Stuttering and boring others

I had a chance to go to a wedding the other day. And of course with a  roomful of strangers comes a night full of small talk.

I stuttered, yes (on the word “wedding” which was particularly annoying … and it was a very long, very hard stutter. Fortunately my tablemates didn’t say anything), but when I was able to make small talk with the people near me, I wondered, am I boring?

I think this has to do with the “canned” stories. The ones I don’t stutter on as much. The ones I know and have been telling people backwards and forwards for weeks. What I do, where I live, summary of children, etc.,

Is everybody else having a better and more interesting conversation with their tablemates?  Are we supposed to?

What got me really thinking about all of this is that I have a few, not many, stories of the bride that others may not know. Is that what I’m supposed to be entertaining everybody with? Are we supposed to be exchanging cookie recipes, or times when the bride and I went through the possessions of my deadbeat tenants?

I suppose my hesitance to share these was due to stuttering. I mean, I’ve not told many of them, and I’m really not sure how entertaining they really are. I didn’t want to fall flat with regards to entertainment value. Instead, I’ll just interject here and there and leave it at that.

Memorial Day Stuttering

Thought I’d check in and let everybody know what I’m stuttering on lately this Memorial Day weekend. I’m home in the States for some business/personal things. So that means a lot more trips to Starbucks, and a lot more having to tell them my name.

I’ve been changing up my drink, doing from the mocha, to the Americano, to the iced coffee, to the Americano on ice. It’s been hard to say “no whip,” but slightly easier to say, “no cream.” And aren’t they always supposed to ask your name? Some have, some haven’t. I’ve been doing a mashup of the Saudi way to say my name and the American with some success. I bumble through the first part of the name and then immediately jump into spelling it so they don’t have to ask again.

Is it avoiding if I’m pre-empting a known stutter even though I just said what I was afraid to say?

I went to the local library to sign up for a card and noticed they had meeting rooms available. I wanted to know about this, so I confidently asked. No stuttering, and I got the answers I needed. Nice win.

I misplaced one of my credit cards and didn’t do anything about it for a few days. I kept an eye on the app to see if any purchases went through. I wasn’t looking forward to having to call them to ask for another card. Eventually I did and of course it was fully automated. Figures.

Last night I went on a social bike ride for the first time in my home town. It’s a “slow ride.” I knew exactly one other person (who I hadn’t seen in person for maybe 17 years) and wanted to catch up with her. I need to look up the definition of social anxiety disorder, but I had no interest in just going up to people and chatting them up despite our like mindedness of wanting to go on this bike ride and it being a lovely night. The thought of that terrified me. What on earth was I supposed to say? I did manage to find my friend and talk and ride for a good long while, so I was happy about that. And she knew others who she introduced me to — although I didn’t end up talking to those people at all which was fine for now. I think if I keep going on these rides, maybe things will open up a little more.

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.

More stuttering and more happy

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

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

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

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

“So, where are you guys from?”

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

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

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.

Stuttering 9 times out of 10

I’ve come to the conclusion that there are certain words that I’m going to stutter on no matter what.

I do know that I can work past this. But the following items are always painful:

1. If I say my name the way I was raised to pronounce it — with a long e. If I use the proper Arabic pronunciation, no problem. (This continues to be pretty wonderful, by the way.)

2. The “1” in my phone number. It’s near the end, and I really hate the dread that comes when I start saying the first few numbers.

3. My hometown of Lancaster.

4. The town we just lived in, Yanbu.

5. The word “wife,” which, as you can imagine, makes conversations really awkward. Because switching/avoiding doesn’t help at all. What am I going to say, “spouse?” Yeah, no.

So as you can see, some very, very basic stuff. The thing about the phone number is that I’ve pretty much given most companies/services my number. And I can always hand people my business card which lists the same number. For the cities, I’m not having those conversations as much any more either. Only when I first came to the office.

One of the hard things about knowing you’ll stutter on words — especially basic ones — is that by the time you get to a point in your life when you don’t need to say them as much — it’s really hard to do any meaningful practice. Because people are going to ask once in a great while, and they’ll look at you funny if you can’t say, “wife.”

I think also that looking at the basic list above — the cities and “wife” require talking about yourself. And that’s not something I’ve ever enjoyed doing (thanks to stuttering, of course). So even practicing — and talking about myself and history — takes a big change in mindset.

What I’m Stuttering on Lately

I had a chance last week to travel around the Kingdom a bit. I took my 8-year-old son.

