Upcoming site changes

I sat down yesterday and listed out all the changes and additions that I’d like to make to the site. Then realized it’s a lot of work. Then I thought how it should all be perfect — find all the links, all the articles, all the videos — and then put it on the site.

Then I remembered my French.

With stuttering and speaking a foreign language, I was always hesitant. Because I thought it all had to be perfect. Then I could utter the words. So since it’s never going to be perfect, I had a nice excuse for never using my high school French.

Then I found out that no, that’s not the case at all. You don’t have to be perfect to open your mouth. Just put it out there, and don’t be afraid.

So with this site it should be the same. Put up what I can. Don’t be afraid. I can filter and sort it out later. I can build on it more and more. Nobody is going to complain. At least I’m making the effort.

Your attention, please

One of the things about working in an office is that people are always coming and going, walking and talking. They have conversations just standing in the hall, as they walk up and down the stairs, and across desks and people.

Very often someone will be leaving our office area, and someone sitting will make a comment to them. It’s loud enough so that most others can hear it, but the person walking out (who it’s directed to) often does not. So they have to stop and ask, “what’s that?”

Since I stutter, this is pretty hard. I mean, if it’s me making the comment while sitting at my desk, it means that the words were spontaneous enough, were sufficiently given a breath of air, and sadly, are probably not going to come out like that again.

As soon as the person says, “what’s that?” then the focus is back on me. In an open room. And this person was walking out — so they’re in a hurry — and here I am holding things up.

I think what my strategy is going to be is to get their attention first. Or make sure I have it (eye contact or stand up, or … throw something at them) and then start talking. Or just avoid this type of interaction. Notice I didn’t say avoid talking. Just a certain type of conversation.

Explaining Stuttering

Alright, so as mentioned on Twitter, I need to explain stuttering to my kid. I haven’t been able to find anything online about how to talk to your kids about stuttering — if you’re the one doing the stuttering. I thought this was a pretty interesting oversight, actually.

I wonder if we educated our own children more about stuttering, then maybe they can go into school and educate their own friends. Or at least be the one to stand up for someone who stutters and say, ‘well, my dad does that, and it’s not a big deal.’

Some quick background on the kid (my kid) being interviewed: He’s 8, he goes to an American school here in Saudi (and has been in English-only schools his whole life) and is pretty typical for someone his age. Lots of television, falls off his bike once in a while, somewhat picky with eating, likes donuts, up for adventure.

He’s seen me work on this site and look up stuttering pages. But never asked me about it.

My idea was to interview and maybe educate at the same time. I wrote down a few questions and wanted to see if anybody had something else they wanted to know from this 8-year-old.

What I’ve got so far:

1. Do you know what stuttering is?
2. Do you hear me stuttering around the house?
3. Does it bother you?
4. Do you think you stutter at all (he doesn’t)
5. Does anybody in your class stutter?
6. Have you ever heard anybody on tv or in movies stutter?
7. What do you think causes stuttering?

Interestingly, I hadn’t stuttered around my kids up until about a year ago. I’m not sure what changed. When I speak to them, I had never avoided or changed things out. I still don’t, but now I’m stuttering.

When I read books to them, though, I don’t stutter at all. (this is awesome, by the way).

Let me know if you can think of anything else to ask. I’ll probably interview him by this weekend.

Dreaming of a Stutter

I’m assuming it’s because the last few days I’ve been updating this site, looking for other stuttering sites, seeing what blogs are there, and trying to think of where to take this thing that well, I had a dream about stuttering.

And I’m not happy about it.

What happened? Well, in the dream a bunch of us were in a room. It was an office-like environment. An older gentleman was making a comment, and I wanted to say something. But I knew if I said something, I’d stutter. So I didn’t. All the same feelings were there. It was in my head. It was in my throat. I could feel the tension.

Avoiding avoiding. Not exactly a dream come true. Yet.

My Kind of Stuttering

I don’t think I’ve ever really mentioned on here what kind of stuttering I do.

