2020 Goals in Detail

Last week I talked about my goals for this year. I’d like to explain them a little further, and maybe they can help motivate you to think of some goals for yourself.

Reduce body fat by 7%

To me this is about eating better, not necessarily working out a lot more. I need to start making better choices about eating food and reducing the amount of refined sugar. I also need to get more disciplined about carrying out speech experiments with regards to intake — does gluten affect my speech? Soy? (I have a soy allergy which is another post altogether). If I ate clean for a week, would I feel more calm and stutter less?

Read 6 fiction and 6 nonfiction books

I have a habit of reading too much nonfiction. When I do read fiction, I tend it whip through it in 2-3 days. This reminds me of childhood when I’d just lie on my bed for hours devouring everything that I could. In this goal will also be stuttering-related books so that I can post some thoughts/reviews on the blog.

25 blog posts

The past few years have not been the best for this blog despite the fact that I … still stutter. I was looking back at my notebooks from 2014 the other day, and on almost every page was something stuttering related. (These are notebooks that I keep for work-related scribbling). So when I launched the blog, my mind was completely filled with stuttering. It’s also when I went to my first NSA conference.

30,000 meters of rowing per month

This has more to do with daily discipline. I have a rowing machine in my bedroom. When I wake up, I should be rowing 500 meters to warm up, and then 2,000 meters as exercise. This would take less than 15 minutes altogether and get the day off to a great start. By doing 2,500, I’d only have to get on the rower three times a week.

Run a November 5k in under 30 minutes

I hate running. I’m a big guy (245 lbs) and it’s hard on … everything. But I also know it’s good for me, and I know it’s good to set goals. I originally had a November goal, but I may have to pull that up to a 10k in March. I’m trying to get some friends to come along with me. With regards to stuttering, the constant aerobic demand should do me well for breathing. And the longer-term nature of this goal will help me to stay patient and focus on the big picture.

Keep library fines to under $30 annually

This one has nothing to do with me stuttering and everything to do with me needing to stay on top of the little things around the house. There’s a metaphor in there somewhere, I think.

Reduce ten items per month from the house

I had read somewhere regarding living more simply that the items in your house weight you down to some extent. You have to see them every day, think about them, take care of them, and move them when you move. Although I’ve moved a few times and have trimmed down items each time, it always seems to creep back up. As I look around my bedroom, I can already see a few things that I just have … to have. This should help me clear my mind and thus reduce my overall stress. Surely that’ll also help with my stuttering, right?

Remaining Tournament Details

Here’s a description of the bottom half of the bracket:

Food

  1. Ordering for a noisy car full of people at the drive-thru — I hate the drive thru enough, and now we’re adding a bunch of people, talking, being indecisive, not having enough change, and probably being pushy as well. Oh, and then I have to repeat my order a few times since I can’t hear over the ruckus.
  2. Saying grace/prayer for a meal in front of family — I haven’t done this specifically, but I did have to say some religious things at a wedding once. That was not at all pleasant. It’s really quiet, there’s no hiding, and only one way to say it. Oh, and God is watching and listening, too. Although I suppose He understands …
  3. Ordering food at a bar when the bartender is busy — I know what I want, I know what I’m going to stutter on, and this guy has no time for me. He is being called by a waiter, he’s being beckoned by another patron, and he’s filling up drinks. In my mind, I have about 5 seconds to get this order across, and it’s going to take 12 minutes.
  4. Complaining about food or service at a restaurant — I can’t even remember the last time I’ve done this. And of course it’s because of the stuttering. I don’t like conflict, and then for something like food? Forget it. I can just go eat somewhere else.
  5. Giving a custom order at a busy lunchtime — that kind of deal where you have a few slips of paper from coworkers and have to list them all while standing in line. Every order has to be perfect no matter what. And then the added stress of what to do when the restaurant says they don’t have something. Time for a phone call!
  6. Ordering while at a business lunch — ah yes, the path of least resistance. I don’t even care if it’s not what I want. I’m not stuttering in front of my boss and people at his level.
  7. Speaking in a dark and/or loud restaurant over other people — not quite as bad as having to order because well, you don’t actually have to engage in conversation, now do you? Surely there’s a game on that television above the bar …
  8. Asking for a menu clarification — don’t recall the last time I’ve done this, either. If I don’t understand it or think it might have something that tastes odd, move on to the next item! Now is not the time to experiment with fancy burger toppings.

