Posts Tagged ‘Toastmasters’
How many of you have speech or speaking goals for 2017? I usually don’t set speech goals for myself, because I tell myself I am comfortable with, and accepting of, my speech.
However, I have given this a lot of thought and there are some things I’d like to work on in the coming year. Since I finished Toastmasters and really don’t have a desire to go back anymore, I find I don’t have as many opportunities to push myself out of my comfort zone. I miss those monthly opportunities to speak regularly but I was tiring of the structure of Toastmasters.
Don’t get me wrong! Toastmasters was one of the best things I ever did for myself as a person who stutters. I found courage and confidence I didn’t know I had. I highly recommend it for anyone looking for speaking challenges. I just found that 7 years of bi-weekly meetings was enough. I do miss the people though.
Some of you may recall that I tried improv in 2016 for the first time ever and found that I really liked it. That was a big time push out of my comfort zone. I liked the “in the moment” spontaneity of improv and being to able to create something out of nothing just by taking a chance and thinking on your feet.
In 2017, I really want to take a second level improv class and learn more about being comfortable with spontaneity. I don’t want my stuttering to hold me back from taking creative chances with speech. So far, a second level hasn’t come up yet, but I will keep my eye out and watch for it.
I have a big speaking challenge coming up in April. I submitted a proposal and was approved to speak at the New York State Speech Language and Hearing annual conference. I will be giving a two hour workshop on “Reclaiming Her Space: From Covert to Overt Stuttering.” I am really excited about this but anxious at the same time. My perfectionist self really wants me to be perfect for this audience of SLPs and SLP students.
I know it’s not realistic to have expectations like that for this talk. I can only tell my story as best as I can and hopefully relay important information to the audience that will help them in some aspect of their work with people who stutter.
I also want to find some other speaking challenge or goal for the year. Does anyone have any ideas? I’d love your feedback.
You can’t connect with other people if you’re constantly stuck in your own head. This goes if you’re anxious, depressed, self absorbed or if you stutter.
We fail to make meaningful connections with those around us when we become consumed with worry or fear about how people will react to us. We get so caught up in what we are thinking that we fail to learn what the other person is thinking. These can be self defeating behaviors.
I think it’s true that people who stutter can also be anxious or depressed. I’ve written about this several times before. While anxiety and depression are not the cause of stuttering, both can certainly exasperate the stuttering experience.
And I also think it’s true that people who stutter can be very self absorbed. There are times when we think about stuttering constantly, and not positively! I’ve heard people say they’ve gone to bed thinking about stuttering and wake up thinking about stuttering. For me, when I was extremely covert, it was like a prison. I felt suffocated by the constant thoughts and worries about how I sounded when I dared to speak.
My good friend J and I recently talked about anxiety and stuttering. He hates how he feels when he thinks about stuttering and feels that he thinks about it too much. He worries that he’s not connecting with others because he gets so preoccupied with stuttering.
One of the things we’ve talked about a lot is to find other things to do that gets you out of your head. Having something to do that connects you with other people is vital to getting “unstuck.” Some examples are Toastmasters, Improv or local meet ups where you can find activities that you have in common with other people.
Thinking about stuttering all of the time is going to keep you in your head. You’ll miss out on engaging with other people and you’ll run the risk of people thinking that you’re unfriendly, unapproachable or shy, when none of those may be the case.
Getting out of your own head is easier said than done. But talking about your worries and fears with someone else is always a good idea, as well as finding things to do that take you out of your comfort zone and give you a chance to genuinely connect with others.
Try it. Try one new thing. Set it as a goal for 2017.
Episode 164 features Sofia Espinoza, who hails from Atlanta, Georgia, although Sofia is originally from Peru. Sofia works for the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta. She is an engineer and works in IT, implementing systems.
Sofia went into engineering because she thought it would be a field where there wouldn’t be much talking. When she began her Masters program, she saw it was much more interactive and would require talking and class participation. It was at this time that Sofia began researching support opportunities and found the NSA and Toastmasters.
