Search Results for: advertising

Advertising at the new job

I started a new job this week. it’s been a very long time coming. When I moved back from Saudi, I was hoping to get on the East Coast. It didn’t work out that way, and that was fine. I landed at one of my company’s office in the Midwest — where I had worked before. But I would apply for jobs back home as I saw them online. It would go in spurts. Some weeks I’d apply to a dozen, some months it was barely one or two. I did manage to get a few phone screens — HR people — and then to the next level and the hiring manager. For the longest time I didn’t advertise my stutter. I had this idea in my mind that they’d view it negatively, and this particular job (of the week) was my best shot, so let’s not add any more elements to it.

I would stutter somewhat during calls, but nothing too bad. I’ve done so many interviews and have told the same bits of experience, that it just comes off easily now. I’d maybe stutter on having to think about something out of the blue or a small line in my resume that I’d forgotten about. But still. No advertising.

I don’t know if I didn’t get jobs based solely on my experience or on their needs at the time. I don’t know if the stuttering that I did do had a negative impact. I was trying to convince myself it wasn’t.

In the fall I got an e-mail from an HR person asking about a call. I’d applied to the job a month earlier.

A close friend of mine had been encouraging me to advertise, and I thought, well, ok. Let’s do it. The decision was easier than the execution. I’ve had previous calls where I was like, ok, I’m going to advertise, this will be fine. But then the conversation got going, and the opportunity never presented itself. This time would be different. No matter what the opening question or two would be, I’d get it in there.

So I did.

I didn’t die. The interviewer simply acknowledged it and moved on to the questions. Excellent.

I made it to the next round to speak with the hiring manager (my current boss). I advertised again, and he thanked me for it. Whoa.

After a few weeks I had a chance to interview at the plant. I advertised to three people at the same time. No big deal. I had another in-person at the corporate offices. Advertised again. Still going well!

After a few weeks, I got the call that I got the job.

The other day I went to a meeting that I didn’t have to. I just wanted to try to meet more plant folks since I’d be supporting them. There were eight of them in the room, and they were talking about some activities for the upcoming weekend. Near the end of the meeting, the leader went around the room to find out if anybody had any issues. When he got to me, he said, he’s new. I took the chance to introduce myself. And tell eight people that I’m a person who stutters.

The more I did it over the past few weeks, the easier it got. And the better I felt. The weight was off. I could just speak freely, fluent, stuttering, whatever was in between.

I still have to introduce myself to two more plants in the area and countless other people. But I’ll be telling them all that I stutter.

The other side of advertising your stutter

The way that advertising your stutter is supposed to work is that you’re put more at ease. You don’t have to hide, you don’t have to avoid words, you don’t have to feel embarrassed — it’s all out there. And that’s great. That can work.

But there’s another side to advertising — the other person. Or the other people.

Imagine you’re someone who’s covert. You work at a larger company. There’s an all-hands meeting. A new regional manager is coming to talk to everybody about what’s going on, what changes are going to be made, and how everybody is affected.

And the first thing he says is that, well, “I might take a little longer to get my message across because I stutter.”

Then he dives into his spiel, a confident, fluent statement here, a few stutters there, and then by the time it’s over, everybody goes back to their desks. Your desk mate dismisses it all with, “Sounds like our department is fine. I dunno about those other guys though. Well, whatever, at least we got donuts.”

No mention of the stuttering, just another person coming in, talking, stuttering, getting the message across.

And yet, here you are, covert stutterer. If they can do it, why can’t you? That person stood against their fears and delivered a message to a room full of people. Maybe they’ve been doing it for years, but they’re still up there, still trying.

Something like this never happened to me. I don’t know what I would make of it. I’d like to think that if it did, I’d want to reach out to them and ask them about their stuttering.

But also, as I move up slowly at my own company, it makes me wonder about my own next public speech. About my next opportunity to advertise in front of strangers. Who knows, maybe I’ll shake something loose with someone who’s covert.

Advertising, optimism and stuttering

There are going to be posts on this blog that are inspired from pretty solid places (articles, research, other blogs, tweets) and then stuff that’s a little more … out there.

This is going to be one of those posts.

As you can probably guess by now, I think about my stutter a lot. So sometimes I might think of an angle and wonder what’s really going on with it, or if it’s remotely related.

I think in general most people would agree that Americans are optimistic. There’s this ideal of the American Dream. The idea of working hard and getting ahead. That things will get better, the economy will grow, people will find jobs.

I was thinking more and more about advertising my stutter. And why I don’t do it. Why a lot of people who might be covert stutterers don’t do it.

Optimism?