Here’s a handy chart that lists four of them.

I’ve almost always done prolongations and blocks. I’m not sure if I really do repetitions or not — I mean, if I’m trying to say a word, get the first syllable out and then get stuck on the second (a block), sometimes I’ll try the first syllable again. I might do this a few times.

I was just thinking … what’s worse, a prolongation or a block? Toss up, really. They both equally suck, I think. With a prolongation you just never know … when it’s going to end. And it’s the only thing you can think about. And the listener doesn’t know when it’s going to end (although who cares what they think, right? Right!). For me at least if I prolong on one specific sound during a conversation, it’ll get prolonged every single time during that same conversation. And if it’s a word I can’t avoid, it’s even more annoying.

For the blocks, they just create confusion. There’s a flow to every conversation. Until there’s not. And then there is! And then there’s complete silence for who-knows-how-long followed by a loss of eye contact, a change of subject, and a wondering of how many hours until lunch.

For the phone, (if given the choice … ha!) I’d rather have a prolongation than a block. At least then the listener knows you’re trying to queue something up. In person, I’d prefer a block because then the person can see you’re trying to say something.

The thing about insertions to me is that, well, don’t fluent people do this, too? I don’t think I use this as a stuttering/covert tool, really. I just use it to let someone know that I’m thinking. And that something is going to come out.

I think I’m going to have to pay really close attention over the next few weeks for these things and see what I’m really doing as far as insertions.

Your Stuttering Focus

If you spend enough time in corporate America, you’ll notice there are plenty of catchphrases and slogans and jargon and … whatnot. I suppose you could apply it to work, but let me try to apply a thing or two to stuttering. Today I want to “focus on the wins.”

What does that mean? Well, it’s two fold.

1. When you go into a speaking situation, you have to focus on getting the message across. You have to “win” the conversation. If you need to get some information, get it. Don’t leave anything in the gray just because you couldn’t say a single word. What will that do? You’ll have to call again. And speak again. Or you’ll be left in the lurch. This leads to …

2. When you’re reflecting on your stuttering for the day or for the week, focus on the wins only. Who cares if you didn’t get to eat what you wanted to because you didn’t want to say, “reuben?” Fine, you didn’t get what you want. Move on. Did you at least win a diet coke and get that ordered? What about when you asked where the bathroom was, or when you did call someone and ask them what their opening hours are? Wins. You’re doing good, and you’re going to get through this.

I can’t always say my name when I’m asked. Fine. I can deal with that. Push it to the side, push it to the back. What about the other 99% of the conversation that hasn’t even happened? Am I going to let the name muddy those waters? No.

Aside: I’m still playing around with the layout of the site. Was happy to see I could get some Twitter stuff on here at least. Nice. If you have any comments on it, do let me know!

Rearranging things …

Regular followers will note some changes. I thought I should make it a little easier to navigate and find older posts. I also like that I can see what’s going on with other stuttering bloggers. I updated the About and FAQs slightly. If you have anything that could be added to the FAQs, by all means, let me know. Over the next few days I’ll also be going through the Resources page and adding another page of old blogs that aren’t update any more but still have interesting content on them.

As for stuttering itself, I suppose I’d like to revisit my Thanksgiving post and what I’m thankful for. After being at a new job for just over a month, I’m thankful for working in a very professional environment with respectful people who have never mocked me for my stuttering. I’ve been in quite a few meetings with people I don’t know — in person and on the phone. And they’ve all been patient and understanding.

Consequences of Avoiding Avoiding

Was at a dinner event when I noticed that I was having a hard time avoiding and stepping around the stuttering landmines.

I’ve been avoiding avoiding more and more over the past few months. This has been a huge change for me obviously. Before, I was more quiet, would avoid speaking situations, or would substitute a lot while talking.

So at this dinner party, I was feeling like I didn’t want to stutter as much. So I fell back on my old techniques. Except they weren’t working for some reason. I couldn’t get into that usual covert flow. It was hard to substitute since I haven’t been doing it that much. I thought this was actually kind of funny. Turns out if you don’t use it, it starts to fade.