One-on-one

  1. Going on a blind date — all the prepared statements in the world, all the talking to yourself in the mirror or doing silly mouth exercises are a match for this. There are so many variables! Charming? Nervous? How am I coming across? Wait, what’d she just say?
  2. Confronting a neighbor you’ve never spoken to before — particularly for conflict, this is the worst. You have to spend every day in your house then thinking about what the person right there — right there! thinks about you. And to make matters worse, you could have prevented it by just introducing yourself that first day when you saw them move in …
  3. Interjecting / trying to interrupt someone — the open mouth, the finger pointed up. The noise coming out of your mouth that’s not a word. Is anybody looking? Oh, crap, they are. And the person talking is now looking at your eagerly, waiting for your moment of brilliance.
  4. Getting pulled over and speaking to an officer — not only do I have to come up with a decent excuse, but I have to not stutter while doing it. Or should I be charming? Maybe say something witty? Oh, wait, I’m going to stutter, and the officer is going to think I’m on drugs or hiding something, and well, this is going to escalate quickly.
  5. Being interviewed while being recorded – Nothing like having your stuttering burned into the cloud for … ever. And all while having to come up with answers to a meaningful interview.
  6. Immigration official at an international border crossing — long flight, really tired, need to make a connecting flight. No pressure, buddy! Just don’t come across as nervous or like you’re trying to hide something and you should be good. Wait, why are they taking so long with that person? What’s going on?
  7. Meeting friends of friends — You guys call yourself my friends? Surely you know this about me now? What canned stories am I supposed to use here? Stuff about me? Stuff about my friends? I haven’t rehearsed or planned for this!
  8. Answering detailed questions about your work and personal life when getting to know someone – Not so fast, buddy. I’m going to give you short answer and then pop an essay question on you. I don’t faff about with yes/no stuff or multiple choice. Oh no, you’ll be telling me about your childhood while I try to breathe and think of a way out of this …

Stuttering name recall

I read this article and thought, oh, hey, great, a way to recall names when I’m meeting people — I’m pretty terrible at it.

“It’s a major faux pas to forget someone’s name — it makes people feel like they have been slighted or marginalised or unimportant,” says Kethera A Fogler, an assistant professor in psychology at James Madison University in Virginia in the US. “Their name is so uniquely them, which exacerbates that feeling, but it’s what makes it so easy to forget.”

I had heard about this technique a long time ago — focus on the name, say it again, associate it, say it again in conversation, but it’s really hard to practice and implement. The stuttering is so strong — the distracting thoughts, that is. I am always so, so, so focused on freaking out and what it’s going to be like to say — or not — my own name. And then when the other person starts talking, I’m so drained to pay attention.

And then, and then! What happens? Oh, right, I’ve stuttered out my name, so after a bit the person comes back and asks me what it is again. We went through this!

So, instead of thinking about this article for myself and fellow people who stutter as a technique to learn other people’s names, let’s share this article with our own friends in the hope that they send it around so much that our names are actually remembered the next time we spend so much energy stuttering them out.

Stuttering and Politics 2

I spoke yesterday about introspection after the election. Trying to see the world from someone else’s eyes and understand that I can’t just shove my views down another’s throat. I have to stop and listen and really digest. And you’d think that would come naturally to me as someone who stutters. I’m not often judged by my speaking, but when I am, I obviously hate it, and I wish others would sit in my shoes for ten minutes and understand my journey.

Today I want to expand on politics and my stuttering. Asking myself, ok, so if you want a particular candidate to win, what are you willing to do? And the answer is, other than speaking to my like-minded friends and family, not much. And yes, I know that’s sad and pathetic.But again, stuttering.

To me, my view of helping a candidate revolves around calling people on the phone or knocking on doors. Talking to people. I understand that campaigning is much, much more than that. There are jobs that don’t involve speaking. But for a long time that’s how I saw it, and that’s burned in. Talking to strangers is potentially confrontational and scary. I’ll stutter — and then I start thinking — ok, the stuttering is fine with me (now in life) but wouldn’t that reflect on my message and my candidate? Hopefully not. 

I’m not sure what I’ll be doing over the next few years, politics-wise. And I also have to ask myself, maybe I’m just not the kind of person to do that, period? Maybe I’m content sitting on the sidelines like so many others. 

I can see how an impassioned voter would be angry at me. I get that. But being angry at me and leaving me doesn’t do anybody any good. I think too often we do that. We need to dig in and find out what the “block” might be. Fluent people can be anti-social, too! And surely there are those who stutter who are saying screw it and cold calling households.