Why not? I’m about to engage in a conversation. I’m thinking that I won’t stutter. I can dance around it. I can use some tricks, I can use other words, I can just stay silent and pay attention. I can follow up with an e-mail or a text later.

It’s also tied to the (sometimes) positive feedback loop of being covert. I mean, if it’s been working 90% of the time, why not this time?

If I advertise before I talk (my flawed thinking goes) I’m already admitting defeat. That’s such a pessimistic view! Give it a go! You need to try first, and then crash and burn. Not say that the crashing and burning is inevitable.

Like I said, this is flawed. Why not advertise? Why not inform and educate the other person? It’s not your fault anyway. You have a message that needs to get across.

I’m curious if people in other countries/cultures might feel the same way. Are you from a family of generally pessimistic people? Is it a cultural norm to assume or expect the worse?

Advertising your Stuttering

Since stuttering got a lot of attention over the past few days thanks to International Stuttering Awareness Day, I thought I’d talk about … advertising.

Advertising your stutter, of course. When I went to the NSA Conference, this came up a lot. That we should advertise our stutter to listeners before we get rolling. It’ll take the edge off. It’ll inform them. It’ll make us more comfortable and maybe we’ll stutter less.

I’ve never advertised. I was really trying hard to think back and … no. I never prefaced a single conversation with this. That’s of course thanks to being covert for such a long time. However, now that I’m out about it a little more, I’m still not sure if advertising is something I’ll do. And why not? Well, easy — I know I’ll stutter on the word “stutter.” Yep. Fear of stuttering … when advertising … stuttering. I know it’s maybe the point — if a listener hears you stutter on “stutter,” then they might make the connection rather quickly. Right?

So how do people do this? When is it really worth it? I don’t remember hearing too many examples (if at all) during the conference of how people do this. Isn’t the question or conversation that you would like to ask/have going to be your basis for advertising? That is, if you have a quick question, are you going to preface it with a long, stuttering introduction of yourself?

(Stuttering) “Hi, I wanted to let you know that I stutter. But I don’t want it stop me from talking to people. Do you mind if I ask you for directions?”
Them: Yeah, sure.
(Stuttering) “Ok, well, can you please let me know where the Starbucks is around here? I’m supposed to meeting a friend.”
Them: It’s the next store over.
Me, not stuttering: Oh.

And with people at work, isn’t there a window of opportunity for this? I mean, if you don’t do it your first few days there, can you really pull it off two years later?

My inclination would be to advertise after I’m having a hard time speaking, not before. Like, I’d be in a work meeting with some new people and during the presentation, I’d have a really bad stutter. Then, what, make some off-handed remark about how I stutter and “sometimes it’s a little bad. But we’ll get through this.”

When I’ve been meeting people here in the Kingdom, I certainly haven’t told them that I stutter. My thinking is that they’re adults, and they’ll figure it out. And they won’t judge. None of them have. Am I just lucky with the people around me? Is my stutter not that bad anyway after I get my introduction out (or try to get it out?)

I’m just not sure about this advertising because of my recent decision to try to … say what I want more. I stutter more, yes, but I’m saying what I want. And just carrying on. And forcing people to sit and listen. The stuttering is advertising itself, right?

I think one of the shortcomings of just stuttering on through is that my listeners are still uneducated. I still get the occasional person trying to finish my words, people talking over me because they think I’m done … but then again, maybe some of this is just my own perception of things.

Anyway, sorry for the somewhat rambling post. I think the point of all this is that I’m not sure how to advertise, and I need to connect with people who are good at doing this. Either online over the next few months, or try to make a point of it during the NSA Conference next year in Chicago.

If you advertise your stutter regularly to listeners, I’d love to hear in the comments how you do it. If you can give actual conversational examples, that’d be awesome!

Howdy, neighbor

Still at home, working away. These days I’d say I spend the majority of the working day on phone calls. That’s right, the guy who used to hate the phone now is on it for nearly 7 hours a day.

Ok, not exactly the phone, but Webex. You get it. Sometimes I turn the video on, sometimes not. Sometimes I have run the meeting, sometimes I just listen in. Including this week, my average weekly meeting total is about 32. That’s a lot of listening and talking.

I’m doing pretty well with it all, I’d say. There are so many familiar faces and voices, so I feel comfortable speaking up whenever I need to.

Early on during COVID I did have to set up some get-to-know meetings when I was given more plants to cover for engineering. I had three of these, and I advertised during all three of them. Within the first two minutes I told them that I was someone who stutters. None of them had any issues with it, and they all thanked me for letting them know. Those kinds of wins have been helping me greatly on the phone as well.