It ends up being easier to just stutter and try to say what you want than fumble around for words you can say that you can’t quite remember.

Confronting the Elevator

I talked a few days ago about stuttering in and around the elevator. I’m getting “better” at it.

I found out a few days ago that a person in my new office probably knows someone who I used to work with back in the States. Let’s call the guy here “A.” The person who I know back in the States has a name that starts with a hard K sound. First and last name!

Let’s step back and see how stuttering success could be measured:

1. If I put off speaking to someone because I’m afraid of a stutter, but then talk to them eventually, is that good?
2. If I don’t put off speaking to someone and then stutter while I speak to them, is that good?

I’d count both of them as a success, frankly. I suppose as long as in the first instance the time isn’t too long. You can’t put something off for weeks. Maybe a few days.

Anyway, I put off asking A for a few days because I didn’t feel like stuttering, I didn’t have to know that he knew this other person, and I didn’t know what kind of response he’d have anyway. Would it be awkward or something?

But he’s a really friendly guy and quite talkative.

So the other day he and I were in the elevator, and there was also someone else in there. Sometimes when I’m so afraid of speaking and know I’ll stutter, I’ll just start talking before my brain realizes what’s going on and what a bad idea this is.

That’s what I did.

I bumbled through the introduction, sort of saying what office I was in. Then started slowly pushing out the name. It wasn’t too bad, actually. He maintained eye contact and waited patiently. (A is British — I’m wondering if they’re wired slightly differently after the whole King’s Speech thing?).

Anyway, he said he did know this person, and then gave me a little information on what she is doing now and where she is. And that was that!

What I’m Stuttering on Lately

Two stories for today’s entry.

Valentine’s Day (of course). So there’s this certain kind of Pakistani breakfast food that my wife really enjoys. It’s a street-food type thing. And of course being here in Saudi, there’s a Pakistani neighborhood, complete with many shops. The only issue is that I have no idea specifically where to get this stuff, and to find out, I’d have to … talk to someone.

But I decide to suck it up. My son and I went out early in the morning before anybody else in the house was up. I had to stop at the office for a quick errand. On the way back, we dove into the neighborhood. We drove around aimlessly for a while, trying to spot a shop from the car. I had been taken to this place before, but it was at night. I had to find someone to ask. You can tell the difference between the Pakistanis and the Saudis based on their dress. So I knew who I was looking for. Finally I found a guy walking along the road. I rolled down the window and started talking. I said the name of the stuff I was looking for. I didn’t stutter on it, but my breathing was off. He gave me a sort-of blank stare. But then asked if I was speaking Arabic or Urdu or what. I said Urdu, and said the name again a few times. He got it. Then instead of giving me directions, he just hopped into the car. Ok …

He pointed here and there, and on we drove. He got us into a more specific area of the neighborhood. This is what I wanted! We let him out with a thank you. My son and I found some parking and then started walking. I wanted to find a shop that was crowded (forgetting about how I don’t like going to crowded restaurants because ordering there is even more stressful). We saw a place, and saw the stuff we wanted.

I pointed and ordered, and the guy asked me how many. I said just one. Then, right there, sitting in the same place, was the guy who helped us in the car. He stood up and told the person behind the counter to help us out and ordered exactly what we wanted. Ah, making connections.

Then I noticed some other food that I wanted, so I pointed and asked for that as well. Another person standing next to me clarified it in Urdu to the person taking the order. So even though I stuttered a little here and there, I managed to push through and get what I wanted — and get something special for my wife for Valentine’s Day.

Second story —

After getting out of the neighborhood, my son and I went over to the Starbucks for coffee. The day before I had denied him a request for hot chocolate. So today I thought I’d oblige. But of course he threw a curveball and asked for a white hot chocolate. He told me this right before walking into the store, so I had only a few seconds to freak out about trying to say “white.”

