Make Room For The Stuttering

Posts Tagged ‘self-conscious about stuttering

I am repurposing this blog post today because I noticed a colleague posted this on Twitter, in explanation of what presidential candidate Joe Biden may actually be doing when he looks for words or pauses too long. The colleague on Twitter pulled this up from 10 years ago. This brought me comfort, knowing someone found something I wrote so long ago, that still feels completely relevant.

So here’s the post I wrote way back in 2009.

We have all done it! Got stuck on a word, got frustrated and fearful that it might never come out, and switched to another word. I hardly do it any more, because I feel more comfortable with just stuttering freely. But sometimes it happens and honestly surprises me when it does.

I was on the phone with a good friend that stutters, having a relaxed conversation. I tend to stutter more on the phone anyway, as many people who stutter do. But when the person on the other end also stutters, forget it, I can really let go and just speak freely, with almost no self-consciousness. We both understand how to listen to each other.

So, I was really surprised when I word switched anyway. I guess it speaks to the complexity of stuttering. Even though I was at ease, the word giving me trouble really made me feel uncomfortable. Like I went to that “nowhere place” and was afraid I wouldn’t come back. If I didn’t come back, where would I go?

I was trying to say the word “easier”. It came out “eeee-eeee-eeee-eeee” and that’s all, at least four or possibly five prolonged attempts. It was not coming. I felt myself tense up and get frustrated.I just wanted to get to my point. So after a pause, which added to the feeling I already had that this was an incredibly long stuttered moment, I abruptly switched and said “better”. I felt a hot flash come over my face as I said it, because I knew I had given in to something I don’t want to give in to anymore.

And I knew my friend was going to catch it, because as a stutterer herself, she was patiently with me in the blocked moment. So it was no surprise when she did say something like, “Ohhhhh, what are you doing? Noooooo!” Unlike a fluent listener who may have no idea of the struggle I felt at that moment, she knew and stayed with me, patiently and unconditionally. I wasn’t patient. I still chose to bail myself out. Why?

I don’t remember doing this so consciously when I was actively trying to be covert and keep my stuttering largely hidden. I think now that I am not fighting my stuttering so much, I am having more surprising moments. More teachable moments, perhaps? Hmmmmm.

I honestly don’t know why I felt I had to switch like that to move past that stuttered moment. Except for just the pure desire to do just that – “move past the moment.” I did not like how it felt. It was slow motion, “eeeeeeeeee – eeeeeeeeee – eeeeeeeeee” , like the sound a creaky floor or step makes when you step on just that right part. It can be kind of jarring to step on that creak and just as quickly, you move to another spot on the floor where it doesn’t creak. So maybe that’s what I was doing. Not liking the sound of the creaky step and moving to a spot where the creaking would stop.

But this I know: I do not want to switch words. Creaks in steps or on the floor are OK.

Does this happen to you? At those unexpected moments? How does it make you feel?

Earlier this week, I gave 4 presentations to high school students about career planning and options for scheduling for their last two years of school. This is something I do every year as part of my job as Outreach Specialist. Every November and December, I go out to school districts in my area and present about vocational programs that students can choose.

As I’ve been doing this now for many years, you’d think I would be totally used to the challenges of public speaking with a stutter. Right? Wrong! I still feel self conscious when I have lots of stuttering and sometimes my mind wanders with thoughts that the students are thinking there is something wrong with me.

Monday happened to be one of those days where I stuttered a lot and was very aware of it. I did not disclose to the audience ahead of time like I sometimes do, because I didn’t want students focusing on my stuttering. I wanted them paying attention to the information I was sharing.

In between two of the presentations, I overheard two students whispering (loudly enough for me to hear) and laughing about speech impediments. Clearly they had heard me stutter and were talking about it. I felt very uncomfortable but didn’t react or say anything to them. Maybe I should have. Maybe I should have disclosed that I stutter at the beginning of the presentations and just trusted that the students would take it in stride and act respectfully. Maybe I didn’t give them enough credit.

It bothered me that I let stuttering and someone’s reaction to it bother me as much as it did. I did a pretty good job of not letting it show though. I’ve always believed that when you’re speaking in public, you should never let the audience know that you’re uncomfortable or “sweating something.”

Someone told me yesterday that there will always be another day where I’ll have a more positive experience. He’s right. I’ll have plenty more opportunities to present in the coming weeks and choose to disclose my stuttering if I think that will be helpful.

What do you think? How do you handle the challenges that come with public speaking and stuttering?

It’s that time of year. Restaurants and bars are very busy, with people getting together for the holiday season. People are often very close to you when you are ordering food or drink, just because the places are busier than at other times of the year.

Has this ever happened to you? You’re placing your order at the bar and stuttering extremely well. It’s loud at the bar, so you are speaking a bit more loudly than usual, so stuttering loudly. As you are trying to remain composed, you are aware that the person next to you is staring at you with great interest.

Your face turns red, as you are aware that the person is probably trying to figure out what the hell is happening next to him. You can read his facial expression. You can see a “WTF?” spread across his face. What do you do?

I usually don’t like to draw more attention to myself when stuttering publicly like this, but sometimes “the stare factor” demands some type of response.

Resist the urge to say something smart, like, “do you want to take a picture? It will last longer.” That’s childish. I used to say that when I was younger when I would get angry when someone was obviously staring at me or a friend when we were out. Not necessarily for stuttering, but for just about anything.

As an adult, when this has happened to me, I’ve reacted several ways. I’ve said or done nothing, just dealt with the embarrassment, got my order and moved away. That is not very satisfying, however, and sometimes leads to negative self-talk.

One way I’ve dealt with this is when I turned to the “starer” and very calmly said, “haven’t you ever heard anyone stutter before? It’s OK, I’m OK, thanks for the concern.” That caused the “starer” to get a little embarrassed, which was not my intention but allowed me to be assertive and not left feeling embarrassed myself.

What about you? Has this ever happened? How have you responded? It can be extremely annoying when this happens but we can have the upper hand and leave the situation with our dignity intact if we can figure out a good comeback. Let me know your thoughts.

 

 

 


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© Pamela A Mertz and Make Room For The Stuttering, 2009 - 2019. 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 2019.
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