Stuttering basketball

So apparently the deal with being a father of young children and wanting them to play sports and do activities is that well, sometimes you have to volunteer. And that requires a little trip outside of the Comfort Zone.

It’s still early, but I’ve signed up to be a basketball coach for my fourth-grade son’s team. I have zero coaching experience. This has more to do with opportunity than stuttering, though. I have a feeling that coaching a bunch of 9 and 10-year-olds is more about getting them organized and moving in the right direction than drawing up plays and wanting to win.

Based on my stuttering experience and apprehension, how am I approaching this?

I don’t know how to run a practice, don’t know the rules inside and out, and don’t know anybody else.

Running practices: The guy who organizes the league recognizes that there are others in my same position. He’s got drills and practices already outlined and available to use. I’ll get a whistle, read up before hand, picture how it’ll play out in my mind, and should be comfortable.

Rules: Obviously the rules are available online, and then it’s about asking the guy in charge of the league what differences there might be.

Knowing others: This is the hardest part. There’s a coaches meeting in a few days, so I need to push aside my fears and try to introduce myself to others. Not sure if there will be a round of introductions or what, but I don’t want to leave there without meeting anybody.

I’ll post updates as the season goes on. I’m looking forward to a new challenge and new people.

 

Walking and talking

The other day was my daughter’s birthday. In order to continue brainwashing her regarding her love for bicycles, I thought I ought to get her a little basket for her bike. That way she can tote around … stuff.

Anyway, there’s a larger bike store here in town, and when I searched them up online to find out their hours, I found out they had a store right in the city. Within walking distance of my office. (The main store is a longer drive away and near where we live. Well, sort of.)

On their site, they show products and what store they are available in. The cute little basket showed availability in both the farther away and city store. I had a sneaking suspicion though that I’d be disappointed — they probably didn’t have it downtown. So, I could have called them and asked them. But here’s the thing — I needed the exercise. The store is a little over a mile walk away.

Is this avoiding? I don’t think so. I was going to walk there even if they didn’t have it just to see what it was all about. And it was such a nice day anyway.

Am I adding this to my pile of uncalled people, restaurants and other businesses? No. Not at all. I’ll write about that more tomorrow — sucking it up and making a call without completely freaking out about it.

So in the end I did walk downtown to the bike shop for my daughter’s basket. And … they didn’t have it.

Was that Avoiding?

I had a chance to think differently about what avoiding really means. I know that those of us who stutter substitute like crazy. Words we can say for words we can’t. Looking ahead in our speech to find a different way to say something. But what if I said something fluently that’s not exactly what everybody else says? It’s just because I didn’t know it?

What happened was that in an effort to cut back on sugar, I’ve stopped ordering mochas from Starbucks. I’ve moved on to Americanos. It’s good enough for me. I don’t add any sugar. Sometimes I’ll add milk. I ordered one the other day, and the barista asked if I wanted milk in it. I said, yeah, sure. He shouted back, “white Americano!”

Ah. Did not know that. I could have just said that in the first place.

But. That “w” on white is tough for me. I can see how I would have just asked for an “Americano with milk.” Another “w.” Anyway. I’d have figured something out. But the idea of saying ‘white Americano’ does scare me. I know I’ll stutter on it every time. (well, I know, I know. Just work through it. But you get the idea.)

So this brings up what you call it — couch or sofa? Soda or Coke? Pepsi or Coke (knowing full well what they have … but if you can’t say ‘Coke,’ asking for a Pepsi and having them correct you.

I guess at the end of the day it is avoiding. Because we do know better. We can be clearer in many instances. And with something like, “sub” vs. “hoagie,” your childhood friends and family are going to look at you funny if you use the wrong one.

Reading to an Audience

IMG_0583I know I’m up on the second anniversary of the blog, so I’m cooking something up for that. In the meantime, I’ve had a chance to read at my daughter’s school. I talked about this a couple of weeks ago.

Things at work have slowed down enough that I had a chance to go in today and read to her class. She’s in pre-k, so that means a bunch of 4- and 5-year olds. I want to say that “I haven’t had time before” to go in and read because work has been so busy, but I think subconsciously I was afraid of reading in front of others — even if they are just kids.

The book that I read was Rosie Revere Engineer. I’ve read it at home to her a bunch of times. I don’t stutter at home when I read it. At all.