Yesterday I was outside on my driveway faffing about with my cargo bike and saw my neighbor. We’d not met formally yet. He was looking at the bike from afar and then came closer. We started up a chat, and before too long I was also telling him (and his wife who also was outside) that I stuttered.

Advertising is definitely one of those huge barriers that seems insurmountable at first. But the more you do it, the more you want to do it. The better it makes you feel in the moment, and the better it makes your speech and stress as the conversation goes on.

Once the restrictions are lifted, I know I’ll have to travel more to visit my new plants. I am definitely looking forward to practicing even more advertising then. Stay tuned.

Stuttering and COVID-19

Just a few weeks ago I was writing about attending a trade show and what that felt like. Don’t worry, I’ll finish up that short series this month. But first, of course, the pandemic. I count myself very lucky to be working in the food industry at this time. We’ve been tasked with producing as much as possible for the next few months, so there’s plenty to keep me busy. And as a corporate engineer, I’m able to work from home. I’m on calls pretty much all day with some breaks — enough to go for a walk or check in on the kids. The kids will start online school next week, so that’ll give them something to focus on for a few hours a day.

What I wanted to address today is how being someone who stutters is helping me deal with the pandemic mentally. None of these three reasons is earth-shattering or new — you can find them on memes or motivational posters or whatever. But I wanted to tie my experiences to each of them.

I will certainly say that it’s taken me years to get to this point. I had to do a lot of work and go through a lot of pain and heartache. It’s still not easy every day, but it’s certainly better than it was five or ten years ago.

1. I can only control so much in my life. For everything else, I must accept what happens

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve stuttered. This will never change, and that’s something I’ve come to accept. There are some days that are a lot better than others, and that randomness is part of the angst of stuttering. I have no idea what the day will hold for me when I wake up. There are some things I can control — my breathing (using my techniques) and techniques like advertising to get the attention focused on my message versus my delivery.

With Covid, I can control my comings and goings, who I go to see (nobody) and wearing a mask if I have to go in public. I can make a grocery list and hurry through the grocery store, making sure to socially distance myself from everybody. I’ve come to accept that this will go on for months. I can’t control that or what others do. I have to focus on doing my part and maintaining control for myself and my children.

In many ways this ties into the item below:

2. My response to stress is up to me

When I’m stressed out and having to speak, it’s always a disaster. This used to happen if I was upset and yelling. Or if I had to give answers on the spot about something I wasn’t prepared for. If I had a lot to do in a short period of time at work and was asked about other things. I’ve learned in these instances that I’m stressed not because of a singular event, but because I’m carrying the burden of several things. And this additional stress has put me over the edge. After many years I realized what I was doing and learned to compartmentalize my stresses. Then dealing with a smaller stress became easier because I could use familiar tools — take a long pause and try to slow my breathing. Calm myself down. Think clearly, and prepare just a few words.

In dealing with Covid, it’s an ongoing stress that wasn’t there even a month ago. It permeates everything — tv, work, friends, family. The uncertainty of it means that everybody is always on edge. It’s hard to prepare and plan for anything because the news changes every 12 hours. Some news is inherently more stressful than others — and not only does the pandemic create stress, but there’s the daily stresses of work and family to pile on as well.

Occasionally I feel the stress of Covid on top of family, friends and work will go past my breaking point. I want to get upset, I want to rant on about how terrible everything is. But I’ve learned that that response won’t do anything for me. So I slow down and focus on just one stress at a time. When I do that, I calm down a lot faster. I don’t “stack” stresses up. If Covid has got me upset and my kid forgets to put away the dishes, I won’t lash out.

3. Focus on the positives, and don’t dwell on the negatives

Stuttering is inherently filled with perceived negatives. Not being fluent. Getting flummoxed. Not wanting to say anything at all. Not being able to make a joke fast enough. Not getting through on the phone. Every day, every hour, you can find something negative about stuttering. Rarely do we focus on the positives. Over the past few years, I’ve been trying to change that.

The news these days is mostly negative as well. How fast the pandemic is traveling, how many are infected, what more is to come, and how long we must stay isolated to get ahead of the virus. It can be hard to even think of something positive, but I know that by doing so I can get through the days, weeks and months ahead. I think about how fortunate I am to still have my job and something to do all day to keep me occupied. I think about lunchtime walks and being able to get some exercise and sun. I think about the tools we do have to connect with one another — texting, calling, e-mailing — that make it more bearable. I think about being able to spend more time with the kids — seeing them between conference calls and having more meals with them.

I know that Covid won’t go away for many months, but I’m also counting myself fortunate that I’ll be able to blog more and talk about all the conference calls I have to do and the ways I’m getting through them.

