Something in between

I think we all have, with regards to being loquacious, a bell curve of friends. And we tend to be on the quiet end (well, during those covert years). And we notice a lot more how much people do or do not talk.

I think if you asked any of my friends at this point, they’d say I was pretty talkative. Not overly so, but certainly not shy and quiet. Certain coworkers would have a different opinion.

The problem is that as someone who stutters, we tend to focus on those who talk a lot. Either loudly, quickly, confidently, or a combination of those. We think, why not me? I need to be that confident! But we can’t; our voices betray us.

I was out the other day with a friend who talks a lot. Not in a “I like to hear myself talk” kind of way. It’s innocent. He’s curious, he’s friendly, it’s just what he does. I know the deal. I know when he’s at the table he’ll drive the conversation. That’s good.

We were at a store buying something for our sons, and he struck up a conversation with another patron. They talked for a solid 15 minutes as I just stood around. Before I knew it, he was exchanging phone numbers. I thought, is this how fluent people are all the time? No, it’s definitely not.

I think the point is that we shouldn’t get frustrated or down on ourselves in that kind of situation. It’s one end of the bell curve. What I’d like for myself is something in between.

Hello, Friend.

I wanted to reflect on  chance I had a while ago to connect with a friend for several days in a row. An old friend who knows the deal with stuttering, and knows a lot of what I’ve been through.

First of all, it’s quite amazing to speak with someone who is entirely patient with you. Who you know isn’t judging you at all. Who won’t finish your sentences, won’t tell you to hurry up, won’t make stupid suggestions on how to speak more fluently. Do you stutter less? In some cases, yes. But in others not so much.

I noticed that since I hadn’t talked to this person in a while (in person) a lot of my stories stuttered out. Not the canned ones that I repeat all the time. The newer stuff — my current situation, plans for the future, my take on life here and there. For these newer explanations I tended to stutter more than usual, but I was avoiding less. So the comfort level was higher. I wanted to say what I was thinking — exactly — and knew I wouldn’t get any negative feedback.

And since it was with a friend, and, as with all interactions, ultimately time-constrained, I thought maybe the stuttering was happening more because I wanted to make it all sound more interesting — even the bits about work.

Now that I think about it, there are several levels to comfort, really. And it’s tough to get them all aligned. There’s the audience — a close friend or a colleague? Family? Complete stranger? There’s the time you have and the time you think you have — all day for a few days? Months? A few seconds? And of course content — new, canned or somewhere in between.

I couldn’t help but wonder after our time was over if it would be jarring to go back to the real world with impatient people who might look at me funny. But I know the deal. And besides, don’t I deserve to be comfortable at home and with friends at least? And won’t that eventually lead to being more comfortable at the office?

Your Stuttering first impression

We all grow up hearing these two things:

“You only get one chance to make a first impression.”


“You can’t judge a book by its cover.”

Let’s talk about how these two contradict each other. It’s ridiculous, really. I think this idea of a first impression being so important is a bunch of crap. Try this out — what do you remember about the first time you met your best friend? You know, the one who you’ve been friends with since you were like, 12? The one you met in English class who you still talk to every day? The one who doesn’t care what you look like because they can just as easily open up the high school yearbook for a few laughs?

Do you remember that first encounter? No? I didn’t think so.

Oh, you do? And was it good? Ok, fine. Was it bad? Really? But you’re still friends, right?


Think about work. You had an interview. You worried, prepared, stuttered. You got the job, you joined the team. You messed up a little on your first assignment. People grumbled. But ultimately, did they care? No. They hired you for a reason. They needed your help. Your talent. They gave you a little slack on that first task, and you learned something to improve on for the next go-around.

And what about being on the other side? The one giving the interview? A candidate comes in, no resume in hand, coffee-stained shirt, 15 minutes late, cell phone ringing. Are you not going to hire this person based on that? You’re not going to ask them to talk about themselves, talk about their experience, and what they can do to help you? You’re not going to find out they know a lot more than what you remembered from looking at their resume for five seconds?

The point is that we should try to focus on the message, not the delivery. We shouldn’t worry about the delivery. If the person is worth talking to, then they won’t care how you deliver. They want to engage with you, want to listen to you. And like your best friend, they’ll still be listening 23 years later.

%d bloggers like this: