Fluency as a curse word

Today’s ISAD 2016 paper that I’m going to comment on is

Is Fluency a Curse Word? (Frank Stechel)

“Nonetheless, when I challenge myself and use fluency enhancing techniques to be able to say a word fluently, where I previously anticipated problems, I prefer to think of my success as achieving or approximating fluency rather than stuttering more easily or differently. Why does it make a difference? Because – and this is simply my own feeling – when I’m speaking essentially fluently, even with some repetitions or prolongations, I feel in control and can feel the flow of my speech, which is not my experience when I’m stuttering with more tense blockages.”

This article makes me think of fluency as “control.” There are definitely times when I’m stuttering and my speech is just all over the place. My breathing is totally off, my pacing isn’t right, my thoughts are quickly going off track, and there’s no control in sight. Other times when I’m stuttering — maybe at a work meeting, or with friends, where I’m getting through the dialogue, but it’s not exactly smooth. But I’m getting the message across, and I’m using the words I want. I’m slowing myself down enough to remember to breath and pace my speech, and thus achieving more fluency.

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.

Not Stuttering … now what?!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stuttering around the kids

I talked a little about stuttering and children’s books. I’m happy to say that I’m still doing pretty good (read: perfect) on reading children’s books to my kids. And it’s not just the simple stuff like Dr. Suess. It’s longer stuff with a page full of words and a single picture. Got through Rapunzel today without a single stutter which I was pretty happy about.

But overall I’ve noticed that I’ve been stuttering more around the kids in just talking to them. And this is somewhat upsetting. I’m not sure what the cause of this is really. When our first son was born, I never stuttered around him. Not until about a year or two ago (when he was 6/7) did I stumble here and there. Maybe because he’s getting physically bigger? Seeming more like an adult? Does that even make sense? Maybe because he’s passing judgement on some of his classmates or what people out at the mall (or wherever we go) are doing? What, am I afraid he’s going to pass judgement on me? That’s he’s already thinking negative things about me?

All of that being given … isn’t it my job to educate him on this? We’ve never talked really about stuttering — he’s 8 now. I said in passing once, “you know how sometimes it’s hard for me to say stuff …” but I still get “private” when it comes to editing this blog or looking up stuttering articles when he’s around.

There’s a lot online about how a fluent parent can talk to their stuttering children. I need to see if there’s anything that’s the other way round. Is he going to make a reference to Porky Pig that’s going to get me emotionally? Maybe I’m afraid that if we start talking about it, he’ll try to emulate me? He’ll think about it more and that’ll cause problems? That’s totally irrational though.

Last year during our parent-teacher conference, his teacher mentioned how often my son talks about me during class. I think this is true of any parent — they’re the center of their child’s world. I think for fluent people this isn’t a big deal — they understand their role and will just continue doing what they’re doing. As someone who stutters, I’m so hyper-aware of how I’m coming across — to everybody, including my son — that it only makes me more nervous and puts on more pressure to keep up that perfection.

Maybe that’s what’s bothering me as he’s getting older.

Stuttering Fear, Feelings and Fluency

Alright, so this is it. The last review of the last workshop from the NSA Annual Conference.

The last workshop was called Fear, Feelings and Fluency.

So first the bit about fear. And what, did they say is fear? FEAR — False Evidence Appearing Real. False evidence like how people are going to react to your stutter. We have a fear of rejection and criticism. And we’ve been through these occasionally with our stutters. So we assume that all future situations will be like this. So the walls go up …

People who stutter often engage in a lot of self-talk that sabotages the self. We talk up how things are going to turn out when people hear out stutter. So the best protection is to be covert.

On feelings — talking about acceptance — there’s no cure. We should accept ourselves and have no guilt and no shame about the stuttering. That we don’t have to meet your expectations, we have to meet our own. For me, at a fundamental level, I get this mixed up all the time. It fuels the lousy feelings I have about my stuttering. It’s important not to get down on yourself with stuttering. It’s an individual journey, and, as the saying goes, “results may vary.”

On fluency — they talked about focusing on communication, not fluency. Are you getting your message across? Great. Are you stuttering while doing it? That’s fine. If your fear of not being fluent is hampering your ability to clearly articulate your message, then the stuttering has won.

I’ll talk more about these concepts when I talk about my visit with Tom Weidig from Stuttering Brain. He brought up these points as well as some on being authentic.

Next task for me is to make a separate page with all of the links from the conference as well as some parting thoughts. Then it’ll be on to talking about my trip to France that I took on the way back to Saudi after the conference. After that, back to posting on what’s happening around the Internet and other stuttering snippets that I’ve written down over the years.

Lastly, this is the three-month anniversary (or pretty close to it) for the blog. 80 posts, and people from 52 countries have stopped by to take a look. Please feel free to comment or shoot me an e-mail.

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