 

 

 

Two years at the new job

Wow. It’s been two years since I started this new job. It’s not new anymore!

Compared to the last company I was with for about 13 years, I’ve advertised to more people in a shorter amount of time. I’ll call that significant progress. I’ve also been less and less stressed about speaking on the phone. Cold calls, answering, calling quickly to people I know for information, all of that.

Just the other day I had to make two cold calls basically back to back to get some information from a vendor. One of them was there, the other I left a message for. I used my tools — thinking about what I wanted to say first, then taking a deep breath and speaking at the pace I wanted — not the one dictated by the other person. In both instances it worked out very well.

In addition to paying attention to breathing, another tactic I’ve used a lot is to just … get it over with. Don’t overthink it. Don’t give the Negativity any time to seep in there and start causing doubt. That doesn’t do anybody any good. This of course takes a lot more practice. You can start with “easier” calls that aren’t mission critical to your home life or job.

The beauty of doing a few good phone calls is that you can remember them — and start forgetting about all the misery you’ve had previously on the phone. The last few thoughts of calls will be of communication and expedient resolution. So why not keep picking that option?

Slowly updating

Along with a renewed vigor for posting to the site, I’m working through all the static pages and updating them. Today I refreshed the About page. It had been three years! I’m not 37 anymore …

I also updated the e-mail address at the bottom of the About page, but you can also always just comment on any post as well.

Also, at the end of this month, I’ll have been at my new job for two years. Hard to believe that I was just sitting in on several interviews. It’s the first job where I advertised from the start — screening phone call, hiring manager, plant folks on site, and then when I got the job, introducing myself to all the other managers.

I would definitely say it’s made life a lot easier. There have been some new folks at the plant and elsewhere, but the advertising to them has been very straightforward as well. My stress is reduced — when I do stumble on words, I don’t even think about the stutter. I just think, ok, let me regroup and get some words together. I also don’t swap out words — ok, maybe once in a while. Can’t lie. Sometimes I just don’t want to stop the speech!

I think that since the stuttering isn’t at the front of my everyday speech anymore, I’ve let the blog slide. But going through twitter and reading updates on Facebook groups, I realize there are still thousands of people out there who stutter who are on the same journey.

Stuttering Awareness Day

Today, October 22nd, is Stuttering Awareness Day. I’ll admit … I’ve not done anything for it. Other than update this blog, I suppose. My speech as of late has been off an on. I’ve been experimenting slightly with my diet. I have found that the cleaner I eat, the marginally better my speech is. I need to string together a few more weeks of that.

I did have a chance to speak with a speech therapist the other day. She’s the mother of two boys who are good friends with our youngest son. We were all at the park together. I struck up the conversation, saying that I heard that she’s a speech therapist. And then said something I rarely say, “Well, I’m someone who stutters…”

It’s funny because part of me probably doesn’t advertise because I stutter on … the word stutter. And usually before that my speech is good when I’m just making some small talk. And in some ways I feel like stuttering on stutter would kill the conversation. I’ve never thought of what happens after that, really. Do we all stare awkwardly at each other?

What’s interesting about being someone who stutters — and I bet we all do this — is that I can recall every conversation I’ve had with a “stranger” for the past few days. Not family and friends, but random exchanges. I can spend a lot of time overanalyzing them, too. Like at my oldest son’s baseball game yesterday, speaking with one of the parents. Like at the camera shop asking about a piece of equipment. The simple stuff in the elevator.

I’m sure that every year I say I’ll get better at advertising. Or talking about stuttering with strangers. I think these days I’m better about engaging with strangers, yes. Educating about stuttering? Probably not. On the bright side, with every conversation comes that chance, so hopefully in the next 12 months I’ll have more of those stories.

Online Stuttering Conference

International Stuttering Awareness Day Online Conference, 2016 has kicked off. Usually what I do for this is say that I’m going to read and comment and articles and then … don’t. This year will be different! And to get things started, I’ll start at the top of the articles list:

The first article is
Detained But Not Held Back (Kylah Simmons)

I worked overseas for more than five years, and I can honestly say that going through customs and immigration was stressful every single time. I wasn’t doing anything dishonest or shady, but I always thought, well, if I start stuttering, they’re going to suspect something is up, and it’s going to be a very long airport stay. And unfortunately, this is what happened to Kylah.

I have been notoriously bad at advertising, so I have never told an immigration official up front. But I’d like to think if things started going downhill, I’d come forth quite quickly.

What adds to the stress is that line. It’s like when you’re in sixth grade and they’re going around the room, each kid has a spelling word from the list. So they have to say it, spell it out, and then use it in a sentence. And you count the kids, and you count the words, and you’re like … yeah, I’m going to stutter on that.