I wasn’t sure what the protocol was for reading to the class. I suppose I could have e-mailed her teacher, but my daughter said I could just come in. Right. So I did that. I took the kids to school and walked her to her classroom, book in hand. The teachers had been notified that I’d be there. We got there at 7:50, and she said I could read to them first thing, just after 8.

I didn’t really flip through the book the night before or have a practice reading in the morning, either. I had read it a bunch of times. I was feeling fine about it. I was happy to be doing it, and my daughter was really fired up about me being there. But when I got to the school and had to stand around for a few minutes, I flipped through some of the pages. I saw some words that … instantly triggered feelings for me. Things that started with l. Or w. I took a deep breath. This would be fine. I’d breathe, I’d play with my voice, I’d project to the back of the room. Maybe I’d stumble or stutter a bit, but no big deal.

It really felt like when you were a kid and could finally go on the big roller coaster at the park. You just say, “yeah, of course I do!” and you stand there in line with the adults. And you get closer and closer. And then you think, no, wait. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea.

Stuttering is messed up because as I sat there waiting, the thought of abandoning the effort did cross my mind. But what would I say? Would it really matter? I could just leave. My daughter would be devastated, though. And really, it’s a quick reading, first thing in the morning. If you stutter a little, you won’t die.

Alright, I’m up. My daughter takes me by my hand and leads me to the chair in front of the room, There are about two dozen little kids, and half a dozen adults. I dove in, enthusiastically.

I got through a few words and then … stuttering. I got stuck on some words, but not for long. I got stuck on a w-word for a really long time, and heard a little murmur run through the crowd. As I was dragging out some other words and then taking a big pause to collect myself, the teacher remarked, “this is a pretty long book; do you want some water?” I said no, and pushed on.

(A word about this book. So … it’s probably a little bit above the audience that I read to. As a book, the message is really, really good. But it is a little confusing how it’s laid out. So even a somewhat astute kid might not “get it” the first few times. All that being said, it’s also a good message for someone who stutters — Rosie fails and is laughed at. She fails again, is laughed at, but then encouraged to keep trying.)

I got through the book. I was sweating a little, but otherwise in good shape. I did stutter. A lot more than if I was just reading quietly to all of my kids. I tried to remember to breathe and find my right pace. I did inflect my voice and make sure I was looking at the kids occasionally.

I think that I would do it again. Maybe not to her class this year, but next year or whatever. I think that with some practice I could certainly get better at it. Did not reading it in the morning hurt my fluency? Maybe, maybe not. But I think it might have made me even more apprehensive about signing up, seeing all the words that I think I’d stutter on.

 

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.

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.

Stuttering and reading

Well, of course the day after I talk about reading simple children’s books, my daughter comes to me with … a real book. It’s some book about a princess, but that’s not important. It doesn’t have any pictures, is well over a hundred pages, and it definitely taking me back to “Bump” in school.

(Did you have Bump? Oh, it’s a special kind of hell for someone who stutters. Basically one person in your class starts reading part of a story out loud that you’re all following along silently to. Then they say, “bump, Rehan.” And Rehan has to pick up reading (OUT LOUD — did I mention that part?) until he’s had enough and says, “bump, Rebecca.”)

Anyway. she asked me to read this book to her. I’m not entirely sure she “gets” the book, but maybe it’s just nice for her to hear me tell a story. About a princess. And it gives  me a chance to practice my reading, tones, pacing, breathing, and accents as applicable. When I first started reading, I was stumbling a bit. And thought, oh no, here we go. We’ve graduated to non-picture books, and I’m screwed now.

But it’s getting better, and I’m trying to really practice speaking out loud. I do stutter very, very slightly on some words. The ones that start with “w” or “l” I tend to drag out slightly longer which of course irritates the crap out of me. But she doesn’t care or notice, and on we go.

When I was very young, I remember reading books to myself and getting completely lost in them. I’d cast the characters, paint a scene in my head, and off they’d go. I’d read for hours on end, this movie going on in my head the whole time.

Well, I’m doing that again, it seems. While reading out loud, I find myself getting lost again in the story, really picturing what’s going on, how people are talking, interacting, moving.And honestly I think it’s helping with the reading and not stuttering as much. I’m not thinking about the words, I’m thinking about the story and characters. Sure, I see the words I know I’ll stutter on, but they don’t feel like as big of a deal. And again, of course, the audience helps. It’s just my five-year-old daughter (and sometimes the other kids if they’re wandering around).

Fluent now, fluent later …?

