Friday, February 05, 2010

Mean People

In the past month, I've had two cashiers at convenience/gas stores mock my stuttering. Both, I am sure, were completely unaware of what they were doing...they likely thought I just stumbled on a word...I would hope they wouldn't have guessed I was a stutterer and thought it would be funny to make fun of me.

Still, even knowing they likely were unaware that I was a stutterer, it still stung a little. It confirms that, if nothing else, sometimes stuttering sounds funny to people. Which is one of the main reasons that I use my tricks to mask stuttering. There are stutterers who don't feel the need to hide it and they freely stutter. Good for them. I've had an email or two from some stutterers who encourage me to do so, saying that it's liberating. I disagree. For me, it would be anything but liberating.

Shifting gears a little here, I've had to change the way I answer the phone on the unit at the hospital, because the greeting that worked perfectly for over a year has suddenly, in the past 3 weeks or so, ceased to work. I was able, for over a years time, to say, "Southwest unit, this is Tony." Now...I answer with, "Hello, southwest." and that works.

On a positive note, I have developed a group for the kids where we talk about certain disabilities and it allows me to talk about my stutter and stuttering in general...to the kids. I have found that the topic really interests the kids and then they feel free to talk about their own hangups, whether it's a physical disability or just some issue they struggle with. Although I know that children can be cruel and judgmental to each other in peer settings, when you sit them down in a group to maturely discuss personal issues, you see that there is much more going on in their heads than childish antics. Sometimes they can surprise you with their wisdom and insight.

4 comments:

Ora said...

You might consider trying "advertising" - in other words, say you're a stutterer, just to put it out there and to regularize it.

I often do it. When I feel myself stuttering with someone, I sometimes interrupt myself and say "excuse my stuttering" or "sorry, I stutter". I don't make a big deal of it, just say it in a matter-of-fact way, and then continue with what I'm saying. People sometimes respond "oh, OK", or "take your time" or something like that, or sometimes say nothing. My comment is not intended as an opening to conversation on the topic, and I don't necessarily wait for a response, I just continue with the subject at hand.

Though I sometimes use the word "sorry", it's not a real apology, just a pro forma phrase which gets across the message that I stutter and we're both just going to have to deal with it. Trying to hide my stuttering takes effort, and it's usually not effective anyway. I find that saying I stutter makes things a little easier for me, and maybe for the other person as well.

Stuttering Stanley said...

Ora, that's a wonderful idea, actually. I have done it once, but it was out of frustration...but now that I remember back, it took the edge off. I was off the hook, so to speak. I think I will take this advice...and even write an entry about once I can report it's effectiveness on my stress level. Thank you, my friend. :)

Ora said...

Tony - In my experience, "advertising" (as it's sometimes called) is one of the common techniques used in speech therapy.

Take a look at the article by Jim McClure at http://www.mnsu.edu/comdis/isad6/papers/advertising6.html. Or more generally, Google the phrase "advertising stuttering" (http://www.google.com/search?q=advertising+stuttering&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-GB:official&client=firefox-a).

You've said "There are stutterers who don't feel the need to hide it and they freely stutter. Good for them. I've had an email or two from some stutterers who encourage me to do so, saying that it's liberating. I disagree. For me, it would be anything but liberating." But why not give it a try? You don't have to do it across the board, all of a sudden change your way of interacting with everyone. Just try it here and there and see what happens.

It's a way to get beyond the shame and embarrassment - don't try to hide stuttering, but admit it freely, and stutter openly. By hiding it, you're reinforcing the shame and embarrassment. By being open, you can undermine that loop. It helps desensitize the stutterer, and allows him to take control of the situation. We invest a lot of effort in hiding our stuttering, and this sometimes keeps us quiet instead of saying things we want to or need to. Being open about it - and taking the initiative in mentioning it - can help pull the teeth of the stuttering, reduce its power to prevent us from communicating effectively.

Give it a try!

Ora said...

By the way, one thing worth mentioning is that "advertising" has become one of the standard techniques of contemporary stuttering therapy.

For example, see http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&safe=off&client=firefox-a&rls=org.mozilla%3Aen-GB%3Aofficial&hs=PuZ&q=ssmp+stuttering+advertising&aq=f&aqi=&oq= for references to advertising as part of the Successful Stuttering Management Program in Washington state, which offers one of the best known intensive programs. Also, it's one of the approaches which is used by the American Institute for Stuttering in New York, which I've attended.