So you’re standing there in the long immigration line, and there’s a few officers up there. And you look them all over, trying to figure out who looks the nicest. And then start hoping you get “that one.” And then realizing how ridiculous that is. And then focus on other things like, ok, let me start trying to calm myself down. Let me breathe. Let me get my story straight (it’s short and easy). And then trying to remember what they asked last time but then forgetting and then having the stress take another spike.

I try to get back to calm when I approach the officer thought. A strong “hi,” or “hello.” Eye contact. Relaxing my shoulders. Patience. Having my passport ready to hand out quickly. Breathing. Trying to appreciate the space behind me — there’s nobody breathing down my neck waiting to go next. Answering the question to the point. Taking a breath and answering the question. No looking around or fidgeting.

I had an officer in London ask me how long I’d be in the country. I said 6 hours. He asked why. I said I had an 8-hour layover and that his city is beautiful, so I wanted to go see it. He laughed and said, “yeah, I’d do the same thing.”

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.

Not nervous at all

This will the first part of a story regarding a recent presentation at work. The presentation wasn’t that big — we were put into groups of 4, given 2 days, and had to present on the third to about 40 people. We only were given 45 total minutes, half of which we were supposed to speak. (the rest for discussion) So … 24 minutes of speaking, 4 speakers (well, five in my group) so five minutes a piece. Take out some transition time, maybe a single question here and there, and it’s really 3-4 minutes of talking.

Anyway, the morning of our presentation, I was chatting with our team leader. He said he was nervous. One of the people on the “panel” made him a bit nervous all the time.

I think most people who stutter have had this happen to them — a fluent person tell them about being nervous publicly speaking. And you look at them like, are you serious? You’re nervous?

But that’s the easy thing to do. Get pissed off. I just sort of dismissed it but saw it instead as an opportunity. I haven’t been advertising much at all lately. So I said, “oh, well, I’m not nervous at all. But I do stutter, so that just makes it a little harder to talk.”

And it was true. I really don’t get nervous about public speaking in a “getting up in front of others” sense. That doesn’t bother me at all. I’ve done it before. It’s the opening my mouth and betrayal that annoy me more than anything.

The other thing for this particular presentation was that I’d be speaking in front of all my colleagues — who I probably talk to at least once a week or more. So I was feeling fairly comfortable.

Tomorrow — just how did things actually turn out?

 

The Stuttering Professional

The second workshop that I attended was on The Stuttering Professional. It was put on by Wes Williams, who I had met at last year’s conference. As someone who works in a professional office, I was very interested in what Wes had to say. My own experience has actually been pretty good. The people in my office don’t care that I stutter (at least nobody has called me out on it saying it’s affecting my work). Nor do they mock me or try to finish my words (well, not too much anyway).

Wes handed out some exercises for us:

Share a difficult time you’ve had in the workplace. One where you’ve overcome your reluctance to speak and one where you didn’t, but wish you would have.

For me, I have a lot of both (now). For a long time it was more the latter than former. When that was the case, I’d follow up with a one-on-one talk with meeting participants to express my concerns or an e-mail to the group listing out concerns that I “thought of after the meeting.” In reality I was scribbling down copious ideas in my notebook during the meeting.

Wes also had us consider interviews and two out of three questions:

Tell me about your responsibilities in your current role
What are two situations where you’ve overcome adversity at work
Describe the most frustrating part of your job

Lastly, he laid out strategies that could be considered at work, the first set specifically for interviews.

Under disclaimers, we should point out the elephant in the room early on. Yes, we stutter, no, there’s nothing I can do about it. We can then thank them in advance for their patience. And lastly, set some guidelines. Politely tell them that if we have a block to let us finish.

Under the Delivery, Wes suggested we use the following strategies during a discussion or presentation. Don’t break eye contact — they can still see you. Avoid avoidance and say what you want to say, not just what you think you can get out. Lastly, power through. If you don’t take your time, your time will take you.

This last point was very interesting. Basically it means that we will be consumed by how long we perceive something to be taking. The more we think about how long it’s taking, the more anxious we may feel. And that will cycle and cause us to stutter more.

The first few strategies are basically ways of advertising. I’ll admit I’m not as good at them as I could be. It’s also because I’ve been in the same office with the same people for several months.

The next set is something I can work on every day. I notice that I definitely break eye contact when I’m speaking to people, and especially when I’m stuttering. I also sometimes rush through things when I could stop, breath, think, and then speak.

I really liked this workshop because Wes offered very practical advice for anybody in an office who’s facing countless interactions every day.