One of the few things that I’ve been fluent on consistently is reading children’s books to my kids. But I’ve noticed that whereas before I could rip through say, 10 stories without a single stutter or stumble, now it’s once or twice per 10. I don’t know if I’m being too hard on myself (I think I am) or if something is getting to me and letting the stutter creep in.

My daughter mentioned to me the other day that in her school the parents sometimes come in and read to the kids. Could I come in and do this? Well, I have been busy, but it is something I want to try.

I’ve noticed that when reading the kids books I see words ahead … that I think, ok, that’s a word I’ve stuttered on a lot before. And the word comes, and I just say it. Without stuttering. This happens again and again and again. (The prescanning of course being a natural course of action for those of us who stutter so we can get ourselves all worked up.)

I’m fascinated by this. On the one hand, I’m happy to see a word, worry about a word, and then say it without any problems. On the other, I think that maybe it’s the audience. I’ve read to my kids thousands of times, and some books I’ve almost memorized. How would I actually do if I had to read in front of a bunch of 5-year-olds? And the teachers? And any other visiting parents?

Well, only one way to find out.

Action for Stammering Children Day 3

Been going through some tweets from the Action for Stammering Children. Here’s a link to the First day and Second day.

Today’s post is  “Take your time and speak a bit more slowly. Pause and take some time to think before you start to speak.”

I find that as I get older, I definitely do this more and more. If nothing else, it’s to just take the time to take a breath. Maybe a long, deep breath. And this sounds strange, but I then try to focus on the middle of my first sentence. What I’m going to say — not how I’m going to start to say it. Sometimes this works, and the opening bit of the sentence comes out more easily.

It’s a fine line when you’re speaking slowly, though. Especially if you’re covert — all you’re really doing is scanning ahead for words to avoid. On the other hand, I find that if I can string a few words that I actually want to say (through better breathing and pacing) my confidence grows and so does the momentum of my speaking.

I’ve also found that if you actually stop to think and pause between sentences, you can really gather your thoughts and make sure you’re heading in the right direction. There’s nothing worse than getting completely off track and stuttering while doing so — it just means you’ll have to stop, correct yourself and explain what you really meant. And by that time, you’re flushed with anxiety and want to start speaking faster. And then it all breaks down quickly.

If you get a chance, try to notice how you pace your speaking when you’re talking to colleagues or even strangers versus close friends. With strangers, I’m usually a bit more tense, a bit more hurried, my shoulders are hunched up, and I’m not really thinking about what I’m saying. More of how it sounds coming out, and what I have to say next.

With close friends, think of a time in a coffee shop, or in the living room late in the evening. Quiet, relaxed. Your pacing is probably slower, you’re listening more, you’re not as worried about how you sound, but what you’re saying. That’s the kind of pacing we should all try to do with everybody.

Learning more about Toastmasters

As I mentioned last week, they had an intro to Toastmasters at the office today. I went, sort of knowing what to expect, but not really.

Stuttering has shaped me in very fundamental ways, particularly with regards to initial reactions to social situations. Let me explain first what my feelings were, and then what I thought of afterward.

There were probably about 50 people there. Most of them were coming to learn about Toastmasters (free lunch!), and there’s even another meeting tomorrow because of the high demand. I saw one or two people who I knew, but in an office of over a thousand, it was mostly new faces to me.

When I first sat down and looked through the agenda, I could already feel myself getting nervous — and this was before I even read or understood what was going to be presented. I have such a strong negative association with presentations and agendas, that I automatically assumed I’d have to participate (and thus stutter) somehow. It’s a hell of a conditioned response to have. I also noticed that they meet every week which also seemed very intimidating.

The presenters started going through what Toastmasters is all about, and it was very nicely done. They basically said they’d demonstrate a typical meeting with a guest speaker, table topics and evaluation.

When they began the table topics, the idea was to pick one of the topics blindly and speak about it. They asked for volunteers. I started to panic a little. What? I didn’t sign up to talk on my first day! I’m not ready for any of this! I looked down, reverting to my usual avoidance behavior. They ended up picking some people who were already part of Toastmasters, and they did an admirable job.

Again, my initial reaction to hearing people talk about various topics was to hear the words they were choosing, and then tell myself that no, I couldn’t say a bunch of them because I’d stutter. I even tried to think of how I’d try to breathe or avoid some of the words that were used during table topics. The stuttering … it’s burned in pretty deep.