So I ordered for myself what I usually do and stuttered just a little. Then I pushed really hard and got my son’s order out. The funny thing is that often those of us who stutter end up drinking/eating things we don’t want because that’s what’s easiest to day. In this case, I was able to order exactly what my son wanted, but the guy didn’t really know how to make it. And I didn’t know what was supposed to be in it, either. He conferred with his colleague, but then still added coffee in it (don’t think you’re supposed to … still need to check on that) so I said no, no, it’s ok, no big deal. (It was early — a little caffeine for an 8-year-old can’t be that bad, right?)

In both instances I made sure that the stuttering took a back seat for the needs of others. I’m not going to deny loved ones things just because I can’t say something comfortably. I can suck it up, and I can work through it.

Stuttering and Accepting the World

Often when we talk about stuttering and acceptance, we mean acceptance of our own stuttering, our own inabilities to communicate effectively.

I want to talk about this from a different angle — accepting things — policies, laws, rules, whatever, because you stutter and can’t voice your opinion.

Well, you can voice your opinion, obviously, but you’d just rather not because you know you’ll stutter.

So what does this silence lead to?

Well, let’s just walk through a simple example. Let’s say you’ve got a small child, maybe in second grade. You’ve just moved to a new school district. You find out (through e-mails and maybe neighbors talking about it) that your elementary school is considering implementing a dress code. At the last school district, they were doing the same thing. And when they did it at the old school, they ran into various issues, all of which you are really familiar with.

(Remember, this is just an example. I think you get the point of what I’m trying to say).

So here you are, filled with plenty of reasons why something like this might not work, and your child who will feel the brunt of it. What do you do? Write a letter? Try to make a phone call? Talk to neighbors who will hopefully be more proactive? Or, if you’re someone who stutters and doesn’t want to engage just … sit back and let it happen? Then just write it off as something your kid will just have to deal with?

Let’s say you take that approach. Your default approach, really. Then what’s the next thing? They’re thinking about adding a soda machine in the cafeteria. Any objections? Passed. Now they are asking parents to buy a more expensive textbook or lab kit, or whatever?

Well, what can you do then?

I don’t have any direct experience with this (and I am a parent of school-going children) but what I’d be inclined to do is this:

1. Try to get friendly with other parents as much as possible. Hopefully before anything like this comes up.
2. Go to school board meetings just to see what they’re like. No need to talk.
3. If I know my stuttering is going to win out at a school board meeting, then drag along a parent friend.
4. I should be friendly with this person. I should be able to convince them one way or the other
5. Support them with e-mails or letters. But then let them do the talking at the school board meeting.

I know what you’re saying — you’re supposed to just stutter and carry on! Ok, I know. But I’m not sure if that’s possible until I actually go to a school board meeting (or whatever kind of public meeting). Maybe it’s really casual, and I feel comfortable speaking up. I’m not saying stuttering should win out, but that, given your limitations, it’s still possible to get important things done.

Once the first few battles are won, more and more speaking should fall onto you instead of others. Confidence is gained. You’ll gain the respect of others, and they’ll focus on the message instead of the stuttering.

Stuttering on the Elevator

Have an idea for a business? They say you should be able to distill it into a few-seconds-long “elevator pitch.” I’m sure you’ve heard this before. And I’m sure that if you stutter, you just sort of laugh at this notion. Sometimes I can’t even say the floor number I want to go to if someone is asking. That’s always a real awkward gem. Doors are closing, it’s close quarters, really quiet, the easiest question ever.

Aside — how many of you have just said, yeah, that’s it, (already pressed) instead of saying the floor number? And then you get off on that floor, and say, oh, whoops, this isn’t right. And then turn around and call the elevator again, this time hoping you’ll be the only one in there, or at least be able to get in and push the button. Or just take the stairs. Stuttering as a weight loss plan. Great.

