Make Room For The Stuttering

Posts Tagged ‘vulnerable about stuttering

I have been reflecting a lot on the value of being authentic in all of my places. I have been reading and boning up on being courageous at work.

I came across this great Forbes article called The Importance of Being Courageously Vulnerable at Work. 

The author, Patrick Williams, a leadership coach, asks, “Is there a gap between who you say you are and how you reveal yourself in the world of work?”

We all have things we hide due to shame, embarrassment, guilt or even unexpressed dreams we may have given up on, and we often put those in our shadow. Williams challenges us to acknowledge and own your (shadow) or it will own you.

This really resonated with me. I try to be authentic at work, as I truly believe it invites others to do so as well and then stronger relationships are forged.

I have been actively involved in the National Stuttering Association for about 12 years now. I am proud to share that a workplace advocacy initiative that I’ve been championing for over a year has launched. We Stutter @ Work is ambitious, new and requires that people who stutter be willing to be open and stutter nakedly at work.

I do that. I stutter openly and nakedly at work. It’s OK. People are listening to what I say and not how I say it. Occasionally I might get unsupportive remarks or reactions when I stutter on the phone. I usually say something, like “Oh, I stutter. No biggie, right?” I don’t apologize. I used to, years ago. I never do today. There’s nothing to apologize for.

The workplace is no longer the 9 to 5 we used to view it as. It’s at least one-third of our daily life. We are “human beings”, not “human doings.” More of our “being” needs to be present in the workplace, and we should encourage others to do so as well. It makes workplaces better, stronger and helps people feel like they belong. Right?

What do you think? Have you had any experiences where you’ve been courageously vulnerable at work? How did it make you feel? Do you and can you stutter openly at work?

What goes through your head during that space between words when you are stuttering? You know what I mean, that often long pause that creates space between two words while you are having a block.

Is it something that you think about? I have. Not often because my blocks aren’t too long, but every once in a while I get one that seems long and definitely creates that space.

I often feel anxious, as it isn’t natural to have long pauses between words. Even when that is done intently by a speaker for emphasis, that space is often not as long as one created by a stutterer.

Sometimes I think to myself, “Oh no, not now.” Or I think, “What are they thinking?” I try to re-frame my thoughts and sometimes think, “Oh good, a moment to catch my breath.” Especially when I am presenting, I can use that space to compose myself and prepare for the fluent word that inevitably comes after the space.

Fluent people probably never give this a thought.

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.

 

PamEpisode 142 features Suzanne Tubman, who hails from County Leitrim,on the west coast of Ireland. Suzanne is a wife and mother of two baby girls and just recently secured a part-time job as a legal secretary. She is also an avid jogger.

Listen in as we talk about covert stuttering, “riding the wave of fluency and then taking a sky dive,” and choosing or not choosing to work on our speech.

Suzanne talks about her involvement with the Irish Stammering Association and how much that has enriched her life. She also shares a great analogy about the movie “The Wizard of Oz.”

Grab a cuppa and listen as we also discuss how stuttering is cool, how an adverse comment became a motivator, honest questions and reactions from listeners and so much more.

This was such an insightful episode and both of us agreed we could have talked on for hours. Feel free to leave comments or ask questions, as feedback is a gift.

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

Like most people who stutter, I often find myself feeling self-conscious and vulnerable when I stutter publicly. I do a lot of public speaking for my job, and this is my busy time of the year. I have been conducting tours and presentations to prospective students interested in applying to our school.

Sometimes, I find myself hoping that I’ll be mostly fluent in my presentations so I don’t encounter teens snickering when I stutter during my talk. That’s happened often, as my fluency has been very inconsistent and teens don’t quite know how to react when they hear an adult unexpectedly stutter.

Today, I had a big group that was touring. I make a 15 minute presentation at the start of the visit and then take questions as we walk around on the tour. Sometimes, I find myself very fluent when giving these presentations, as I have to project my voice to a big group and that really helps with my control.

I was very happy today that I had a great speech today. What does that mean, a “great speech day?” For me, it means that I felt comfortable and in control while speaking and took the stuttering in stride. I had a few moments of stuttered speech but felt so comfortable that I didn’t let it bother me. I did not feel self-conscious or embarrassed and I did not experience any physical tension or blushing.

Being able to take the stuttering in stride is what it’s all about. We need to remember that good communication is about the message we are conveying, not whether we stutter or not. We can be excellent communicators and stutter.

When I was younger, I never believed that. I thought my stuttering meant I was doomed to be a poor communicator. Well, that is so wrong. I stutter and I’m a great communicator. Take it in stride.

What about you? Can you take your stuttering in stride and just be OK with it?

 

I tend to stutter the same way on the same words all the time. Even when I try to focus and use a technique or slow down, there are just certain words that come out the same way, every time.