I’ve known about Toastmasters for a long time. I’ve also known about speech therapists and help groups. Have I ever bothered looking any of them up? No. And why? Because I never thought I needed them. If I did those things, it’d mean that something could be improved about my speech. And if that’s the case, then I’d be acknowledging the stutter. I never wanted to. I wanted to just ignore it for the longest time and do my own thing.

But for those of you who have been reading for a while, you know things have changed. Time to face the music. I want practice. I want to face the fear. I want to tell people.

Had I done this Toastmasters meeting three years ago (if someone had dragged me along) I’d have gone, been scared out of my mind, and then vow to never go again. Things are vastly different now. The covert stuttering phase of my life is over. People who stutter go to Toastmasters. People who stutter are successful at speaking in front of groups. People who stutter are going to stutter anyway, so why not get more comfortable doing so.

I know people reading this who stutter will think, no, no, there’s no freakin’ way I’d do that. And I get that. I really do. Everybody’s journey is different, and everybody may or may not be ready at the same age or stage in their life. It’s the time for me, though. I’m not getting too crazy with the speaking challenges, but this is a good start.

Toastmasters

An e-mail came across yesterday for our company’s Toastmasters chapter. There’s an introductory meeting next week. I’ve seen a lot of people who stutter mention Toastmasters. Particularly Pam. I wasn’t sure I’d get a chance to join here in Saudi.

So in the interest of accountability and overcoming any sort of fears about speaking, I’ve accepted the meeting notice. It’s on the calendar.

Keep in mind that the majority of the people who will be there are non-native English speakers. (I’m assuming it’ll be in English and not in Arabic …) So I suppose I have a bit of a language edge there. But of course the stuttering is there to pull that back.

I have read what to expect, but I’m obviously still nervous about the whole thing. Mainly around the voice screaming in my head that’s saying, “You’re voluntarily signing up to speak to people. You’re an idiot. You will be nervous, you will sweat, you will stutter, and you will fail.”

I have this image of myself getting up in front of people and not stuttering. But I also remember getting up in front of people at last year’s open mic and stuttering a lot more than I could have imagined.

So there’s that.

Anyway, it’s on the calendar. My dear readers now know about it, so I have to go and report back.

Your virtual stuttering reality

The other day I mentioned stuttering and speaking and Google Glass. There is some recent research on this, and Shelley Brundage talked to Stutter Talk recently about it.

There were no significant differences in the %SS across audience conditions, suggesting that the frequency of stuttering is similar in virtual and real world conditions. These findings suggest that similar responses occur after speeches to virtual and live audiences.

You have to listen to this interview. It’s great. They discuss safety, control and repeatability with regards to virtual reality usage. Also how this technology can be used in therapy. It’s probably still a few years (hopefully months) away, but it’d be nice to see more customizable virtual reality apps for the masses. Of course there’s Google Cardboard which is a good start…(I’m tempted to order this).

How else can this help those of us who stutter? Well, a lot of what I’ve been seeing on Facebook groups lately is along the lines of, “I have an interview tomorrow, what should I do?”

I suppose you could find a friend to practice with. But there’s a lot of effort in that, and the interaction may not be helpful. I know there are a lot of us who become very comfortable with close friends and find we don’t stutter with them as much. (And yes, it can sometimes be the total opposite). Also, how you react to a smiling man may not be the same as a frowning woman.

But if you had virtual reality at your disposal, you could run a bunch of different scenarios in the week leading up to the interview. The thing that I’ve found about interviews is that you tend to get better at interviews the more you do them. But the problem is getting the interview in the first place. There’s applying, waiting, e-mailing, more waiting, maybe a phone screen, more waiting, an e-mail, more waiting, and then the buildup to the big day. That’s a lot of time to worry yourself into a total mess.

The paper talked about speaking in front of groups. You don’t always have days and days to prepare yourself for a presentation. Maybe a day or two. And sometimes you’re put on the spot. So what about practicing at home? You go to work and see your boss give a presentation. Go home and practice it yourself. If you did that every day for a half hour, some of the barriers to public speaking would be removed. Too often when we’re put on the spot we forget about everything — breathing, pacing, eye contact, hand movements — and just focus on trying to get those words out in some coherent fashion. Virtual reality would allow us to practice all of these things.

Even at the most basic level — using the phone — virtual reality would be useful. All I’d need to see is an image of a phone with that “mute” light on and off. And someone asking who’s on the call. I’d really love to be able to reprogram my brain to get past this (assuming that’s possible).

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