She threw herself into both at the same time, as well as seeing a counselor. All of these things helped Sofia to graduate.
Listen in as we discuss covert stuttering, baby steps, shyness and anxiety, and the pain of stuttering. We also talk about wearing armor to protect ourselves and how heavy that armor can be to carry around.
Sofia attended her first NSA conference this year, as it was held in Atlanta. We talk about her experiences and her favorite workshop.
The music used in today’s episode is credited to ccMixter.
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.
Episode 158 features Jennifer Allaby who hails from Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, Canada. Jennifer retired from a career in social work, most recently working with First Nation communities.
Listen in as Jennifer describes how about a year ago she began to seriously look at the stuttering part of her life. For about 30 years, she had been covert. She says it had become like work to keep up the façade of not stuttering.
She explored the stuttering community and marveled at how open and welcoming people have been. She also shares that since becoming involved in the stuttering community, she’s learned a whole new language.
We also discuss Jennifer’s involvement in Toastmasters, which she describes as the best thing she’s done for herself. Jennifer’s initial goal with Toastmasters was “to stutter,” and to be the best communicator she could be as herself.
Jennifer also explains what Toastmasters is for those who may not know, and shares how welcoming and supportive other members are. Nobody expects perfection, she says. It’s gentle and you don’t feel pressured but you do feel accomplishment and appreciation for what you’ve done.
The music used in today’s show 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.
I’ll never forget the time at a Toastmasters meeting where we had a visiting “dignitary” with us to install new officers. It was the beginning of a new Toastmaster year and it is tradition in Toastmasters that a leader performs an induction ceremony.
I was so surprised when our Area Governor, whom I had not previously met, started speaking and I realized he stutters. In a way, I was kind of excited to realize there was another person in the room and in Toastmasters that stutters like I do.
I have often heard that people who stutter have a sense of radar when we hear other people who stutter. We can hear the repetitions, the breaks in speech, the blocks, all signs that a person stutters. I found myself hanging on this person’s every word as he completed the induction. He spoke slowly, deliberately, with repetitions and blocks.
After the meeting, I went up to introduce myself and congratulate him for a job well done. I also decided to disclose that I stuttered too, and that I was pleased to see a fellow stutterer do so well in Toastmasters.
Well, he became quite defensive and denied that he stutters. I remember this like it was yesterday. He got a little red in the face and adamantly let me know that he does not stutter. I felt foolish, as I had “outed” him when he clearly did not wish to be identified as a stutterer. I remember apologizing quietly and hurrying away, feeling embarrassed that I had embarrassed him.
Has this ever happened to you? How did you handle it?
Another time, I was at a networking meeting and heard a woman talking about her organization and clearly stuttering. I remember having self-talk with myself, again excited to hear another person who stutters in a professional environment and feeling conflicted if I should say anything to her.
The negative experience I had at the Toastmasters meeting still hung over me and I felt it was best that I not “out” another person. Disclosing that you are a person who stutters is a personal choice that needs to be respected, despite the overwhelming inside urge to yell, “hey, over here, me too. I stutter too.”
I remember being introduced at a Toastmaster meeting where I was to be a featured speaker. A fellow Toastmaster was responsible for introducing me and I thought he would share my usual bio which I had provided to the club, as we were all asked to. He ad-libbed a bit and added some extra things to his introduction of me.
He included that I was a proud stutterer and an inspiration to the club. I remember feeling embarrassed that he said that about me. There were people in the audience who were new and didn’t know me and now knew something about me that was very personal. It didn’t bother me that I stutter because I do and am open about it in Toastmasters. What bothered me was not being able to disclose it myself – I felt like I had been “outed.”
Now I knew what I felt like to be outed, even in a very well-intentioned manner and in a moment of pride. Ever since then, I have been very cautious about going up to anyone I hear stutter and saying anything, even the “I stutter too.”
It’s a slippery slope, outing someone as a stutterer or being outed yourself in a way you didn’t expect.
What do you think?