Saturday, February 06, 2010

Advertising My Stutter?

I've recently had an email exchange with a blogger friend who emailed me an article about "coming out" as a stutterer. The conversation was borne from a comment left on my last post "Mean People" and it really struck me as a useful idea. If I am in a stressful situation, like ordering food at a restaurant or calling a business on the telephone...simply letting the other person know that I stutter will take off the edge and will make me less judgmental of myself and more free to simply communicate, knowing that the "cat is out of the bag" so to speak. I like that idea. And I will use it.

Having said, that, I will still continue to use my tricks to avoid blocks and to avoid stuttering. The link that was emailed to me suggests that this is the wrong approach. To wit:

Advertising Stuttering Article

"...some of the most unhappy and bitter stutterers I know are moderate to mild stutterers who believe that they can hide their disfluency. They add a great deal of stress to their lives and put even greater strain on their speech. No one is fooled; not their listener, and not themselves. As a result, every misstep is seen as a risk of exposure and fills the speaker with dread at being found out. They must focus all their energies on continuing the deception and the inevitable mistake is seen as a failure which reinforces their fear of stuttering. Brick by brick, bar by bar, syllable by syllable, they construct their own prison until they permit stuttering to take control of their lives..."

Although there is much truth to what is written above, I will still use my tricks to obtain the appearance of fluency. Why? Because it makes me feel better about my communications and it makes me, ultimately, feel better about myself. A mental health professional would probably tell me that I should work to instead feel better about my "true" self, that is, as a stutterer. But, again, I disagree. My true self is who I am as a person...and stuttering is just one aspect of who I am. It's not my sole identity and it's not something that I use to identify myself, if that makes sense. My identity revolves mostly around my values...not my physical or physiological characteristics. They might tell me that I should be "okay" with having a stutter. I understand that, but it's not so simple. I can accept the fact that I stutter...admit it...not deny it...but I can also work every day to avoid doing it, just as a cripple might try to avoid falling down if he struggles with walking. I just don't embrace this notion of NOT trying to hide the fact that I stutter. Should a cripple NOT try to walk? 

In my professional life and my personal life, I feel good about myself. I don't have an inferiority complex nor do I suffer from low self esteem. My stutter annoys me...that's the primary emotion that stuttering heaps upon me. It doesn't make me feel inferior or less than others or less valuable than others. It annoys me probably much the same way a leg that is 3 inches shorter than the other would annoy me. And if I had that affliction, I would do whatever I could to make both legs appear the same length and I would work hard to participate in activities that others without the affliction participate in and I would make every attempt to look just like they do when I participate.

Do you think my assessment is wrong? Should I stop trying to avoid stuttering by using tricks? If so, please explain why....while addressing what I've already said about why I do it. And, thank you for reading.


Ora said...

I just don't embrace this notion of NOT trying to hide the fact that I stutter. Should a cripple NOT try to walk?

That's not exactly the right analogy. The fundamental concept of "advertising" is disclosure. The idea is not to put aside your tricks and techniques and forget about trying to speak fluently. Rather, the principle - or at least the claim, and what many people experience - is that attempting to hide the reality of the stuttering can be pernicious, for several reasons.

(1) It can exacerbate the stuttering, particularly when you define stuttering to include secondary effects such as mental torment and the frustration of remaining silent when you really want to speak. I have many times had things I wanted to say in discussion, but I bit my tongue simply because I didn't want to risk letting it be known that I stuttered. Getting it out in the open largely eliminates this factor. It's also an expression of self-confidence, and is typically perceived as such by the other person.

(2) It can increase the anxiety (and at its worst, the torment) of stuttering. I'd prefer to stutter a little and relax in the conversation rather than invest my energy in hiding.

(3) Hiding takes a psychological toll, particularly hiding an aspect of oneself that’s tied up with personal identity.

(4) In general, acting on a belief tends to reinforce the belief. So a person thinks it’s shameful to stutter and hides it, thereby reinforces the feeling that it's shameful. "Coming out" can be liberating.

In practice, this needn't turn each encounter into a big self-disclosure event - who wants that? But simply to put it out on the table briefly, matter-of-factly, so as to avoid the harmful effects that come from hiding.

Stuttering Stanley said...

Thank you, Ora, that makes MUCH more sense!

Anonymous said...

Ora, I really liked your clarification. Not to be wierd, but could I get your email and ask you for a bit of advice?

Ora said...

Dan - Sure. It's omccreary at nyc dot rr dot com

Mike said...

It's amazing how when reading these posts on this blog and others, never have I disagreed with any of the views or sentiments. Least not that I can remember.

It's nice to know that my way of looking at stuttering is shared by others.

With regards to the post, I used to be horrendous on the phone. Now, if I stutter I just tell them I have a speech impediment and once I am past my block I am fluent. It's kind of bizarre.

Orlene Robinson said...

Its good that you have a found a way to hide your stutter but I prefer when it is not hid from people because letting others know may bring you the help that is needed to get rid of the situation all together. I have some tips to share with you at

JenMiller said...

If using tricks to hide stuttering helps you in your job (or makes you more comfortable in your job), then go for it.

However, please don't feel like you shouldn't say what you want to or contribute to a conversation, because you don't want to stutter. It most likely doesn't bother the listener in the least. I love to hear what other people have to say, and it doesn't bother me to wait to hear it. What does bother me, is people not saying what they want to because of a fear of blocking or stuttering. I don't like to feel like I make someone uncomfortable. Hearing someone stutter doesn't make me feel uncomfortable, and I hope that me hearing someone stutter or block doesn't make them uncomfortable.

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