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.

Back from Vacation

Just a quick post to say that I’m back to Saudi from the NSA Conference and then almost a week of vacation chasing the Tour de France. Last year I only chased the Tour for about 2 days. This time it was four full days followed up by a concert in London.

For the whole vacation, I spoke a lot more French than last year. This being related to meeting someone at the conference from Canada (the French-speaking part) and then when I was in France, having dinner with family friends of my traveling companion.

I even told one of the family friends that I stuttered! I knew the word for it because I learned it at the conference.

I won’t say it was all a success — I still hid from a speaking opportunity here and there. But overall it felt good to get out there and stutter away, happily saying and asking what I wanted to.

In the next few days I’ll post about my overall conference experience, comparisons to last year, workshop-by-workshop descriptions, and then a brief on France and a day in England for the concert.

The big stuttering things are getting small

(Note: I haven’t forgotten about the link roundup! It haunts me every day. Also, the goal is to get 200 posts done by the end of April. I think I can make it pretty easily. The end of the month marks my one year blogging anniversary! Need to do a bunch of wrap-ups and whatever else …)

Today I want to reflect on how the big things are becoming little things. Well, how they can become little things. I said the other day that I met and talked with my cousin who stutters. Anyway, I got into the office a few days later and told someone about this. And then for whatever reason, I mentioned that like me, this cousin also stutters.

And holy crap, did I stutter like crazy on the word “stutter.” This of course always happens, and I sometimes enjoy the absurdity of this. The rest of the time it’s immensely annoying.

So I got past that, (we laughed about it) and I just began talking to someone at the office about my stuttering. And he listened. He remarked (I talk to this guy every day, several times a day) how he thought it was emotionally linked and that sometimes I seem to be ok, and sometimes I have a hard time. I set him straight on the emotional bit, and I said how it’s pretty random and thus frustrating. Also, “it’s complicated.”

What I also noticed is that our listeners tend to have a fixed attention span. You need to get your stuttering sob story out quickly (ha!) and then they’re like, well, ok, you’re not dying because of this, I can’t really relate, and I need to get back to work/thinking about lunch.

Obviously it’d be easier to connect with someone who already has a connection with someone who stutters (who’s maybe covert but noticeable to family members).

So for the second time in just a few short months at the new job, I’ve talked to coworkers about my stuttering. And it didn’t feel too weird. And I didn’t die. I didn’t lose my job. I didn’t get pulled aside by my boss who heard something from someone. Nothing. Life is going on.

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.

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.

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.

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.


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?

A trip home

Just a quick post today. I’m traveling over the next two days, and then we’ve got the weekend. So I should be back at posting come Monday. I’ll have What I’m Stuttering on Lately along with a Link Roundup early next week. Since I’m traveling, I’m tempted to try to advertise my stutter to the passport control officer when it comes time. I dunno. I’ll see how I’m feeling after the flight. And since I’m traveling, it means another Starbucks interaction … or two. Or three. And since I’m going Stateside, I’ll try to order a burrito as well. (I just took a deep breath thinking about that …)

Over the next two weeks I’m going to have time to go through the site and update sections that are pretty old (6 months!). I also want to try to get the logo on there in a better way — the one that I use on Twitter.

I’m pretty sure I made a list of things I wanted to do on this site by the end of the calendar year. Need to reread that …

Have a good weekend and stutter on.

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.

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!

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