As long as I can remember, I’ve had a stutter which has gradually gotten worse. No matter the setting or who I’m around, i’ve always felt like the odd person out especially in conversations I would like to be a part of. For instance, I can be out for drinks with my friends and the conversation can happen about pretty much anything. Everyone’s talking and putting in there and put on the subject and all I do is sit and listen. I would love nothing more than to contribute to the conversation and feel more at one with my friends. However, the fear of saying a word the wrong way overcomes me and I am forced to just smile, nod and listen. Let’s say we’re talking about baseball game happening. All my buddies are talking about a specific player and his/her stats. Because the way the players name is spelt (I struggle more with “B” and “M” letters) I will just sit there silently while everyone throws in a point of view. I might throw out a “yeah” or “oh yeah you’re right” but for the most part I’ll take in what’s said and do my trademark smile. Either way, it makes me come off as someone who is not knowledgeable on the subject even though I am. Honestly, I dare go further and say it makes me look stupid in the eyes of my friends.
The more comfortable I am with someone, such as my fiancé and my family is when I find myself speaking more fluently. I’m not saying I’m not comfortable with my friends, but when we are together there’s many points of views of a subject and every chance to speak is like auditioning for American Idol.
Let’s not even get started about ordering dinner at a restaurant. Countless times I’ve wanted to order something specifically but chosen not to simply because I’m going to stutter the menu item. So, a bacon cheeseburger suddenly becomes a cheeseburger, because “B’s” have always been a nemesis of mine. When I order food I prefer to do so when the attention of my party is on something totally unrelated. It’s my own personal incognito way to cheat embarrassment.
Personal life is something I can pretty much control. If I feel uncomfortable in the situation I can simply just walk away to “get air” or “have a smoke”. The same cannot be said about how my stuttering affects me professionally.
I’ll say the most stressful aspect of having a speech impediment in a business setting are your coworkers thinking you aren’t confident or even “weird”. Situations have come where I’ve waited for my boss to leave the office so I can make my phone calls that have been patiently queuing in my mind.
– “Hey Matt, did you call those references?” – “I’m working on it Jane!”
‘As Jane walks to the bathroom, Matt slyly calls Bill’s reference.’
In terms of meetings or other areas of planned public speaking I’ve been slightly better than average at speaking. I’ll usually work around those letters I know will stump me. The same can’t be said when someone I’ve just met asks me for my name. I have struggled with the name Matthew my whole life and there is simply nothing I can do about it. I’ll answer the phone or shake a hand, say who I am, and sometimes people notice.
In my opinion, the best way to overcome stuttering for me at work is creating a less stressful atmosphere. What I mean is manage your workday. It doesn’t matter that your not the boss, you can still plan your day. This will give you more time to mentally prepare not only interviews, meetings and conferences, but phone calls as well. Here are some other tips that I do which might help you in a similar situation:
- Remember that the person on the other line is a human being just like you. They are no different than you, so why stress over talking to someone who also has worries and issues of their own?
- Write down, or, type in big, bold letters the word you are struggling with. For example, if you are struggling with letters such as “M” or “B”, write down words that you normally use with those letters and keep them in front of your computer or someone visible when you answer your phone. I’ve come to learn and realize if I physically see the word in front of me I can prepare myself and therefore decrease the risk of stuttering the word. No one will notice and eventually you won’t need that visual. I graduated from not needing to see the word “new” on my desk.
- Like before, mentally visualize the word. Are you starting to see the trend here how visuals come a long way? This is probably my favorite way to overcome a speech impediment at the office. Picture the word(s) on a chalkboard or even a big old fluffy cloud.
- See a Speech Therapist! I say this highly because you’ll be surprised with the help they can do for you. A lot of people don’t like seeing professionals for help because they refuse to knowledge to the public that they have a speech impediment. However, this is an a problem and a therapist will help you see that.
- Get a good nights sleep. The more sleep you get, the less stressed and jittery you will be.
No matter what industry you work in, you’ll find yourself overcoming some sort of fear. Police Officers and Firefighters do it every single day. Yes, that’s a different (much more extreme) type of fear than what I experience, but it’s something that I try my hardest to overcome every time I punch the clock.
Even if my stuttering never 100% goes away, giving up and giving into the embarrassment will only lead to worse situations. When it’s all said and done, believe in yourself and nothing else. Understand you are in control of how your day plays out…If you allow yourself to do so.