Thanks for the call

I had to send out some documents to several different companies a few days ago. I sent them all two e-mails — one with a smaller PDF, and then one that had a link for an FTP of a larger file. I knew the e-mail addresses that I had were good, and I could have followed up the next day with yet another e-mail asking if they got everything.

Well, no. I decided to suck it up and call them all. I waited about two hours and started to make the rounds. This is something I never really had to do, and I never really saw the point of. I mean, e-mail, right? Always seems to work.

I called up the first one, introduced myself, stuttered a bit, and then said I had sent some documents across about two hours ago, and well, did you get them? Yes, we have, and we’re looking at them. Then I just … started talking. Telling them more about what was going on, the project at hand, and reiterated some points. Again, points they could have read in the documents.

But none of them seemed to mind.

They all listened, asked a few quick things, agreed with others, made comments.

Then I remember at least two of them said at the end of the call, “thanks for calling.”

Wow.

Ok. So let’s recap — I didn’t die because of my initial stutter. I confirmed that they received the e-mails. I got to sort of introduce myself as the point of contact. And, they were even grateful for me reaching out.

So there we go. Positive experience despite the stuttering. I’ll definitely be doing that again if it comes up.

Moved back. And still stuttering.  

There have been a lot of big changes since I posted last. The biggest being that we moved from Saudi back to the States. I’m at the same company, but in a different office. It’s by my own choice. Work was slowing down in Saudi, and there was a nice opportunity to move to Indiana — into an office I’ve worked in before.

I also went to the NSA Conference for the third time, met up with some old friends and met some new people as well.I have been noticeably stuttering a lot more. A lot. I don’t mind it too much. It’s easy to see now how it’s due to so many changes. Not just the move, but the need to get on the phone more, talk to people about what’s going on more, and helping the kids get adjusted to life in the States. We’d been out of the country for more than five years, so it’s a big change to come back.

I’ve also started going to NSA chapter meetings here in Indy. For the first time ever. I’ve only gone to one meeting thus far, but I enjoyed the experience tremendously. It’s just nice to feel that continuation of the conference, really. A place where I can stutter openly, not have to avoid as much, and practice techniques.

I have every intention to keep this blog going as much as possible. I have a lot of stories to tell just from the past few weeks. I’ve been on the phone a ton. I’ve challenged myself a lot more. I’ve had friends challenge me. Work is good; nobody has said anything negative at all. I’m having to introduce myself a lot more as well which is rough but manageable.

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.

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.

Rehearsal

I mentioned having to do a presentation at work. Well, after my colleague said he was nervous, I told him I wasn’t at all — but the stuttering was just annoying. We then joined the others and did a run-through.

Rehearsal? What a concept. I have thought, for the longest time, that I don’t need such a thing. That I can just get up there and talk, and I’ll be fine. I know the message, I know the audience, I know I won’t be nervous. And yet, time and time again, no rehearsal always has me getting up there and stuttering, which causes quite the downward spiral.

I know there are benefits to rehearsals. But I just think I’m above that. However this time our group wanted to run through it, so I didn’t have a choice. So I stood up in front of my four colleagues, held the paper in my hand (I only had one slide) remembered to take that first deep breath (but none after that) and talked through it.

I stuttered. Here and there. It was only 3-4 minutes, no big deal. After we were all done, my colleague who said he was nervous said he didn’t even know I stuttered until I told him (ok, so maybe I’m still being a little covert … or not really talking to him that much … we are in different departments). And asked if I only stuttered when I had to speak in front of people. Ah, no, I have 30 years of experience doing this. But it was all very supportive and encouraging. We encouraged the others, and that was that.

And you know what? I felt totally different after that rehearsal. I didn’t think about the presentation or stuttering on words at all. I was calm. I knew what I had to say. I knew how fast I had to talk. When to pause, what questions I might get. Prepared. Confident.

So, presentation time. Our group got up, it was my turn to talk. The heart beating in my chest so loud that I couldn’t think of anything else? Not there. The sweating? Nope. The tightness in my throat? Nope.

I stood up, took a breath and started talking. I stuttered. But not too hard, and not too long. I got through the slide, and even got a good rhythm going. I was asked questions challenging our points. I answered them. We all talked about them. I stood up there, not feeling worried about my speech.

After it was done one of my other colleagues remarked that I had done a good job. I think this was a combination of content and presentation praise.

So it turns out that for me and my stuttering at least, rehearsal is a very useful tool. I had an extremely positive experience with it.

 

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?

