Make Room For The Stuttering

Posts Tagged ‘public stuttering

Episode 204 features Pauline Benner who hails from Fort Wayne, Indiana. Pauline is a mom and musician. She plays woodwinds and keyboards for three different theaters and with a symphony. She is also a singer/songwriter, freelances and gives private lessons.

Listen in as we talk about how Pauline’s life path came from what she couldn’t do versus what she really wanted to do, because of stuttering. She sings for audiences but prefers not to speak to the audience before singing. She “speaks through her instruments.”

We also talk about how much of stuttering is psychological versus physical and the head space we give to stuttering. Pauline shares about how Toastmasters has helped her and her belief that society has changed where we can feel more free to stutter. Pauline wants people who are fluent to know that “the voice in our head is fluent” and that the world would benefit if we were all just more patient in general.

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

Lately I’ve given a lot of thought to all of the different places I stutter and the observations that I’ve had that I stutter differently in those places. I am sure this is not a novel thought but is one that I’ve noticed I’ve paid attention to more recently.

I stutter at work. But differently in the many roles I play. When I cover for the receptionist, I almost always stutter when I answer the phone. I always repeat a couple of times on the “R” that begins the name of my school. Sometimes that brings laughter from the caller and it really bothers me, even after all these years of being OK with stuttering.

In small group conversations with the office staff, I almost never stutter. In larger group meetings, I might stutter when called on spontaneously. When I go out to my district schools and deliver outreach presentations to large groups, I stutter, but variably. Not so much for the first one or two, but I observe much more noticeable stuttering towards the end of the day as I tire. Also, I stutter much more when reading from prepared notes or a script and much less when I am just speaking more conversationally.

I stutter at home on the phone. It doesn’t seem to matter much who I am speaking with. It happens and for the most part I am OK with it, probably because, unlike at work, the caller doesn’t laugh when I stutter.

I don’t seem to stutter much at family gatherings but I do tend to be more on the quiet side, so not as much opportunity for stuttering if I am not talking, right? That is a long ingrained habit from my childhood. I was always quiet because of the negative reactions I received from my father. I enjoy being social and chatty when with friends but still retain my quiet, reserved, guarded side when with family.

I stutter when with friends who stutter, comfortably and easily and probably even more so than when I’m at work. My guard is down when with friends who stutter as I have absolutely no fear of judgement.

What about you? What are the different places that you stutter? Have you observed this or paid attention? Do you have different feelings about your stuttering depending on where you are and who you are with.

I’m interested. Please share your thoughts.

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.

 

Stuttering CardUp to this point, I’ve been quiet about the Stuttering ID Card that has been created by the Stuttering Foundation for people who stutter to carry in their wallet. This card was created in response to an incident that occurred at an airport where a person who stutters claims to have been detained because of her stuttering.

When I first heard about it, I did chime in on Twitter to say there is going to be hundreds of people who stutter coming through the airport in July for the annual conference of the National Stuttering Association. But I’ve been quiet since, as there has been no word from the airport about what happened and there is always two sides to a story.

The young woman has garnered a lot of attention in the stuttering community. She has written articles for the Huffington Post and was also featured in The Mighty.

Recently, I saw that the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association wrote about the ID card on their blog, The ASHA Leader.

So, now, two prominent organizations have advocated that people who stutter carry this card when going through customs at airports, to help explain that they stutter.

I wouldn’t feel comfortable carrying this card. I don’t need a piece of paper to state that I stutter. I can tell people that myself, if it becomes necessary. Sometimes, it’s very obvious that I stutter, sometimes not so obvious. There are times when I feel comfortable advertising that I stutter and times where I am not.

I’m curious. How do you feel about this? Would you carry this card with you when traveling?

 

Interesting title, huh? What would giving blood have to do with stuttering?

Yesterday, I donated blood at a local blood drive. If you’ve never donated before, you might not be aware of how meticulous blood drive staff are about making absolutely sure they are identifying donated blood correctly. They ask you to state your full name at least 5 different times during the process. Usually, stating my name is not a problem, but yesterday my stuttering showed up big time by the fourth time I had to repeat my name.

When I was asked to state my name, it came out “P-P-P-Pamela.” The staff person snickered and asked if I was OK. To her credit, she did not ask if I had forgotten my name, as clearly I had not, since I had repeated it several times already. But her snicker annoyed me nonetheless. But I didn’t say anything. I gave her the benefit of the doubt that she wasn’t sure what she had just heard.

When I was asked the fifth time to repeat my name, out came “P-P-P-Pamela” again. This time she didn’t snicker but asked me if I was feeling woozy or lightheaded. I told her no, I just stutter. They hadn’t started drawing my blood yet, so I couldn’t have felt woozy or lightheaded yet.

When I told her I just stutter, she just nodded her head and looked slightly embarrassed but didn’t respond.

