from living their dream.

Thanks so much for taking your time to speak with us,

Dear Pam,

I appreciated you coming to speak with us about your stuttering. You showed a lot of confidence when giving your presentation and did a very good job explaining the struggle you went through as a child. It was nice to hear about all of the programs that are available now a days to help people with stuttering issues get to know people that have the same disability. I was unaware that such programs existed.

Dear Ms. Mertz,

Thank you for coming in and speaking with our class. Your presentation was very interesting and informing. Before your presentation, I had never thought about the physiological affects stuttering could have on a person. After meeting with you  I now have a better understanding of the struggles a person who stutters and will be more open-minded in the future.

Dear Ms. Mertz,

Thank you so much for speaking with our class, it was so inspiring to see how comfortable and confident you were, I also thought it was so interesting how rare stuttering is in women. I never knew that! Thanks Again!

Dear Ms. Mertz.

Thank you so much for stepping out of your comfort zone to tell us about the struggles you, and others who stutter, have dealt with throughout your lives. I had no idea that stutters were cause by genetic and neurological factors. I always thought they were caused by stress or anxiety. Thank you so much for enlightening me and promoting a better understanding of those who stutter.

Dear Ms. Mertz,

I’d like to thank you for coming and speaking to our class. I understand how it must have felt for you to have done that, but I want you to know that we all benefited from your talk. By you putting yourself in that situation for us, we all have a better understanding of both sides of your iceberg. I hope you continue to do talks like the one you gave us, as to help remove some of the stigma that surrounds your disability.

Like most people who stutter, I often find myself feeling self-conscious and vulnerable when I stutter publicly. I do a lot of public speaking for my job, and this is my busy time of the year. I have been conducting tours and presentations to prospective students interested in applying to our school.

Sometimes, I find myself hoping that I’ll be mostly fluent in my presentations so I don’t encounter teens snickering when I stutter during my talk. That’s happened often, as my fluency has been very inconsistent and teens don’t quite know how to react when they hear an adult unexpectedly stutter.

Today, I had a big group that was touring. I make a 15 minute presentation at the start of the visit and then take questions as we walk around on the tour. Sometimes, I find myself very fluent when giving these presentations, as I have to project my voice to a big group and that really helps with my control.

I was very happy today that I had a great speech today. What does that mean, a “great speech day?” For me, it means that I felt comfortable and in control while speaking and took the stuttering in stride. I had a few moments of stuttered speech but felt so comfortable that I didn’t let it bother me. I did not feel self-conscious or embarrassed and I did not experience any physical tension or blushing.

Being able to take the stuttering in stride is what it’s all about. We need to remember that good communication is about the message we are conveying, not whether we stutter or not. We can be excellent communicators and stutter.

When I was younger, I never believed that. I thought my stuttering meant I was doomed to be a poor communicator. Well, that is so wrong. I stutter and I’m a great communicator. Take it in stride.

What about you? Can you take your stuttering in stride and just be OK with it?

 

This morning I was involved in interviewing high school students for a competitive, accelerated health and scientific research program for next school year. The teacher and I had a standard list of questions that we were asking all of the candidates.

These students are juniors in high school and most of them were quite nervous.

We asked questions geared to discover whether the students would be a good fit for a demanding, rigorous year-long program that requires a lot of reading, writing and public speaking.

One of the candidates shared that she is very shy and one of her weak areas is “talking out loud in front of people.” She went on to say that when she does, she often finds herself stuttering and stumbling and feeling embarrassed.

I mentioned to her that many people have a fear of public speaking and that practice is key. The teacher commented that I probably had a lot more to share on that. She knows I stutter.

So that opened the door for me to share with the student that I stutter, but I don’t let it stop me from public speaking. I shared with her about my involvement with Toastmasters and my years of practicing and honing my communication skills.

I could see the student visibly relax as I briefly shared with her about this.

After her interview was complete and she had left, the teacher and I talked about perhaps me coming into her class sometime and doing a presentation on stuttering, as it’s a fascinating subject that has research implications and the students spend a significant amount of time in this class on research.

We talked about genetics and the different brain studies that have been done. I was already beginning to flesh out in my mind what such a presentation to accelerated high school seniors would look like. We agreed to schedule a date for me to present in May. I’m going to try to make it during National Stuttering Awareness Week.

You never know when you might get a chance to talk about stuttering, so be ready!

I tend to stutter the same way on the same words all the time. Even when I try to focus and use a technique or slow down, there are just certain words that come out the same way, every time.

Communication is one of those words. I don’t stutter on the first “c” in the word. No, I block and stutter on the second “c” sound – right in the middle of the word. It usually takes the form of three or four repetitions on the “ca” sound. Communi-ca-ca-ca-ca-tion. I am very aware of when I am in the stuttering moment with this word, as it’s a word I have to say a lot in the presentations I deliver to high school students.

I talk to them about career planning and the essential skills needed to be college and career ready, with good communication being one of those essential skills.

I am not ashamed that I stutter and I am of the belief that good communication is so much more than perfect fluency. But for some reason, when I block and stutter on key words, the same way, every time, I feel quite vulnerable and exposed. Perhaps it’s because this mostly happens when I am speaking to young people.

It’s important to me to be a good role model when I am speaking to people, especially young people. I maintain eye contact when I’m blocking and when I complete the word, I usually smile and just keep moving forward. I like to think that communicating in my own style, with confidence, is good role modeling for young people.

I want them to see that moving through vulnerability can yield good results.

A good friend of mine suggested I do a little dance when I say “communi-ca-ca-ca-ca-tion.” To the beat of the “ca-ca-ca-ca.” I think it would be a good ice breaker when I am giving a presentation on stuttering, but maybe not so much when I am talking career preparation to high school students. They might think I’m nuts and call the security officer.

What about you? Do you have words that you stutter the same way every time? How does it make you feel?

I participated in a great conversation this week about ways to build confidence if you stutter. During a Stutter Social chat, a young person asked how some of us more “seasoned stutterers” deal with the anxiety of stuttering in certain speaking situations.

Some people shared their experiences from speech therapy, some shared from their perspective on acceptance and two of us talked a little about Toastmasters.

The following are some of the ideas that we shared about building confidence. Maybe you’ve tried some of them. Maybe you’ve got a suggestion to add.

  • Don’t obsess or rehearse before hand. That increases anxiety and decreases spontaneous conversation.
  • Consider advertising and letting listeners know that you are a person who stutters.
  • Try using voluntary stuttering to help you gain some control during the speaking situation.
  • Seize opportunities to speak, such as Toastmasters clubs or other speaking forums. Practice helps reduce anxiety and build confidence.
  • Remind yourself that you have as much right to be in that speaking situation as the next person, that your voice deserves to be heard.
  • If someone interrupts you, calmly let them know you’re not finished speaking yet and then proceed to complete your thoughts, no matter how long it takes.

What do you think? Do you have anything to add?

 

 

This is not directly about stuttering, but in a way, it is. This guy showed on a big stage how nerves and anxiety can get the best of any of us. The news shows are describing Mr. Bay’s performance as a “melt down” and “embarrassing stage fright.”

I took this a different way. I think he did us all a favor. He showed us that he’s human and felt anxious and vulnerable, like we all do from time to time.

How many of us, fluent or not, can relate to what happened here?


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© Pamela A Mertz and Make Room For The Stuttering, 2009 - 2016. 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 2016.