Make Room For The Stuttering

Posts Tagged ‘stuttering with confidence

Millions of people around the USA and world had the opportunity to see a courageous 13 year old kid who stutters to speak at a major political event. The Democratic National Convention in the USA ended on Thursday night. The theme of the convention was to paint a picture of empathy and compassion that the USA needs right now.

The four days of the virtual convention wanted to contrast Presidential nominee Job Biden with the current sitting president. Biden is known to be a lifelong stutterer. We often hear that he gives his personal cell phone number to young people who stutter.

There were a lot of emotional moments at the convention but a 13 year old kid stole the show. He spoke for two minutes on the national stage. I was overwhelmed with pride when I saw this kid. I could never have done something like that at his age.

See for yourself here.

 

 

 

Episode 211 features Jazmynn Davis, who hails from Maumelle, Arkansas. Jazmynn is a licensed dental assistant, a Regional Chapter Coordinator with the National Stuttering Association and is actively involved in the world of beauty pageantry.

Listen in as Jazmynn talks about interacting with patients and peers and how she handles her stuttering. She also shares how she has made stuttering awareness her platform when competing in beauty pageants. Jazmynn gives us a primer on pageant protocol and explains how it’s not just beauty but all aspects of a woman’s life. We talk about how well prepared for public speaking one becomes after participating in on stage interviews that are timed and judged.

Jazmynn has also used this platform to mentor and coach girls and young women interested in competing in the pageant world.

Music used in today’s episode is credited to ccMixter. Editors note: There are a few areas of background static that I was unable to edit out. Sorry!

There is so much truth to the fact that a job interview can be the single most stressful speaking situations anyone might have. You spend time trying to look the part, sound competent and informed and you practice many possible interview questions so that you will sound prepared to blow the interviewers away with great answers. No matter how much time you prepare and rehearse, you are likely to still be nervous and feel pressured.

It’s also true that for a stutterer, the stress of a job interview for a person who stutters is 10 times than that of a typically fluent person. We worry about possibly not be able to say our own name fluidly, we worry about hesitations or pauses that are too long and we worry that the interviewer may be drawing an incorrect conclusion about us based on our different speaking pattern.

I recently had the first interview I’ve had in 11+ years and not only was I nervous, but I also had to prepare a 5-7 minute presentation on a topic of my choosing and deliver it to the panel of interviewers. When I entered the conference room where we were to meet, the interviewers said that we’ll start with my presentation. I wasn’t expecting that to be the first thing, but it helped calm my nerves to get it done and out of the way. I chose to do my presentation on “How To Nail A Job Interview.” It was something I could speak about quite comfortably and it was relevant to the very job I was vying for.

I felt that the interviewers liked my topic and how I presented it. The question and answers part that followed seemed standard. They both had a list of scripted questions they asked and they tried to go back and forth. I had a couple of questions for them at the end of our conversation, which I hoped showed my genuine interest in the job.

I intentionally decided against doing any formal advertising of my stutter. It only came out a few times, multiple repetitions but without any struggled behavior or tension. I’m hoping they didn’t even notice.

I find it quite incredulous that I am at this stage in life and in my career that I have to interview and find another job. This was not part of the plan. I had thought I would work about 10 more years where I was and retire from there and then look for a part-time role that I’d enjoy and still get paid for,

It’s challenging to be doing this in your 50’s. Yes, the job market is tight right now, but most vacancies seem designed for younger workers, recently out of college. The worst thing is loosing employer sponsored health insurance.

Another thing that I did not see coming at all.

I hope I hear something soon, because I haven’t had any other interview invitations and have had two rejections via email. I don’t care for those at all.

Wish me luck as I try to start all over again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

warrior not worrierIt’s that time of year again and I find myself making tons of presentations to high school kids. Right at the beginning of the year, I start off with presentations on sexual harassment prevention to every student in our building, plus four remote sites.

So, I am doing about four 40 minute presentations a day that cover what sexual harassment is and isn’t and also discuss and explain tolerance and respect of differences to ensure we have a school environment free of bullying and discrimination.

It’s a lot to cover and not particularly easy topics to discuss with high school age kids. Talking about anything sexual gets major giggles going and red faces, but for the most part, they go well. It’s amazing – when I feel confident and on top of things, the talks go exquisitely. Everything just flows, I get the kids involved by asking questions and it generally becomes conversational, instead of me standing in front and “lecturing at them,” which I hate and I am sure the kids do even more.