 

Minding the Gap

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the gap. There’s that space for all of us who stutter — between who we are now and who we think we should be. It covers everything — our job, our spouse, our friends, our relationships, our outlook on life. There’s a gap to be found in them all. How would life be different if I didn’t stutter? If I had been more confident during that interview for the job I didn’t get? If I had asked about a different neighborhood or apartment when I moved into a new town? If I had spoken with my guidance counselor or friends of parents about career choices?

Even people who don’t stutter have these gaps as well. They’re constantly comparing themselves to this that or the other.

Career-wise, I’ve been very good about not ever doing this. It wasn’t terribly hard. My friends who I grew up with basically didn’t have the same college degree as me, nor did they have the same kind of job. They didn’t have the same upbringing, and didn’t have the same goals. We are different, and that’s fine.

But things always change. You find out someone at work is the same age as you, someone who is more charismatic, outgoing, talkative, and ambitious. And you start to wonder. You think that you’ve got all the same tools, all the same opportunities. The same amount of experiences in similar projects, and are now in the same office. So you start to wonder. Is he slightly ahead of me because I’m not more outgoing? Because he can talk a good game? Because people find it easier to talk to him?

This has thrown me off lately because it’s entirely new. I’m trying to handle it by breaking it down into smaller pieces and rationalizing my way out of it. Asking myself, well, sure we’re here in Saudi, and it’s easy for him, but I want to move back to the States sooner than later. And maybe doing the sales thing instead of engineering isn’t really my thing. Maybe a technical job again would be nice.

And even bigger than all of that is how much importance I’ve placed on work. Is that really necessary? Sure, there’s going up and doing a good job and all that, but there’s also extracurriculars to focus on — like this blog, more writing, and doing more stuttering-related things when I get back. It’s all been helping. The gap is getting smaller. I’m going back to, his goals are different than mine. We want different things out of life.

Hitting a Fluency Stride

The “beauty” of stuttering is that you never really know what you’re going to get when you wake up in the morning. You could have a day of misery (even though it’s all in your head — and you shouldn’t be discouraged through the whole day anyway … but, yeah, I know, reality) or you could just start with a fluent ‘good morning’ and carry it all the way through an engaging dinner conversation.

I’ve casually noticed now in the last week or so that I’m starting to hit a “more fluent” kind of stride, particularly at work. The funny thing is, I knew this would happen.

It certainly took longer than a few weeks, but hey, it’s under six months. I’m still not perfect every day (never will be, never expect to be), but I’ve been letting it bother me less and less, and I’ve been trying to speak more and more. For whatever reason, it’s producing a bit more fluent speech, and it’s been noticeable to me.

What can be the cause? I’d say more comfort. Same people every day, same level of patience from them on stuttering. Same meetings every week, same types of things to say. Also I’ve gone through meeting most of the people who I’ll have to talk to, so there’s less stress about introductions and small talk.

I’ve also started thinking about my breathing more and more. Like, take a breath, think, relax, speak. Breathe. Breathe! And a moment of fluency in the morning on something I was stuttering on a few weeks ago lends to more confidence later in the afternoon.

Stuttering Call Plan

I think for a lot of people there’s a tendency to “check out” from work at 5:01, or when you set foot in the parking lot to go to your car each evening.

You’ve been staring at a computer all day, or in meetings all day, or running around pulling stuff together. You want to go home and just forget.

And that’s reasonable. But occasionally there are some things from work that can help us after work.

What someone brought up the other day here is making a “call plan” before calling a client (potential or existing). It’s simple, it’s quick, and it instills some confidence. I know for me when I pick up the phone to call someone, I have a pretty vague idea of what I’m going to say. Sometimes I’ll have the first question or two in my mind, but nothing beyond that. And then I’ll be talking to this person and start stuttering, and then forget what I wanted to say. And then I have to call again. Not good at all.

So what goes into the call plan? Let’s say I want to call a local company here and ask about my satellite dish options. So I’d just write down, “Your name? Your hours? Eurosport? Packages? Monthly cost? How to pay? Install time? Your location?”

Notice I didn’t write down entire sentences or questions. The last thing I need to be doing is staring at questions with words I know I’m going to stutter on. All I want are concepts (reminders). Basically a list.

I know if I don’t make a list, I’ll be left stumbling and stuttering for words. Will I stutter on questions I make from my list? Of course I will. That’s fine. But at least I don’t have to do it over multiple phone calls. If I mess up the first one enough, I’ll likely not bother calling back (which may cause other problems).

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