When we got out of the airport in Medina, I needed to get us a taxi to the hotel. I knew what I wanted to pay, and the first cabbie quoted me a price that was way too high. I waved him off. I strode out to another few taxis and asked their price. Too high again. I said no. I started to walk off. He lowered. I said no again. We eventually agreed on a price (that was still too high, but whatever). I was just happy that I bargained a little bit and saved $13. I hate bargaining, and I’m usually the kind of person who just settles for whatever someone says. But I was feeling a lot more confident, and I had options, and I wanted to show my son how things are done.

I was staying with family at the hotel, so I didn’t have to check in. And when my son got hungry (and he’s particular about his food) family ordered room service, not me.

I stuttered off and on with my family members who I hadn’t seen in a while. Streaks of fluency punctuated by long agonizing moments of silence or a consonant being dragged out. I had a lot of catching up to do, and most of the stories I hadn’t told anybody else. So I was feeling my way around their adjectives, trying not to avoid.

I suppose I should mention the “standard” stuttering at the Starbucks at the Riyadh airport as well as on “diet coke” in the airplane. Some things I can always count on. But I didn’t go uncaffeinated!

Again with my son, and again with ordering food — we were at the food court, and he wanted a chicken sandwich at Burger King. I was tasked with getting some Pizza Hut. I didn’t want to (try) to say “crispy chicken.” So I told my son, look, here’s the money, order what you want (cleared it with me first) and I’m going to go order the pizza so we can get back to the room faster. We ended up doing that twice.

Yes, I avoided. But see, it’s complicated, right? I mean, he’s 8, and he’s gotta learn this stuff. How to order what he wants, how to deal with some money, and how to stand in line and collect the same food with a receipt. Right? Right? Lessons on growing up disguised as avoidance techniques. I guess covert behavior can be enabled by children.

Flying back home, I got into a conversation with a stranger while standing idly at a phone charging stand. He just began asking things, where we were going, where we were from. And it wasn’t too bad talking. Just an easy, slow-paced conversation without too much stress. And it annoyed me only because it made me wonder how many other casual conversations (you never know who you’re going to meet!) I’ve avoided because of stuttering.

Stuttering after work hours

I said a few days ago that I’d be out at a workshop for work. Well, there wasn’t much speaking to be done at the workshop for me. Afterward though, we all headed to the bar (and then to another) for socializing.

I talked a good bit with my colleagues — one-on-one, and sometimes to someone across our table — so everybody could hear me talk. Nothing I said was prepared beforehand. I didn’t have an agenda. I’d just be listening, realize it’s a good time to interject something, and then started speaking when appropriate. The group was made up of people at my level and above. Some very senior people from the company.

How did I do?

I stuttered. A lot.

This goes back to what exactly is stuttering? What do you think, in your mind, is success?

To the casual observer, they’d see me open my mouth, start speaking, and start stuttering. I’d finish saying what I wanted, and then be quiet. For the observer, I stuttered.

For me? I don’t think so. I said what I wanted. I used the words that I wanted. I took the time that I needed. I engaged the person who I wanted. I occasionally got the response that I wanted. I’ve conveyed (maybe not fluently) information. That’s success.

What else does the casual observer see? They see me standing there, quietly listening to the conversation. To them, I’m not stuttering. They think that’s ok. I’m just taking it all in.

What’s really happening? Well, I’m standing there, and I’ve thought of something to say. I’ve quickly analyzed the words that I need to utter. I’ve gauged my audience, the dynamic that’s going on, the likelihood of being interrupted by the waiter, a few other possible distractions, and decided that since I’m going to stutter so much — and not even get out the first few words, that I won’t say anything at all. That’s failure.

And what’s the sum at the end of the evening? More success than failure. Simple as that. If I wanted to say 10 things, did I hide behind my inabilities on more than 5 of them? I failed. Did I just throw it out there and get through it, judgement and stuttering be damned? Success.

I think overall I’m starting to “get there.” I’m maybe at like 60/40. I’m uttering what comes to mind, but I’m still holding back a lot.

Dreaming of a Stutter

I’m assuming it’s because the last few days I’ve been updating this site, looking for other stuttering sites, seeing what blogs are there, and trying to think of where to take this thing that well, I had a dream about stuttering.

And I’m not happy about it.