I had an interesting conversation with my friend Annie about this just the other day. I confided in her that I always find this time of year, and these presentations, really stressful. They shouldn’t be at all – I am so good at these now after years of doing them that I can just talk and don’t really even need notes or cues.

But I always worry about what will happen when I stutter and someone notices and laughs. Annie wanted to know why I just didn’t relieve myself of that stress by simply starting off each presentation with a quick “disclaimer” that I stutter and get it out there. I’ve talked about this here before over the years. I never know if I should really do that because I’m afraid of drawing attention to me and away from the topic at hand. I’m not there to talk to the kids about stuttering and I always worry (quite obsessively) about how that will go over.

So I usually don’t disclose or advertise that I stutter at the beginning of my talks. I “hope” that I’ll be largely fluent and that it won’t come up and I won’t have to deal with it. Not the best plan, because then I need to be prepared for addressing reactions when I do have a big juicy block or long repetition in the middle of a sentence. When that happens, I figure I’ll deal with it then.

I would never take this approach with adults. I am totally comfortable letting adults know at the onset of a presentation that I stutter and that I’m OK with it and hope they will be too. But there’s just something about the kids that makes me feel more anxious about turning this talk around and making it about me.

So far, my first four talks yesterday went well – really well, in fact. The kids were super engaged, interacted, asked lots of questions and we had a good conversation in all four classes about current events, like the #MeToo movement.

Maybe I just worry too much.

PamEpisode 182 features Dana Koprowski, who hails from just outside of Chicago, Illinois. Dana has a background in early childhood education and presently works as a nanny for a family and their two children.

We talk about career choices, interacting with fluent people about stuttering and how for a long time, Dana didn’t really care for it – stuttering – too much.

Then things changed. In 2014, Dana Googled stuttering and came across Stutter Social. Suddenly, she was in a video chat room for the first time with other people who stutter and that changed her life.

She took a break from stuttering for a while and then rejoined the Stutter Social hangouts, where she heard people talking about the NSA annual conference. And learned it happened to be in Chicago, where she lived. Despite coming up with every excuse in the book why she couldn’t go, Dana did go to her first conference and this is her story. Told from a woman who told me she didn’t have a story.

Listen in. It’s amazing. Leave feedback. Decide for yourself if attending a stuttering conference is worth it.

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

Oh, and here’s Dana’s video she posted on YouTube that she mentions in the episode.

Last night in a Stutter Social hangout, we had a great discussion about how sometimes for people who stutter, there is a disconnect between what we think we want to say and how it actually comes out.

We can be quite fluent in our heads and then when we go to speak, our words come out stuttered and messy and sometimes not even making sense, because we may have switched words.

It’s funny that our discussion started out about the similarities between stuttering and Tourette Syndrome and then morphed into a discussion about how disconnected our thoughts and words can be. One of the participants in the hangout offered her thoughts about how what she wants to say often comes out different from what she actually says.

I have felt this disconnect. I’ve often rehearsed before speaking what I want to say and try to predict words or sounds I may stutter or block on and try to choose words that I am usually fluent on. Sometimes it doesn’t work out and I feel like what I’ve said sounds out of context or doesn’t make sense. Sometimes the stuttering has a mind of it’s own and I stutter on words that I didn’t predict I would.

We also talked about confidence. Very often our body language conveys confidence and then is betrayed by what comes out of our mouth, that may make us sound nervous or unsure of ourselves.

We talked about how sometimes we can portray a quiet confidence by not saying much. But I wonder, aren’t we then jeopardizing our true self by staying quiet when we really don’t want to?

What do you think? Have you ever felt that disconnect between what’s in your head and what comes out of your mouth? How have you worked with that?

PamEpisode 161 features Lynne Mackie, who hails from Edinburgh, Scotland. She presently resides in Newcastle, England where she is doing an internship for a mobile application for people who stutter. Lynne is a student who is finishing up her Master’s degree in Information and Library Studies. She also loves drama and all sorts of media.

Listen in as we talk about advertising, covert stuttering, taking strength from other people, the recent joint NSA/ISA conference and so much more.

Lynne talks about how successful advertising has been for her in university and with friends. She talks about letting listeners know what she prefers, and that what she says will be worth the wait.

We talk about the situation for people who stammer in Scotland and the rather new Scottish Stammering Network, of which Lynne is Vice Chair. Lynne also runs the Edinburgh support group.