Communication is one of those words. I don’t stutter on the first “c” in the word. No, I block and stutter on the second “c” sound – right in the middle of the word. It usually takes the form of three or four repetitions on the “ca” sound. Communi-ca-ca-ca-ca-tion. I am very aware of when I am in the stuttering moment with this word, as it’s a word I have to say a lot in the presentations I deliver to high school students.

I talk to them about career planning and the essential skills needed to be college and career ready, with good communication being one of those essential skills.

I am not ashamed that I stutter and I am of the belief that good communication is so much more than perfect fluency. But for some reason, when I block and stutter on key words, the same way, every time, I feel quite vulnerable and exposed. Perhaps it’s because this mostly happens when I am speaking to young people.

It’s important to me to be a good role model when I am speaking to people, especially young people. I maintain eye contact when I’m blocking and when I complete the word, I usually smile and just keep moving forward. I like to think that communicating in my own style, with confidence, is good role modeling for young people.

I want them to see that moving through vulnerability can yield good results.

A good friend of mine suggested I do a little dance when I say “communi-ca-ca-ca-ca-tion.” To the beat of the “ca-ca-ca-ca.” I think it would be a good ice breaker when I am giving a presentation on stuttering, but maybe not so much when I am talking career preparation to high school students. They might think I’m nuts and call the security officer.

What about you? Do you have words that you stutter the same way every time? How does it make you feel?

Someone wrote this on one of the stuttering email groups I participate in. It really resonated with me.

“The pain of stuttering is not in speech interruptions as that just takes an extra moment… And the speaker sometimes doesn’t even know it’s happening.  What’s painful is feeling different and feeling that the difference is unacceptable to you and to the world….”

How many of us can relate to this? How many of us have had a stuttering moment happen and we felt so embarrassed that we felt different? That stuttering was unacceptable?

I first experienced the pain of stuttering as a young child. I don’t remember what stuttering was really like for me at 5 years old, but I do remember the pain I felt when it seemed that my father was ashamed of me. He would yell at me when I stuttered and make me feel as though I was doing something bad.

As an adult, I stutter pretty openly and confidently but sometimes I still experience the pain and shame of stuttering. And I believe some of that rises up from those early painful memories.

I feel the pain of stuttering when I get stuck and someone laughs at me. Or looks at me quizzically, asking if I’ve forgotten my name or where I work. I am sure everyone who stutters has experienced that and probably more than once.

I feel the pain of stuttering when I feel I’m being judged by someone in authority. That makes me feel inadequate, thankfully only momentarily, but inadequate nonetheless.

I feel the pain of stuttering when I explain myself to put a listener at ease. Sometimes it’s painful because there’s times I just don’t feel like explaining.

I feel the pain of stuttering when I want to chime in with a joke and I stutter on the punchline and people give me “the look.”

There has been more and more awareness of stuttering in the media, especially over the last year. But I’m not convinced that the world is ready for stuttering yet. It’s still not acceptable.

What do you think?

 

The following is my submission for the 2014 International Stuttering Awareness Day on-line conference, which runs from Oct.1 – Oct. 22 each year.

This is a reprisal of a talk I did at the 2014 NSA conference in Washington DC in July.

I was worried about making myself so vulnerable by submitting a video, but it has been favorably accepted, judging by the many great comments the video has received, many from SLP graduate students.

What do you think? Can our stuttering make us memorable?

What do you think of this? Being around other people who stutter is like seeing a reflection of our self. We see ourselves in other people who stutter.

Maybe when you are around other people who stutter, you think to yourself, “oh, that’s how I sound.” Maybe you’re OK with that. Maybe you are not.

Maybe it makes us feel vulnerable when we’re around other people who stutter.

Other people may remind of us ourselves, both the parts we love and the parts we don’t love quite as much.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

 

 

Last night in a Stutter Social hangout, a small group talked about shame and fear, and how both can still have a grip on us as adults who stutter. While stuttering may get easier as we mature, those pesky feelings can hold on and do a real number on us.

We were talking about the times when we as adults get laughed at or someone makes a joke about our stuttering. Three of us were participating in this discussion, and we all had examples of when this has happened.

One guy mentioned that when this happens, he feels like punching the person who is so insensitive. He gets all tight and angry, but doesn’t actually act on the desire to lash out. He said he actually doesn’t do anything but feels vulnerable and ashamed.

I mentioned that I sometimes feel ashamed as well, when someone laughs or teases and I don’t do anything, for fear of drawing more attention to the matter.

We discussed how it’s important to pay attention to this shame.

When we feel shame, it’s usually a sign that we need to do something – take action – to rid ourselves of the shameful feelings.

I shared that when someone laughed at my stuttering recently and made a joke, I let it bother me for a few days. Then I decided to email her and let her know it bothered me. She apologized and explained she was unaware she had made me feel uncomfortable. I felt better after doing something and not just letting the feelings eat at me.

What do you think? Do feelings of shame ever creep in? What can you do to lessen those feelings?

 

 

 

 

Ahhh, the phone. A simple electronic device designed to make our lives easier. But for people who stutter, the phone can be our nemesis.