So while I’ve been programmed to just shut my mouth on elevator rides, I am talking more now. And still stuttering more. And not caring if other people on the elevator are listening in. If I’m waiting with someone on the top floor, and we’re both going down to the ground level, chances are good that our conversation will continue all the way through. People will get on and off, and I’ll just talk on through. I’m getting better at this. Does this mean I can just blurt out something witty and spontaneous and not stutter? Heavens no. But stuttering with someone at the company who is way more senior than me doesn’t put me off as much.

I’m not sure right now if I should be trying to meet more people — and using elevator run-ins as the fuel for this. I mean, I haven’t even met everybody on my floor yet. Can I just leave it at that for now?

Lastly, (and thankfully) I usually don’t stutter at all on the floor I’m on — it’s easy for me to say, “ten.”

My Second NSA Conference

Been busy with the new job, but hey, I’m still stuttering every day, so I might as well keep on with the blog, right?

The NSA Conference is happening this year in Chicago. A few weeks ago a friend of mine (who I met last year at my first conference — also his first) texted me to remind me that the hotel was filling up fast. So I took care of that before registration even opened up. Well, it’s open now! I’ll get that taken care of today probably. I’m guessing there will be even more people this year than last.

So while I do have enthusiasm for going to the conference again, I also have some tinges of apprehension. It’s that deep-down stuttering-built-this social anxiety, I guess. For a first timer, it ends up being easier — you have a workshop where you’re forced to meet other first timers! (Well, you don’t know that it’s going to be that easy until you get there) What about second timers, though? Do we get a workshop? Can we just crash the first-timer party?

I remember some people (non-first-timers) randomly coming up to me and introducing themselves. Maybe I should try that approach? That’ll take quite a bit to just go up to someone and ambush them. But I’ve done it before! I saw there was an NSA e-mail about workshop ideas. Maybe I could come up with something and host that? I’m sure I’d meet plenty of people that way.

See, again, this is what the stuttering does — I had a great time at the first conference, I stuttered and didn’t die, I met a lot of cool people, but I’m still stressing about the next conference. I think if I had been going to meetings during this past year, it might be different. It might be easier to meet strangers who stutter. But other than the blog, I haven’t been engaged in stuttering.

I thought about this a little more, and I think I have a plan. Volunteer! I saw it on the side of the NSA registration page. This is perfect! Meet people by force! (No, seriously, I really do need to be eased into these things. Even if it is a years-long process. Also, it doesn’t help that I’m so far away.)

I honestly am not the volunteering type. This has nothing to do with me being a terrible person (no, really). I think it’s more the stuttering isn’t interested. I mean, volunteering usually means talking to strangers, and that usually involves … talking, so … no.

So I’ll start another conference adventure and let you all know how it goes.

If you want to read all my old NSA Conference posts, click here. I’ll dig through them to see if I can expand on anything for 2015.

Stuttering more at work

I haven’t been keeping formal records or anything, but I have a strong feeling that I’m stuttering a lot more at work. A lot.

Obviously it’is because of the new job, new people, new experiences. Before I’ve been living a few stories, and everybody around me already knew them, too. But now, for entertainment purposes, I have to retell some stories. And since I’ve not run through them a bunch of times, they’re all coming out pretty rough. But I’m just stuttering on through them.

I’d say I’m getting out about 75-80% of what I want to say. (As in, talking vs. keeping silent) Remember the irony here is that stuttering has taught me over the years to not say a lot. Not saying a lot does tend to help when you’re starting a new role and need to feel out what’s what. So I’m using that to my advantage. (See? Stuttering gives you some gifts).

But otherwise, there’s blocking, dragging out sounds, repeating, the whole lot. It’s in front of friends, subordinates, supervisors, their bosses, and their bosses. But nobody is giving me a hard time about it.

And here’s what that’s doing for me:

1. I’m not hiding any more (well, as much)
2. I’m not wasting energy on being covert/avoiding
3. Maybe I’m educating people (not a lot of advertising being done, though)
4. I’m saying exactly what I want to say so there’s no confusion (most of the time) over what I want
5. I’m gaining confidence and getting more comfortable with my new environs.

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