Listening to my Stutter

What would make all the feelings go away — fear, loathing, shame, embarrassment — if the stuttering never goes away? A perfect listener? What would I want?

The important thing to remember is that it’d have to be a blanket deal. I mean, everybody at once would have to do this, and I’d have to know that everybody is on board. So what would I want?

Patience. Don’t finish my sentence, no matter who you are. Don’t look at the person standing in line behind me. Don’t look away like I don’t know what I’m talking about. Don’t start on some weirdo-smile and try to stifle laughter. Don’t sigh heavily and look down at the ground.

Like I said yesterday, I know, deep down, that this isn’t “special treatment.” Because it’s how I treat everybody who I talk with. So I’d just want the same thing.

If I know that people are never going to react negatively to my stutter, then I create a positive feedback loop. The stuttering happens, I don’t feel bad, they don’t say anything, and I get my message across. That will give me the comfort and confidence to engage people in the future on speaking occasions.

Will we ever spend interaction after interaction with our perfect listener? Nope. If you can string two in a row, that’s quite an achievement. So we’re left with educating. Advertising. Sending links.

A few months ago the ice bucket challenge was going around. It was to raise awareness for ALS. Did you know anything about ALS before the ice bucket challenge? I didn’t know a thing. A cycling buddy explained it all to me on a ride during the height of the challenge. Do we need to do something similar with stuttering? Maybe. Maybe not. The King’s Speech certainly helped when it came out, but we have to keep on reminding people. Because we have to keep on talking. Every day.

Even though the world won’t wake up tomorrow and become perfect listeners, we can work toward surrounding ourselves with them. We can slowly make inroads to our family, friends, and coworkers. Our instances of embarrassment and fear will lessen. We can come out more if we’ve been covert. We can brush off a stumble here and there.

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.

By the way, I stutter

A few days ago I had an all-day off site workshop with three other people. Two Americans, and one Saudi.

I mostly listened while they talked through a project we’re working on. I added a few comments here and there, stuttered, pushed through, and I said what I wanted to say. I didn’t think too much of the stuttering since things were pretty informal, and the guys were all very casual and open about things.

At the end of the day, one of the American guys, who had been calling me ‘ray-han’ asked me if it was ‘ray-han or ‘re-han.’

I should probably explain something now that I’ve not talked about yet.

I’ll discuss this in detail more, but my name is an Arabic word. It means something like “sweet smelling flower” or “nice fragrance.” The way that I grew up saying it in America is “ree-han.” With a long e. But the Arabic pronunciation is different. It’s a “ray” instead.

Amazingly, I can introduce myself most of the time with the Arabic pronunciation. And since I’m here, people are used to the pronunciation. However, it’s not a sound that a Western tongue is used to.

Hence, my colleague asked me about it.

I told him that here in Saudi, I pronounce it differently. And because I stutter, it’s hard for me to say it the way I grew up saying it. He said, “wait, because you stutter, you can’t say your own name?” I said yeah, most people who stutter can’t. But for whatever reason I can say it a different way.

But of course there were some other distractions going on at this point – the other getting packed up, a phone call coming in, etc., so I didn’t have time to explain it all at book-length. You all know how this is – you find a warm welcome to explain things, and suddenly the door closes, and you think, well, that’s done yet, I won’t get another chance without being awkward about it. And I suppose they know enough, and it’s not making a big difference to what I need to work on … so … I’ll be happy with the small victory.

I’m pretty sure that advertising your stutter is supposed to be a “pre-“ activity and not a “post-“ one. But I’ll take it.

Stuttering life changes

I just wanted to let everybody know that I’m going to do my best to post over the next few weeks. There are some major changes happening in my life right now — moving and taking on a new job (with the same company, though). So I’ve been busy getting those things sorted out as much as possible. I’ll also be doing a bit of travel as well.

Since I stutter and this is my life, yes, there is a stuttering aspect to all of this. But I’ll get to all that once the move is over and I’ve been in the new role for a few weeks.

What I can say is that based on some “lessons learned,” the first few weeks are going to be fraught with some fear and uncertainty. Meeting new people, learning a new process, and navigating a new city will all take me out of my comfort zone. But now I know to be patient and let time build up my confidence. I should expect that my speech is a little shaky for a while. That’s ok. I can also strongly consider advertising to some of the new people I meet to further take off the edge.

I’m telling you that you can’t do that job.

I talked the other day about jobs and stuttering. Let me go through it again, but in more detail. I’ll start with the first point today and do the others tomorrow.

What I said was that there are going to be people who will hate on your future job dreams.

So basically, here is what they’re telling you:

1. They know every single verbal interaction you will have.
2. They know that you will fail at every single one of those interactions.
3. They know every single person who has that job that you want, across the country, and around the world.
4. All those people who they know do the exact same thing in the exact same way, and you won’t be able to do that.

