Make Room For The Stuttering

Posts Tagged ‘public stuttering

IMG_1086I went to see Drew Lynch, a comedian who stutters, this past weekend. This is the second time I have seen him perform live. He put on a great show and his jokes and stories were genuinely funny.

He didn’t make all of his stories about stuttering. In fact, he only talked about stuttering twice, and poked fun at himself for stuttering just once. The rest of his stories were about other funny things and he stuttered while telling, of course, because that’s what he does.

This time I was at the show with a friend who stutters. She enjoyed the performance as much as I did. Neither of us felt uncomfortable laughing at someone who stutters, nor were we uncomfortable with the audience laughing. And laugh they did! The audience appreciated Drew’s comedy and his story telling. Everything was spot on, especially Drew’s timing, since it’s not always easy for a stutterer to “get” the punchline right.

After the show, my friend and I waited in line to meet Drew and get a picture. I was excited about this, as I had not waited to meet him the last time I saw him perform. When I went up to meet him, I told him I stuttered too and that I greatly enjoyed the show. I told him about the National Stuttering Association , which he didn’t seem to know about. I asked him to consider speaking at a NSA event or conference sometime. He enthusiastically said he would consider it and told me to get in touch with his assistant.

Then we hugged and posed for a photo. I’m glad I got to meet him and glad I enjoyed the show. I’ve come a long way with how I handle seeing and hearing someone else stutter. Years ago, I would have winced and been offended with people laughing at someone who stutters. Now, I take it in stride and just enjoy good comedy for what it is.

Many people who stutter worry about how to manage job interviews. It has been said that interviews are the single most stressful communication situation that a person who stutters faces. It can be intimidating trying to prove that you meet the expectations of excellent verbal communication.

I used to be one of those people. I definitely worried about how I would handle when stuttering reared it’s ugly head during a job interview. I ultimately wound up disclosing at the start of the interview conversation that I stutter.

These days I am dealing with being on the other side of the interview table. I am helping to interview students who are applying to our college in the high school programs. So I am asking the questions and trying to make the student candidates feel at ease.

I have not disclosed at the start of the interviews that I stutter. I don’t feel it’s relevant to why the student is there. I’m stuttering – especially when I have to read one of the questions from the scripted set of questions we use. I’ve noticed a couple of raised eyebrows and smiles when I’ve stuttered but nothing beyond that. I think the students are too nervous themselves to give me and my stuttering much thought.

I am an effective communicator even when I stutter. I am confident in my ability to convey my message and I don’t let my stuttering stop me from doing this part of my job. I think just plowing ahead and speaking with confidence is the way to go, as when I’m confident, it lets the student know to have confidence in me.

Have any of you ever had the experience of being on the other side of the interview table? How did it go?

 

On the last night of improv class, one of my classmates came up to me to talk for a minute. She had a sheepish look on her face, as if she was wasn’t sure how I’d react to what she was about to say.

She said, “You know, how, like you stutter” and she had her hand cupped over her mouth as if she didn’t want anyone else to hear it. She went on to say, “I have a friend who stutters too and I really think you two should meet. She’ll be here tonight.” I said, “OK.”

Well, we got busy with the show and performing and all and before we knew it, the night was over and I was saying my goodbyes. My classmate mentioned that I hadn’t met her friend. I told her I had to get going, as I was driving my mom home. She said maybe another time then, as she was sure we’d hit it off.

I laughed to myself. How many times has this happened to you? That someone wants to introduce you to someone just because you both stutter. Like we’d be fast friends because we have stuttering in common.

Note to readers: just because two people stutter doesn’t mean they will be best friends. Just like with anyone else, you may not like each other, one might rub the other the wrong way or maybe one is a jerk, (not me of course!) despite being a person who stutters.

It is true that people who stutter definitely have something in common, but it doesn’t automatically mean they will hit it off and become best friends. I just think it’s funny that people automatically want to introduce me to someone else who stutters because they’re sure we’ll hit it off.

This has happened to me several times. What about you?

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.

 

We hear so much about acceptance in the stuttering community. It is important that we accept ourselves, perceived flaws and all, if we want others to accept us as we are.