What happened? Well, in the dream a bunch of us were in a room. It was an office-like environment. An older gentleman was making a comment, and I wanted to say something. But I knew if I said something, I’d stutter. So I didn’t. All the same feelings were there. It was in my head. It was in my throat. I could feel the tension.

Avoiding avoiding. Not exactly a dream come true. Yet.

Consequences of Avoiding Avoiding

Was at a dinner event when I noticed that I was having a hard time avoiding and stepping around the stuttering landmines.

I’ve been avoiding avoiding more and more over the past few months. This has been a huge change for me obviously. Before, I was more quiet, would avoid speaking situations, or would substitute a lot while talking.

So at this dinner party, I was feeling like I didn’t want to stutter as much. So I fell back on my old techniques. Except they weren’t working for some reason. I couldn’t get into that usual covert flow. It was hard to substitute since I haven’t been doing it that much. I thought this was actually kind of funny. Turns out if you don’t use it, it starts to fade.

It ends up being easier to just stutter and try to say what you want than fumble around for words you can say that you can’t quite remember.

Stuttering and the Dentist

I talked the other day about Stuttering and the doctor, and something else occurred to me — that’s assuming you’re even seeing the doctor.

I was at the dentist’s office the other day getting my teeth cleaned. The last time I had this done was a little over two years ago. Yes, I know, that’s terrible.

But then, is the reason why because I stutter? Because I didn’t want to pick up the phone and schedule an appointment? Which I didn’t do anyway — I actually went to the office to schedule the appointment. But there again, the need to talk to someone, to say “I need a teeth cleaning.” And knowing I’d probably stutter on the “teeth” and the “cleaning.”

After a while, of course, you do just sort of suck it up, I suppose. After looking at your teeth in the mirror long enough, you say, “well, I think there’s enough nasty stuck in between them that I’ll have to go, stuttering-be-damned.”

And yes, there are fluent people reading this going, “are you serious? You aren’t going to go in for a routine, paid-by-insurance visit to the doctor because you’re afraid of calling to make an appointment?”

Yep.

The whole idea of a teeth cleaning is preventive medicine. That you take care of them before a problem arises that’s much bigger and potentially more painful. And costly.

So I wondered how many people aren’t going to the doctor or dentist because of their stuttering. Because they have to call to make an appointment. Because they don’t want to express what’s wrong over the phone. Or because they think they’ve got it covered on their own. It’s no big deal.

One thing I’ve heard people doing is taking a sick day to go into the doctor/dentist for a preventive checkup. Is that allowed? I think so. Do I have to call HR to find out? Yes. Do I want to pick up the phone and call someone when I could just not go instead?

Of course because of my avoidance of the dentist, my teeth have suffered. That was many years ago though. I’ve been getting better. But yes, I’ve got a few cavities. Yes, I’ve had a root canal. Is it all because of stuttering? Well, probably not. But it certainly hasn’t helped.

Avoid avoiding

Back to talking about the NSA Annual Conference.

I’m only up to Day 3 — July Fourth from our nation’s capital.

The day started off with You Make the Difference: Avoid Avoiding.

I managed to only write down a few things. The first is, “the environment of strangers has a lot of negative connotations.”

And of course this is why we avoid speaking or even trying to speak. Better to just shut it all down than to be embarassed (again). I do this kind of thing all the time. Why mingle at a wedding when I can just hang out with the few people I know at my table? Why linger at a company function after dinner when it’s just easier to eat and leave? Why try to navigate the drive through and having to speak through a speaker when I can just go inside and point to what I want?

“What have we done to avoid avoiding?”

This is about challenging ourselves to not be as covert, and to be out there with our speaking. We don’t have to be afraid all the time. Sure, sometimes we get a negative reaction, but the percetages are really, really low. It’s just that those instances really stick in our minds. We need to remember the positive and forget the negatives.

One thing she mentioned was stuttering on our voicemail message. So there, you got a call from a stranger, and they heard your stutter. They know you stutter. What are you afraid of now? That they’ll make a comment about it? Ok, so? Then what? Can you move on to talking about work or whatever? Isn’t a few seconds of discomfort better than hours or days of avoidance and having to resort to other means of communication?

(Quick aside — here in the Kingdom, I actually don’t have voicemail. Not on my cell phone, and not on my work phone. At work it just shows a log of missed calls. So if you see that someone called, then you just call back. Same for the mobile — or they could just text me. Does this mean that I may stutter on my voicemail when I get back to the States? Well … maybe.)