So again, seriously? You’re going to buy that?

You’re going to believe that an engineer working at an auto factory has the same verbal demands as an engineer working on a job site in Texas? That an IT professional at a small company is doing the same things as someone at a Fortune 500 company? Just because you’ve spent 12 years in school observing your teachers, doesn’t mean that’s the only way to teach. Every coach isn’t always yelling and explaining. Managers don’t always have to give presentations. Every lawyer isn’t arguing in court.

Nobody’s an expert on every single job in the country. Nobody knows that much about what your daily demands are going to be. So don’t let anybody tell you that they do. You have to find out for yourself. You have to reach out and do some research.

And what if you do some research and find out that the verbal demands are really tough? Well, then you have to prepare yourself. You have to do the work. How badly do you want it? If you’ve prepared yourself academically (and possibly physically) why not verbally? Do the best you can at it, and if you have to do some advertising and get help early in the job, so be it. But build up your confidence. Build up your network. Make people comfortable with your stuttering.

Remember that those haters are like the voice in your head. Every day, you have a verbal interaction. And every time, you say to yourself, I can’t do this. I will avoid doing this. I don’t have to do this. The little person in your head — the hater — he wins. But what happens when you do talk, and you do stutter, and you do succeed? You’ve proven to yourself you can win and shown the hater that he’s wrong.

Not Stuttering … now what?!

So I picked up my new bike the other day here in the Kingdom. It’s a Canyon — I ordered it online, and ten days later it showed up. I know the right thing to do is to go to a bike shop and give them my business — but we don’t have them here in the Kingdom. And besides, after the bike fitting, I found out that the Canyons would be a really good fit.

Anyway, the way things work here in Kingdom is that if you have a package going to UPS (or FedEx or DHL) — at least in our small town — you have to go to the carrier’s office to pick it up. They have daytime hours only. Sometimes on weekends. And if you’re tracking your package online, it may or may not say exactly where it is. For instance, it said mine was still in Jeddah — and we’re three hours from there.

So I got to the UPS office in the morning after getting a call from them (that’s the other thing — you have to put your phone number on the shipping address) and there wasn’t anybody there except for the UPS employee. I saw my bike — they just leave the packages out and about.

I went up to the guy and said my name using the more Arabic pronunciation — which I don’t stutter on as much. He said, “yeah, I know.” Ooookay. I guess he either recognized my voice or …? I’m here to pick up my bike. Yeah, ok, there’s a customs fee. I paid the fee and complimented him on how perfect his English was. He said he had lived in the States for more than a decade … and …

…And what was beginning to happen? I told him I grew up in Pennsylvania, had been in Saudi for about four years. I wasn’t stuttering. I was comfortable. There wasn’t anybody else in the office breathing down my neck. I was happy my bike had made it. I was making successful small talk! What should I do? How friendly am I supposed to be? Should I take advantage of these non-stuttering moments? I didn’t want it to be awkward. He didn’t need to know my life story. But I felt I could tell it all right then and there!

Stuff like this happens to me once in a while. But I usually catch myself pretty quickly. You’re talking pretty fast … you’re talking a lot … they’re not looking as interested … move along …

Does this ever happen to anybody else? You just kind of zone out for a few moments and everything is right with the world again? Do you find yourself happily babbling away?

I guess this is what keeps me from advertising. These moments of fluency happen, and I think, well, see, I didn’t advertise, and everything is just fine.

Stuttering with the Doctor

One of the things I’d like to do with this blog is to educate fluent people what specific interactions are like for those of us who stutter. I’ve outlined a few of these already when I talk about what I’ve been stuttering on. So here’s another one — related to the doctor’s office.

I read this article regarding doctors and the current state of health care here in the US. I just want to focus on the bits relevant to stuttering.

I think most of us know that a visit to the doctor’s office is full of a lot of waiting punctuated by a quick conversation with the doctor. I’m not even sure you can call it a conversation at times. More like an interrogation, a pause, and then a diagnosis followed up quickly by a good bye and then wondering how to get through the maze of offices back out to the reception area.

The demoralized insiders-turned-authors are blunt about their daily reality. The biggest problem is time: the system ensures that doctors don’t have enough of it. To rein in costs, insurance companies have set fees lower and lower. And because doctors tend to get reimbursed at higher rates when they are in a network (hospitals and large physician groups have more leverage with insurance companies), many work for groups that require them to cram in a set number of patients a day. Hence the eight-minute appointments we’re all familiar with.

