Peppered with confidence

Was just chatting with someone casually — he was doing most of the talking. But I noticed that, occasionally, for clarification, I’d have to blurt out a word here and there. Or ask a question, “who’s that?” and the like. I didn’t think about the stuttering or not, just the need for information.

Then when I realized what I was doing (and not stuttering on) I tried to blurt out a few more things here and there. I didn’t need clarification, I was just curious if I could say something without stuttering. And I thought about what I wanted to say (quickly, since it was in-line with the conversation and I was basically interrupting each time), made sure I took a breath, and then spit it out. Worked pretty well.

I know this isn’t a way to communicate, but it certainly gave me a little boost of confidence with the day overall. Speech felt smooth, confident, without any hesitation. Loud and booming at times, and more spontaneous.

It’s these things that I try to focus on — with regards to the Stuttering Happy — and build on every day.

Trying to Advertise

I’ve talked about advertising a bunch before, and it’s something I still struggle with. I get into a comfortable groove — with work, friends, family, and well, there’s no need to upset the apple cart.

So I had to take a phone call the other day — one where I’d be giving a lot of information to the listener — and I thought, ok, look, I need to advertise. I’m going to be a little nervous, probably, and well, it’s important that I don’t stutter much. I planned how to do it, even! I would say, look, before we really get into this, I want to let you know …

And what happened? Lots of talking on their end. A few quick questions with short answers from me about something we’ve been working on. (So no stuttering on my side). And then when I had to explain something, I was already feeling loose and confident, so … didn’t advertise. And I barely stuttered anyway. The phone quality wasn’t the greatest either, so maybe they thought any stutter was a lousy connection.

I think advertising must be an art. I think it probably needs a lot of practice, and a bit more confidence than I can muster on a regular basis. I’ve done it once or twice — but I know I need to get out there more, just own up to it, and blurt it out. The problem is timing, really. I mean, I’m already thinking way too hard about breathing and pacing during a conversation. Where to fit in word, phrases, a sentence here and there. And then of course there’s the fact that I almost always stutter on the word “stutter.” Maybe that helps with the advertising? I suppose so.

My own reading voice

Another thing that I noticed while reading a full-on book to my daughter is that I have a fixed reading pace that’s neither slow nor fast. One that reduces the stuttering, lets me have fun with the words, and is sustainable. I really did try a few different speeds.

Too slow, and I was thinking too much about the words. It didn’t feel natural. I could breathe a little better, but that didn’t necessarily translate to fluent speech for some reason.

Too fast, and I ran all the words together (of course). I couldn’t breathe, and my daughter didn’t like it much either. I felt too much pressure and stuttered even more.

So I ended up somewhere in the middle, maybe slightly toward the slower side only to make sure I was getting enough air. Not only did this help with being fluent while reading, but also to help reprogram me when I’m speaking to actually … breathe.

I think a lot of the time we are subconsciously hurrying our speech. It’s what we see in the media and hear from friends telling great stories. And the opposite is that we’re told to slow down (which is crap) but we quietly think, ok, let me try that (because it’s not hard to do) and of course that doesn’t work out either.

So I’m content with my own pace. I know there is one. I know I can practice it, and I can have fun with my voice going at that pace.

Oh, you’re listening?

I’ve noticed that what’s been happening at work over months and months of being here is that … people are listening. They’re not dismissive or nonchalant about chatting with me. They want to hear, they want to engage. And that’s been very encouraging. Even the ones who appear to be busy all the time — they’re taking time out to talk, to listen, and to think.

All of this is helping my stuttering out a lot. Am I still stuttering when I talk to them? Oh of course. But it’s bothering me less and less. I’m not focused on the stuttering, just on the message. Because the listener is focusing on the message.

I know this may not apply for everybody, but there are surely some people who, given enough time, will become someone who you gravitate toward.

More stuttering and more happy

I spent the last few days in and out of Bahrain (I live in Saudi) because the Formula 1 race was this weekend, and I had a really good friend come from the States. He’s an old friend, and we went around Bahrain, eating, laughing, checking out museums, walking around forts, and of course checking out the race — all four days.

I wrote about something similar just a little while ago, and the same thing happened the past few days. I stuttered. A lot. On just about every story, remark, snide comment, half-joke, full-joke, and one-word joke.

But the beauty of it all was just the comfort. I had so  much. He never said anything about the stuttering. He looked at me, maintained eye contact and listened. He waited for the punchline and laughed really hard only after I said them. That’s a friend. That’s someone who listens. That’s what you need to ignore your stutter and just keep on going.

I was feeling so good about all of this that I did something I only ever really see others do — engage a group of strangers in conversation. We were at a fort, walking around, and there were four older gentlemen (speaking English) who we ended up being around. I didn’t have to engage them or find out what’s what, (and they weren’t talking to us)  but what I wanted was the challenge. Facing the stuttering and winning.

“So, where are you guys from?”

It was a little tough to say, but I made sure to point it toward them, loudly, to make sure I didn’t have to repeat (and probably) stutter.

They were from different parts of the States and had come for the race. I told them about living and working in Saudi. We made some small talk about Bahrain and working and living in the Middle East. I did stutter a little bit on some words, but none of them said anything. They maintained eye contact and were interested. I made sure to take some breaths and slowly pour out my words. I used some partially canned stories, but was also a bit spontaneous. It felt good. I felt confident, and most importantly, my fear of engaging strangers eroded a little bit more.

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