Talking on the phone can be a struggle, even a nightmare for those who stutter. The time pressure and being unable to see our listener often adds to our anxiety, which in turn can increase our stuttering.

Over the years, I’ve had my hiccups with the phone. For a long stretch, I can remember never answering the phone. I would always let the call go to voice mail, and I would return the call when I was ready. For some reason, I was (and still am) more comfortable when I initiate the call.

I’ve had my times when I re-record a message I have to leave on someone’s voice mail if I think there was a stuttered word in my message. And I’ve re-recorded my own personal greeting on my voice mail numerous times until I got it “perfect.”

These days, on my voice mail, I allow a repetition so that I’ve left a cue to callers that I stutter.

At work, I often have to pitch in and answer the main phone lines in the office. For the most part, I am alright with it. I always say the same greeting and always stutter the same way when I say, “May I he-he-help you?” Usually, I’m fine with that. Sometimes I find myself wincing, wishing I could say it without stuttering.

I covered the phones for a bit on Friday. When I answered in my usual way, the caller immediately said “Hi Pam.” I winced. I felt like she recognized my stuttering and therefore knew right away it was me.

Now, maybe that wasn’t true at all. Maybe she just recognized my voice (although I don’t think so, as I don’t answer the phones often enough to have my voice recognized.) Whatever was the case, I felt uncomfortable and a little embarrassed. Which bothers me, because I shouldn’t be feeling embarrassment anymore because of my stuttering. But I do.

What about you? Is the phone (still) difficult for you? Or have you found a way to just take it in stride?

This is not directly about stuttering, but in a way, it is. This guy showed on a big stage how nerves and anxiety can get the best of any of us. The news shows are describing Mr. Bay’s performance as a “melt down” and “embarrassing stage fright.”

I took this a different way. I think he did us all a favor. He showed us that he’s human and felt anxious and vulnerable, like we all do from time to time.

How many of us, fluent or not, can relate to what happened here?

How many of you stutter professionally? That is, stutter on the job, openly without trying to hide it? I do!

It’s not always easy, as sometimes it feels awkward to allow myself to be so vulnerable in the workplace.

There used to be a time when I would switch words when I got into a block or stuttering moment. Or I would cough or clear my throat, anything to deflect attention away from that vulnerable moment.

Now, I just stay with it and allow myself to stutter, even when a tiny bit of embarrassment creeps in. I think that’s what I have the hardest time with – when I feel a flush of color to my necks and cheeks. I don’t actually feel embarrassed, but may LOOK embarrassed when that happens.

Has anybody had that happen? How does it make you feel? Are you OK with stuttering at work?

Katherine Preston hits it out of the park again with a wonderful essay about how talking about her book brings her face to face with the very vulnerability most of us stutterers avoid.

Read her essay “An Unlikely Speaker: On Stuttering and the Memoir.” She talks about how audiences expect her to stutter because she’s talking about her life experience as a stutterer, and the stark vulnerability that brings.

It is a great reminder how very personal, how intimate it is to share our stuttering with someone else, known to us or a stranger. We expose ourselves and leave our self open to reactions that we cannot control. We hope that listener reactions will be patient and compassionate. They are not always.

Allowing ourselves to be vulnerable with others reminds us how messy life is, and that we all have struggles. Bravo to Katherine for putting it so eloquently.

I participated in a discussion this week in one of the stuttering groups about how we react when we are offended. Specifically, someone started a thread about how thick-skinned we are when it comes to negative reactions to our stuttering.

We can’t account for another person’s ignorance, stupidity or callousness, but we have a choice as to how we act or react.

Do we get defensive, defiant or confrontational? Or do we take offensive remarks and behavior in stride and take an opportunity to educate folks about something they may know nothing about?

In that discussion, I shared that I “choose my battles” wisely. If a stranger mocks or laughs at me, and I’m likely not to see that person ever again, I probably will not say anything and just let it go.

But if someone I know makes fun of my speech, or someone I know I’ll see again, then I may seize the opportunity to educate and raise awareness. But that does require a thick skin and right motive.

In the past, when someone has been rude or hurtful, I would get very upset, tear up and often be too embarrassed to say anything. As I’ve become more comfortable with my stuttering, I have found the courage to disclose that I stutter and that their comment or behavior offended me.

I try not to disclose just so that someone feels bad and apologizes profusely, but will admit on more than one occasion I didn’t mind seeing the person squirm in embarrassment.

I remember the time when I was signing up for a new job and an administrative assistant laughed at me during conversation. At first, I didn’t say anything, thinking I must have misunderstood. But when it happened a second time while I was still speaking, I knew I had to say something.

I told her I stutter, and she immediately looked embarrassed and apologized profusely. She even said she never would have reacted like she did had she known I stuttered. We finished our business and before I left, she apologized again. I believe I educated her that day about stuttering and she may have become just a bit more tolerant and patient.

How do you react when someone offends you, whether intentional or not?


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