One note I wrote down to myself during this workshop was “Avoiding — now I have children.”

This means, quite simply, that we need to be able to speak for our children. Full stop, no excuses. You take your two-year-old to the doctor, and they’re sick, and they’ve been coughing or sneezing and whatever else, so all of that needs to be told to the doctor. What are you going to do, write it all down? Then what happens when the doctor asks you what they’ve been eating or where they’ve been playing? Didn’t think of that, did you? And you have to make sure to give exact answers. This is your kid’s health!

I think in broader terms maybe this is what’s really pushing me to lose the covert and be more overt. My kids. They can’t speak for themselves all the time. They can’t see that something’s not fair. I need to be able to stand up for them. I need to be able to ask about after-school programs, or where to get academic help, or what they’ve been up to in class when it comes to a parent-teacher conference.

As I’ve said many times before though, I’m not perfect, and I didn’t just go to the conference and come back with some sort of fearless streak. I came back with way more confidence and a different attitude, sure, but it still has to be executed on a daily basis. And some days are better than others.

Programming note … I think I may just go to a M-F publishing schedule. It seems most of the readers are visiting during the traditional work week anyway. I think I’m trying to do too much without considering the time it’s all going to take. Better to ease back a little and publish slightly less but with better quality and consistency.

Stuttering in College Part 8

I’ll wrap up this week with another post or two about my senior year at Pitt.

There is stuttering and the things we do — what we try to say, who we try to meet. But there is also a lot of fear and not wanting to engage. Just totally shutting something down before it can even happen. Despite the benefits, despite the pushing from friends or family.

During my junior year at Pitt, I was the assistant news editor. I went with the editor in chief, the news editor and the managing editor to interview the chancellor in his office. I don’t remember what we talked about. The state of the university, probably. Rising tuition costs, vision for the future, that sort of thing. There might have been some “tough” questions thrown in there.

So when I became editor my senior year, I should have done this. But I remember thinking, yeah, no, there’s no way this is going to happen. I’m not going to go in front of the chancellor and his staff and try to ask questions. And it’s not like the kind of thing that I could have just farmed out to my news editor, either.

This bothered me somewhat, but not too much. At this point I was a mechanical engineering major, and had no interest to pursue journalism after graduating. There were some of my editors who did, though. For this I did feel pretty bad.

I look back at that year of being editor and wonder if I couldn’t have done more — gone out more, talked to more people, engaged with the community a lot more. But I was afraid to. The stutter kept me back. I was content letting others do the asking and the conversing.

The Stuttering Iceberg

As a covert stutterer, the first ironic rule about stuttering is that you don’t talk about stuttering. The second is that you don’t ask around about it either.

So that’s where I found myself several years ago as I started to take notes on my stuttering. I wanted to write a book about it since there aren’t that many out there. It turns out that a lot of what I was doing was documenting the iceberg. It seems that everybody in the stuttering world already knows about the iceberg.

From Say.org:

Like an iceberg, the broader challenges and issues are often pushed so deep beneath the surface that they can no longer be seen by others. These added issues can include fear, confusion, denial, anger, shame, guilt, anxiety and other suppressed emotions and feelings.

One of the mantras in business that has really come on strong in the past few years is the idea of communication. That separate business units within a company shouldn’t be in “silos.” They should share best practices, communicate and improve the company as a whole.

Well, what if you don’t like communicating? What if you stutter when you talk? What if that leads you to just put your nose down and get on with it?

What if you don’t know what you don’t know — and there’s no Internet to tell you what you don’t know? I’ve been stuttering for 28 years and this is the first time I heard about the iceberg. Seriously. Nobody every said anything about it to me, and it’s been around for ages. Should I be upset at my therapists or parents for not knowing? I don’t think so. But my point is that today, with the Internet, and with so much capacity for sharing, there’s no longer an excuse for someone who stutters not to know.

Have I searched for stuttering information online before this? No, not really — that’s true, so that’s obviously on me. But at the same time, my friends and loved ones never offered anything up either. And what does that mean? It means they think that I have it together. They think that I’m only the tip of the iceberg. Just because it seems like someone who stutters isn’t terribly bothered by it, doesn’t hurt to have the conversation. There’s very likely a lot more going on than you think.

If that doesn’t make sense to you — why wouldn’t I want to find out more about it if the Internet is available — then well, go back to the top of this post and read the first and second ironic rules again.

