Building things up

Getting back to one of the links from Sunday:

Wahl writes:

“Fluency in speech is something most have the luxury of taking for granted. While living with a stutter, you worry about what to order in a restaurant, how to give a presentation, or even how to say “hello” to a friend. Like an architect designing a building, a stutterer carefully crafts each word and sentence. Sometimes the result is a masterpiece, structurally sound with ornate rooms and gleaming windows. Other times it crashes to the ground.”

As someone who stutters, I definitely think a lot about what I want to say before I say it. I obsess over it. I fear it. I think, ok, do I have to introduce myself? Is that really necessary? I’m going to have to say a w-word, right? Something like who, when, where, why, what. How am I going to do that? For example, asking “where is the bathroom?” So simple, yet I’d rather walk all over the place trying to find it on my own. I go through a mock conversation in my head a few times. Ok, I’ll say this, they’ll say that, then I’ll say … no, wait, I need to say something else, I’ll stutter on that word.

Since I live and work in Saudi, most of my work interactions are with non-native English speakers. I want — really want — to keep the sentences and ideas that I say simple and to the point. But then I start avoiding words. I start going off track. I start substituting words while I’m going off track. I can see the listener getting confused. I can see how my point is getting totally muddied up. At these times, when I know I’m in too deep and the misunderstanding will cause more trouble, I go back to the original sentence and stutter it out.

Occasionally I can get away with avoiding a few words and still getting my message across. But that doesn’t work on everybody. One of my colleagues is British, and if I substitute a word or use a phrase that isn’t quite right, he’ll totally call me out on it. He doesn’t call me out on a substitution knowing that I stutter. No, we don’t talk about that — but on the specific meaning of what I said. Then I have to backtrack and explain what I mean — often having to stutter through what I wanted to say anyway.

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