I was glad I said something to let her know I stutter. Hopefully I educated her a tiny bit and she’ll remember not to snicker or assume something the next time she encounters someone who stutters.

How have you handled similar situations when you’ve had to repeat your name several times? Would you have done something differently?

I am not a fan of using fluency shaping techniques. When I participated in speech therapy about 6 years ago, I was really resistant to the traditional techniques that would theoretically make my speech more fluent. I felt like the therapist was trying to “fix me” and I didn’t need fixing, then or now.

But lately, I have been feeling quite self-conscious when answering the phone at work and stuttering on the same word, every time. I’ve been helping to answer the phones more over these summer months because we are short staffed and we all pitch in to help.

When we answer the phone, we state the name of our school building so that the caller knows they have reached the right building. It’s a three word name, and I always stutter on the third word. Every single time. And it’s been bothering me that I stutter like that identifying our school name.

I can’t quite identify why it’s making me feel uncomfortable, because if I stutter later in the conversation, it doesn’t really bother me. It must just be something about those introductory words that I want to be able to say smoothly and confidently. Maybe it doesn’t feel confident to stutter on the same word every time.

So, I’ve been using a prolongation technique on the first letter of the third word, so I can slide into it without repeating the letter/sound. It’s working, as long as I concentrate and remember to do it. I am not feeling as self-conscious when answering the phone.

What I am feeling like is a little bit of a hypocrite. I have not wanted to use fluency techniques because I am comfortable with myself as a stutterer. But here I am, feeling uncomfortable and resorting to a technique.

Hopefully, I’ll get over this quick. Have you ever experienced conflicted emotions about using fluency techniques?

Last week, I had the opportunity to emcee an awards event at my school. I call it an opportunity because I try to seize every chance I get to do public speaking. I enjoy it, while many of my fluent colleagues hate it and avoid it all costs. My co-workers were glad that I was willing to do it.

I have had years of experience with public speaking, through my association with Toastmasters and no longer dread it like I once did when I was really covert and afraid to stutter openly. But I still get a little anxious, like anyone would. My adrenaline gets flowing because like anyone, I want to do the best that I can at events like these.

As a stutterer, my biggest challenge is reading names aloud and introducing people. That was to be my primary role as emcee at the awards event – introducing each person and keeping the ceremony moving and flowing.

I was anxious about saying people’s names – as I knew I would stutter on them. And stutter I did. Some with light, easy repetitions, a couple with blocks.

No one seemed to care, as the event was about celebrating success and I was just a cog in the wheel to make sure everything went smoothly. The people whose names I was calling were getting certificates of appreciation – that’s what they focused on.

But it bothered me. It always does when it comes to names. I feel getting a person’s name right is important. Our name is our identity and it’s important. I feel bad when I stutter on a name and it “doesn’t come out right.” I feel like pronouncing someone’s name correctly is a show of respect.

I always worry about this – perhaps needlessly, as like I said, no one seemed to be bothered by it except me. It’s important to me that people get my name right, so I think I should get their’s right too.

What about you? Do you find it difficult with people’s names? Just your own name? Do you place importance on getting someone’s name right?

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.

I read a post on a stuttering forum about a woman who has been asked to record a training video for her job.

She was asked to make this promotional video because she is good at her job and has a great attitude.

She posted that she really wanted to make the video but is afraid of “messing up” since her speech has been “really bad” lately. She said she wouldn’t want to do the video and have it turn out less than perfect.

Several people replied, encouraging her to take the chance and do it. Several other people wished her good luck and that they hoped she has good speech on the day of the recording.

I replied as well, encouraging her to do it and to be happy with her efforts no matter how her speech is on that given day. I said that imperfect people will probably be encouraged by seeing someone who isn’t perfect either.

None of us are perfect. Perfect doesn’t exist. Especially when it comes to the speech of people who stutter.

It has taken me a long time to believe this, for I grew up under the burden of trying to be a perfectionist in order to compensate for my speech. I thought if I was perfect at everything else, my stuttered speech wouldn’t be noticed and judged.

I was afraid of the judgement. If I didn’t sound perfect, I feared people would judge me negatively. Some did, as evidenced by the teasing and mimicking I tolerated growing up. Hell, I’ve been teased and mocked as an adult.

But I’ve slowly learned to shed the drive to be perfect. I think I am in recovery.

We can use all the tools and techniques we have to shape our speech into fluent speech. But if we stutter, we’re going to stutter. That’s all there is to it.

I hope the woman asked to do the video does it and stutters well. She doesn’t have to be perfect.

There is no perfect.


Podcasts, Posts, Videos

Glad you're stopping by!

  • 609,922 visits

Monthly Archives!

Copyright Notice

© Pamela A Mertz and Make Room For The Stuttering, 2009 - 2020. 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 2020.
Follow Make Room For The Stuttering on WordPress.com