You talk to them

Just writing these posts made me think of several tidbits that have a lot of room for exploration. For example, expound more on leaving messages (and how in my current job we don’t even have answering machines) as well as calling people on cell phones. There’s also cold calling people when I’m on my cell phone (since my desk phone only dials local). But, patience, dear reader. We’ll get to all this eventually.

One of the more stressful things that occasionally pops up is having to cold-call someone while there’s a visitor in my office. So not only do I have someone in the office who’s expecting an easy dial-up and let’s-sort-this-out-right-now, but also another party on the phone who is wondering what’s going on.

The natural tactic, of course, is to avoid this as much as possible. Can I maybe e-mail them? Can I get back to you on this later? Maybe we can go see them? Don’t worry, I’ll call them later. Maybe they’re at lunch right now? I think I saw them just go into a meeting. He won’t know, let me think of who to call. Later, later, later.

But that doesn’t always work. What I’m usually hoping happens is that there’s an awkward pause as the phone connects. Then I look at my visitor like, well, you wanted to talk to them, right? So maybe they jump in and start the introduction and ask the question. But sometimes I have to do it myself, and then the stuttering introduction gets underway.

It’s a three-part bit of misery — first, having to say my name, second, having to introduce my visitor, third, having to actually explain why I called. The third is usually lousy because of numbers 1 and 2 — I don’t have time to formulate any kind of coherent question or narrative. So I just babble on, avoiding words and dragging things out. The best approach is to defer the questions to the visitor and interject as needed.

The only good that comes out of it is that after I’ve cold-called someone, subsequent calls aren’t as hard. I wonder if this is because they remember my stutter — they might not recognize a voice, but they’re probably not talking to a lot of people who stutter on a daily basis.

Cold calling strangers

Ah, the phone. How I hate you so. Since I can fill a week of posts just on the phone, I will. And again, these are just the basics — there’s plenty of nuance to this that I’ll get to as the months roll by.

I’d say about 99% of the time I stutter on saying my name, so I know it’s coming. There’s little I can do about it, so instead I slowly freak out.

Today I’ll start with the simplest pain — me, alone in my office, and I need to call someone who I’ve never called before.

Thankfully I’ve gotten to the point where I have an office where I can close the door. So that usually happens first. I suppose I could lock it just so nobody barges in. Then I start thinking — can I just e-mail this person instead? Do I have to call them right now, at this very moment? Can I get one of my guys to call them? If they’ve got a calendar that’s available, I might consider trying to call them when I know they’ll be in a meeting. That way they’ll have to call me, and I don’t really have to introduce myself. Or maybe I’ll call them during lunch. And actually, do I have to say my name at all? Can’t I just ask for something and then maybe at the end we can figure out how to say my name? I mean, really, how long can I put this off for?

Unfortunately, if I’m cold-calling someone, it’s probably urgent. So I suck it up and … the line is ringing. I’m silently hoping they don’t pick up so I don’t have to say anything. I’m definitely not leaving a message. (there’s one thing about leaving a long message and getting cut off, there’s a whole other level of frustration when I’m stuttering out six words and get cut off).

So the phone is ringing, and they pick up. Now, what I should have done (that I always, always, always) forget to do — is maybe write some sort of script and just barrel through it. But no. So since I’m panicking a bit, I introduce myself by way of my company. And maybe I don’t even say my name — just what I want. That way they are at least hooked. If I open with a stutter and my name, they might start talking and asking who this is, and can you repeat yourself and what do you want, and I can’t understand and … and … of course all of those interruptions really throw things off because now instead of just stuttering out my name, I’m in a bigger hurry. So I try to shut down that attempt and answer some questions, but the breathing is by now all messed up, and seriously, are they still asking and interrupting, can’t they just shut up for a second?

Anyway.

I get through it. Somehow. Sweating at my desk, stuck with tunnel vision, not remembering any sort of technique. Ok. Then it’s on to whatever is next — why was I calling again? At this time, I’m pretty defeated. I recognize the trauma, so I finally take a breath. I finally relax my shoulders. I finally think. I called because … they are waiting, but at least it’s my turn, and I start out slowly.

Easy avoidance

Wow, is it ever easy to avoid words. I’m talking to my boss, asking about taking time off in July. Instead of saying a “week,” I say “seven days.” Terrible. But I could feel that ‘w’ wasn’t coming out, and I wanted to just get on with it. A quick think back at the conversation also reveals that I didn’t breathe right and had my shoulders haunched up, causing more tension than necessary.

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