Lynne applied for an internship for people with disabilities. She learned that Newcastle University had wanted to develop a mobile app for people with speech impediments and Lynne was asked to head up the research into the app for stammering. The goal of the app is to help people boost their confidence in everyday speaking situations.

We wrap up this great conversation talking about Lynne’s experience at the recent conference. Music used in today’s episode is credited to ccMixter.

For years, I believed that stuttering could not be used in the same sentence as effective communicator. The two did not equate. Stuttering to communication was like a bull in a china closet – not going to work.

But ever since I joined Toastmasters and practiced public speaking and realized that I could communicate effectively, things changed. I began to believe in myself as a communicator and others did too. I’ve been asked to speak to many groups about my stuttering journey, something I never imagined myself doing when I was younger.

Last week, I had the opportunity to speak to a high school science class about the neurobiology of stuttering.The students were a great audience and asked thoughtful questions. They also provided me with great feedback.

These are just a few of the comments students emailed me the day after the presentation:

“Listening to you speak was amazing. You’re so confident and knowledgeable on the topic and it was truly inspirational.”

“Your ability to conquer your fear of stuttering was inspiring. I wish I had your amazing communication skills.”

“I truly admire the courage it took for you to present to us! You are an inspiration and I hope you know what a great communicator you are!”

It was so gratifying to talk to these kids and have them share that they think someone who stutters can still be a great communicator.

We CAN be great communicators. Remember, there is so much more to effective communication than being fluent. Speaking regularly and getting feedback proves that.

So often, I read on social media about people who stutter being frustrated that they stuttered. People share posts that they had a bad day because they blocked on every word during a presentation. Or they didn’t order what they wanted at a restaurant because they couldn’t say the word lettuce that day.

Some people describe an upcoming speaking situation they have and how nervous they are that they are going to stutter. They ask for good luck to be sent their way. They hope for fluency.

We who stutter are so quick to describe our bad days – stuttered out of control, stuttered really bad, or didn’t finish speaking before someone interrupted or walked away.

We might beat ourselves up for how we’ve reacted to our stuttering moments. That’s something I continue to work on. I often stutter and then feel embarrassed, and then beat myself up for being embarrassed. I’ve heard and read similar from others who often second guess what they should have done or how they should have reacted to their stuttering. I guess it’s just human nature to commiserate with each other.

So, given all this, what then constitutes a good speech day? Is it when we don’t stutter?

I don’t think it can be that, since as people who stutter, we stutter. Right? We’re going to stutter every day.

I’d like to suggest that a good speech day is when we’ve said everything we’ve wanted to say, stutter and all. We got through our presentation, we had the important talk with our boss, we ordered what we wanted at the restaurant. And we stuttered.

I think conveying our message and getting our point across in the way we talk, as stutterers, is important. That can be our measure of success, instead of trying to be unrealistic and hope that we don’t stutter.

What do you think?

 

 

I recently had the opportunity to attend a comedy show, headlined by Drew Lynch, a person who stutters. Drew was featured on last season’s reality TV show, “America’s Got Talent” (AGT.) Drew did stand-up comedy on the TV show and wound up finishing the talent competition in second place.

Drew did not grow up as a stutterer. He claims he began stuttering a few years ago, after being injured in an accident. He was hit in the throat by a softball and began stuttering. He had aspirations to be an actor and decided to try his hand at stand-up comedy when fate intervened and he was injured.

I remember last year when Drew was on AGT. A lot of people in the stuttering community did not find him funny and did not think it was cool to make fun of stuttering. Audiences laughed at his stuttering jokes and the way he made fun of himself. He almost always laughed himself after telling a joke.

I found him to be funny and his humor appropriate, but was only seeing him in 3 minute segments.

When I heard he was coming to my hometown to headline a comedy show, I was very interested in seeing him perform. I wondered how he would handle performing for a longer stretch. And I wondered how my hometown audience would react to a comedian that stutters.

My sister had asked me to go with her to the show, which was a surprise, as I didn’t think she would be interested in seeing someone who stutters. She and I don’t talk about stuttering. It’s always been a taboo topic in my family and continues to be so, even though I am very open and public about my stuttering.

So we went to the show and had a great time. There were two opening acts, one which was very funny and the other was just OK. Neither of them stuttered! 🙂

When Drew came out to perform, he immediately started with a joke about stuttering. He laughed and the audience laughed. Drew went on to perform for almost an hour, which I marveled at, given that it’s a long time and a lot of material to remember for the performance.