Acceptance is one of humanity’s most basic needs. If you think back to psychology courses you took, you’ll likely remember Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Love and belonging (or acceptance) is right smack in the middle of the needs that all human beings need in order to lead a fulfilled life.

It takes courage to accept acceptance into our lives. We live in a society where we are constantly bombarded by media images of perfection and many of us hold ourselves up to those images, aspiring to achieve goals that may never be achieved.

To truly accept yourself, you must have the courage to present yourself to the world as is and be proud of who you are.

People who stutter often have tremendous difficulty with acceptance. We feel different, we sound different, we are different. There are very few role models for us who stutter openly in the media. What images we have of stuttering in the media are often infused with negativity or comedy.

So it’s no wonder we might struggle with accepting acceptance. It’s not something that comes easily and for some people who stutter, they may never fully accept acceptance. They may strive for fluency and constantly be on the lookout for the next greatest program, therapy or medication that promises to eliminate stuttering. They want to live up to those media images of perfection, where no one stutters.

Accepting acceptance doesn’t mean that we can’t still explore ways to manage or improve our speech. We may be interested in stuttering more comfortably and with less tension. That’s not a sell out to acceptance. It just means that we want to be the best that we can be with what we have.

It took me years to allow acceptance into my life. I was ashamed of stuttering for so long, because of all of the negative external messages that I internalized. For me, it was and still is a journey. Shame still creeps in occasionally and it’s in those moments that I actively remind myself that I am good, that I am whole, that my difference is OK and that I am enough. I think when I do that, I’m accepting acceptance.

What do you think of accepting acceptance? Have you?

 

 

 

 

I came across this great phrase “living out loud” in a post I referenced on Facebook four years ago. It popped up in my memories section of Facebook today.

The article was about a high school senior who was going to give opening remarks to 2500 people at his graduation. He stutters and wasn’t letting anything stand in his way.

The headline of the article read “Tenacious grad doesn’t let fear stop him from living out loud.” I remember thinking how much I liked that phrase, particularly about someone who stutters.

How many of us have lived silently, below the radar, taking a backseat at school or work because of our stutter? How many of us have let fear of possible negative social reaction hold us back from doing something we really want to do? How many of us have been told we couldn’t do something because we stutter and we believed that and took it to heart?

I did all of those things for a long time when I tried, unsuccessfully, to hide my stuttering. I let people’s negative reactions affect the way I thought about myself and purposely chose to stay in the background. I thought that was safer and I wouldn’t be subjected to other people’s ridicule or negative beliefs about me.

But it wasn’t safer. I was compromising my self respect and authenticity by pretending I didn’t want to be involved in life’s moments. I desperately wanted to be involved. I had a voice and it yearned to be heard, repetitions, shakes and all.

I wasted many years being silent and pretending that I was OK with that. Over the last nine years, I have made up for lost time. I let my voice be heard. I don’t let anyone silence me. I don’t choose silence. I am living out loud and letting people hear my unique voice.

I challenge you to do the same. Let your voice be heard. Take a chance and say yes when someone asks you to do a talk or presentation or participate in a conference call. Go on job interviews with the confidence that you’ll be memorable and that people value your abilities. Talk to your child’s teachers, make your own phone calls and don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do anything because of your speech.

Live Out Loud.

 

 

PamEpisode 154 features Sharon Steed who hails from Chicago, Illinois, and presently lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Sharon is a freelance business writer and also a professional speaker.

Sharon tells us that stuttering had such control over her life that she was terrified to speak to people. Sharon reached a point where she knew she needed to face her fear head on and she decided to tackle it by taking on public speaking.

Listen in as we discuss how Sharon has used speaking as a way to build business. She says “Being vulnerable and open helps you a lot more than it hurts you.” This applies to both business and stuttering.  We also talk about active listening, effective communication, empathy and patience. In fact, those are some of the topics Sharon has spoken about in her business talks.

Sharon wants others who stutter to know, “I struggle with it too. I’m not any more courageous than anyone else. I’m just willing to try and fail.”

Music used in today’s episode is credited to ccMixter. Below is a video of one of Sharon’s talks.

 


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