Ah yes, the quick appointments. They are intimidating to me as well. I feel like if I start asking the doctor about some other types of medications, other problems I’m having or whatever-else, it’s wasting their time. So I don’t. I also give quick, short answers because I don’t want to stutter. I think in some cases it’s all on the doctor how I’m going to talk … or not. They can easily come off as being rushed, being more important, or being distracted. All of this adds up to a less-than-optimal visit.

I guess my problem is that because of technology, I don’t see the point (and thus justify) in asking the doctor a lot of questions about whatever ailment I have. I can just go home and look it up.

So what can I do? I want to be able to talk, to engage. To get my eight minutes’ worth!

Here’s what I’m thinking. What about advertising my stutter to the nurse who takes my vitals and asks me what’s wrong in the first place? They might put it on the chart for the doctor to read. I’m usually more relaxed for the nurse anyway — more time, less tension … they wear bright happy, colors. I don’t know. It’s just easier to talk to them.

Yes, I could certainly just advertise to the doctor anyway, but that might not go well considering the aforementionned intimidation and perceived time constraints. At least this way if the doctor reads it, he might even ask about it. Or understand that it’s hard for me to talk — so no, I don’t need pills for anxiety or anything like that.

Maybe what else I can do is prepare a short list of questions so I don’t forget to ask something.

This of course is all for back home in the States. Here in Saudi it’s a whole other ball of stress because of the language. None of the doctors at our local hospita/clinic are native English speakers. And they’re not used to any kind of stuttering anyway. I’m not even sure advertising would do me any good. I also don’t have a doctor who I see all time because I go so infrequently.

Stuttering and traveling

This is going to be a sort of “what I’ve been stuttering on lately” post that focuses on my recent trip to England. The thing about my trip is that other than the thought of stuttering with the bike fitter, I wasn’t sure what else to worry about. I didn’t spend any time getting worked up or worried. That’s how my stuttering usually goes — the fear and worry only manifests itself minutes before the event. Unless of course there’s a meeting that I’ve known about.

That being said, here we go —

I flew from Saudi to Istanbul to Manchester. So in Istanbul, I stopped at the Starbucks. I didn’t have to, but I wanted to. (We don’t have one in our small town in Saudi — so it’s a treat). As I was standing in line, I was slowly starting to sweat over my impending stuttering. I knew I would. The distance between me and the person behind the counter was pretty great, there were people in front of me in line, there were a lot of people in the airport in general, it was noisy … but nobody behind me … well, for a few minutes anyway. I did stutter on “mocha” as I usually do. Also, I’d rather not have cream which always end up as, “oh, and no … cr-….” Cream? Yeah. “cream.” There’s a certain point when you’re standing in line and freaking out that you think, you know what, I actually could just walk away…

Getting into Manchester, I was a little nervous at the passport control. She asked where I had flown in from, and I dragged out the sssss for Saudi Arabia. Then some mundane stuff — what do you, how long will you be here. She saw that I was from the States, so asked where. I replied with a smile, “Pennsylvania.” She seemed happy with that and made a comment about how nice it was. It left a positive taste in my mouth at least.

Right after that, I was walking out — no checked bags — and a customs person asked where I had flown in from. I told him Ssssaudi as well. He said, “through …?” Oh, Istanbul. “Ok, you’re fine then.” And off I went.

During the few days I was there, my buddy would usually do the food ordering. He didn’t do this because he was considering my stuttering — he did this because that’s just how he is. He’s got three kids, so he goes around, gets their orders, considers it as the whole, then figures out what’ll work out best. So I just add in my needs. For the drinks though, I was usually on my own. I had some relative success saying “diet coke” for the four days.

When I checked into the bicycle fit, I didn’t actually tell them my name. Just that I had a 1 p.m. appointment for a fitting. They already knew what was up. I had considered advertising to the fitter that I stuttered, but then thought, no, there’s really no point, is there? And would I advertise to the person who checked me in — eh, no. Here, just fill out this form, have a seat there, he’ll be right with you.

Lastly from what I can remember at the moment was ordering pizza at the Istanbul airport on the way back home. Sbarro. A counter. A man behind the counter. So I just held up two fingers, and I pointed to the two types I wanted. I suppose I could have said “that one,” and “that one,” but there was really no need. He knew what I was pointing to. See, it’s things like this that make me wonder — am I justifying my silence or avoidance, or just being practical? I think it’s a fine line at times. I mean, if I didn’t stutter, wouldn’t I do it the same way? The guy in front of me basically did the same thing.

I stuttered pretty fiercely on that particular diet coke at Sbarro which was annoying because there were people standing around. Then I didn’t even check to see that he filled it up with the right stuff. It tasted a little off …

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