His material was not all stuttering related. He had funny jokes about every day life which the audience enjoyed. About half of his material was related to stuttering, and making fun of his own stuttering. I think his willingness to poke fun at himself and laugh at his own jokes and funny stories gave the audience permission to laugh. And laugh they did. It appeared everyone in the packed room was having a great time.

I posted something about having attended this comedy show on Facebook. Several people commented that it is not good to laugh at stuttering, because it opens the door for anybody to laugh at stuttering.

I say that most people can appreciate the context and will not laugh at someone stuttering just because they happened to laugh at a stuttering comedian.

After the show, Drew stayed around to meet and greet fans and signed autographs and took pictures. The line was so long, which was a great sign that the audience had enjoyed Drew’s performance. I did not stay to talk to him, although I really wanted to let him know that I stutter too.

Turns out, after my sister drove me back to my car, she went back and stood in the line to get an autograph and a photo. Guess she really enjoyed the performance.

So, what do you think? Is it OK to laugh at someone who stutters when they are telling jokes and making fun of their own stuttering?

PamEpisode 151 features Nora Sadik, who hails from Urbana, Illinois. Nora is a Master’s student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is studying environmental engineering with an emphasis on water quality in the developing world. She enjoys creative activities such as painting and cooking and also enjoys live music.

Nora shares that she has always had a pull toward human health. She’s had a drive to help people, but it’s really the people helping her.

Listen in to a great conversation that covers a lot of ground. We talk about how women don’t take as many risks, that we’re perhaps wired to be cautious and protect ourselves. We relate that to women who stutter, and talk about protecting ourselves based on who we are and our feelings about stuttering.

We talk about thinking about what the other person is thinking about us when we are in conversation. We create fear, which can be consuming and exhausting.

And we talk about Nora’s experience as a Keynote speaker at a conference for girls called “Authentic Voices.”  She shares that her talk was about her journey toward self-acceptance with her speech and how self acceptance of any challenge we have is important to empower girls.

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

 

I had a really great conversation this week with a colleague about stuttering. I was talking with a new staff member about a Google hangout I participated in with people from all over the world, and how much I enjoyed it. She asked me what was the topic and I said stuttering.

I participated today in a great conversation about all things stuttering on the weekly Wednesday Stutter Social hangout.

We were talking about stuttering with confidence and whether practicing our speech increases confidence.

A couple of people mentioned that they intently practice speaking every day for one to two hours, to themselves. This practice helps those particular individuals feel more confident when they are speaking to others.

One guy mentioned that sometimes after practicing and feeling more confident, when he is speaking with others that he actually forgets he stutters.

I did a double take and mouthed “what?” I couldn’t wrap my brain around this.

The facilitator of the hangout asked us to reflect on “forgetting that we stutter” and think of a time where we might have experienced this.

To be honest, my first instinct was, “Nope I have never forgot that I stutter.” For years I tried to hide my stutter. I dealt with the mental gymnastics of word substitution and avoidance,which was a constant reminder of stuttering.

Now that I no longer do that (mostly) and stutter openly – more on some days than others- I am reminded every day that I stutter. Sometimes those stuttering reminders come at the most inopportune times.

But after the hangout was over and I thought about this some more, I found myself thinking that I sort of knew what the guy meant. There are times when I am very fluent and if I have a stuttering moment, it’s not really noticeable. At those times, when I’m not thinking of stuttering, I can understand how you can actually forget about stuttering.

At these times that I am not thinking about stuttering, I am also not acknowledging it. Perhaps by not acknowledging it, for a brief time, we can actually forget we stutter.

What do you think? Can you fathom ever forgetting that you actually stutter?

PamEpisode 137 features Autumn Seigel, who hails from Wapakoneta, Ohio. Autumn is a 21 year old writer who will soon self-publish her first book, ReAwaken, which will be a young adult novella. She writes in the science fiction, paranormal genre.

Listen in as we talk about how Autumn got involved in writing and what it was like for her growing up with a stutter. Autumn also has a learning disability, which she is open about in our conversation.

We discuss Autumn’s experience last year at a two-week summer intensive stuttering camp through The University of Toledo Speech, Language and Hearing Clinic. It was the first time Autumn had met other people who stuttered like herself. She felt she gained fluency, confidence and a more positive mindset after completing the camp.

Autumn has her own blog, The Dreamer, where she describes herself as writer, artist and dreamer. Autumn also maintains an authors page on Facebook for more information on her book.

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

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!


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© 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.
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