Stuttering Tournament

Well, it’s NCAA Tournament time, and since my alma mater isn’t in it, I’ve got the mental capacity for my own tournament. (And was rather amused by being able to autofill in a dozen brackets on ESPN).

So here’s what we’re going to do. Since 64 is going to end up being a long list (and it’s my blog and I’ll do what I want) I’m going to list 32 stuttering circumstances, and we’re going to find out the most unpleasant one. Now I understand about acceptance and testing the waters and putting yourself out there, but this is for fun, and this is looking back on what life was like growing up — and about a lot of the feelings that have been burned in. I also know there are a lot of things I didn’t/couldn’t include. There’s a lot of mental blocks that could probably be in their own tournament.

So of course we’re going to have four regions, and then 8 circumstances. Our four regions will be:

Phone, Audiences, Food, and One-on-One

In my view, here’s the seeding for each. This is based on how uncomfortable I’d be for each. Your circumstances may certainly differ! In the coming days I’ll describe each of these more in a paragraph, and then the tournament will get going next Friday with the first matchups. By the end of next weekend, we’ll be down to the last 8.

If you have comments or think a seeding should be different, let me know!

Phone

  1. Cold-calling a senior person at a company
  2. Making an urgent phone call
  3. Calling in a food order to a busy, noisy place
  4. “Going around the room” on a conference call
  5. Phone interviews
  6. Cold-calling a business to ask them detailed questions
  7. Ordering a new service (i.e. cable, new gym, etc.)
  8. Speaking to parents of your students (if you work with students)

Audiences

  1. Being asked to make a speech on the spot (including introduction)
  2. Giving a wedding speech
  3. Reading religious text aloud at a service (church/mosque/temple)
  4. Meeting and speaking in front of the family of your partner
  5. Fielding questions from a group
  6. Presenting at work
  7. Running a meeting at work
  8. Responding when called on directly in front of a group (class, meeting)

Food

  1. Ordering for a noisy car full of people at the drive-thru
  2. Saying grace/prayer for a meal in front of family
  3. Ordering food at a bar when the bartender is busy
  4. Complaining about food or service at a restaurant
  5. Giving a custom order at a busy lunchtime
  6. Ordering while at a business lunch
  7. Speaking in a dark and/or loud restaurant over other people
  8. Asking for a menu clarification

One-on-one

  1. Going on a blind date
  2. Confronting a neighbor you’ve never spoken to before
  3. Interjecting / trying to interrupt someone
  4. Getting pulled over and speaking to an officer
  5. Being interviewed while being recorded
  6. Immigration official at an international border crossing
  7. Meeting friends of friends
  8. Answering detailed questions about your work and personal life when getting to know someone

NSA Conference 2017

The National Stuttering Association’s annual conference is happening again this July, this time in Dallas.

http://www.westutter.org/annual-conference/

At the moment, I’m planning on going. I’ve gone to three in a row now, and have enjoyed them immensely. You can read about some of my past conference experiences here on the site.

Admittedly I didn’t do the greatest job of writing up this last conference, but the others were slightly better. When I first went to the conference, I didn’t know what I’d get out of it. I got some really solid stuttering friends! And I still talk with them three years on. I always get some new insight to stuttering as well. A totally different angle or approach than what I would have thought up on my own.

The research updates are also interesting. Even if there’s not some huge cure-all breakthrough, it’s fascinating to hear how researchers are learning more and more.

I think my goal this year will definitely be trying to connect with more people who stutter. I know there are others like me — young professionals — married or not, kids or not. It would be great to hear about their backgrounds — college, first jobs, second jobs, interviews, having kids, meeting neighbors, the whole bit.

Will you be going?

 

Critical Stuttering Mass

Growing up, I knew one other person who stuttered. And I didn’t feel comfortable talking to him about stuttering. He wasn’t as covert (as I tried to be). After that, I indirectly met one other much older person (once, for a few minutes) who stuttered. This all changed last year when I went to my first NSA Conference.

But as far as becoming more accepting of my stutter and reaching out to people, it didn’t happen until very recently. I’ve been trying to think of why. I see some people on Facebook who are very young and reaching out, and others who are much older and reaching out for the first time, surprised and overjoyed at the community’s response.

I think there’s a sort of “critical mass” effect that’s going on. When you’re covert, you deny stuttering at every level. It’s my problem. It’s my daily hell. It’s my limitation. It’s my challenge to overcome. I can do this on my own, and I don’t want to reach out to anybody. If I reach out, it’s admitting that it’s holding me back. It’s not! (Even though it is, mentally and maybe socially).

I think thanks to social media (and the King’s Speech, I suppose) it’s more out there. You can search online for a group, or if you insist on being covert, someone will pass something along to you eventually. If you start listening to enough small bits of information from various sources, it’ll eventually reach that critical mass. You’ll start to see that other people stutter. They make videos about it (even if you never watch them). They record podcasts (even if you never listen to them) and they write (even if you only skim a post here and there).

It took me a long time to reach a point where I could put even a few words out on this blog. But signing up for the NSA conference gave me something to be accountable to. And once I was there, the rest of the critical mass was formed — everything about stuttering was normal. If you think you’re alone stuttering, go to the conference and start talking to one person — you’ll exchange the exact same stuttering stories, and you’ll be laughing together for a long time.

I don’t know if I could have kept up with this blog if I hadn’t gone to the conference last year. It wouldn’t have lasted. I would have probably gone back into my shell, content to continue practicing my covert behaviors, and wondering what could have been if I had kept writing.

For people who are considering making the transition from covert to overt, know that there are a lot of people out there to support you. Facebook groups may only have a few thousand people in them, but I assure you there are many more lurking. For me life has gotten better now that I’m not dreading every single social or work interaction. It’s not perfect, but it’s definitely improving.

My Second NSA Conference

Been busy with the new job, but hey, I’m still stuttering every day, so I might as well keep on with the blog, right?

The NSA Conference is happening this year in Chicago. A few weeks ago a friend of mine (who I met last year at my first conference — also his first) texted me to remind me that the hotel was filling up fast. So I took care of that before registration even opened up. Well, it’s open now! I’ll get that taken care of today probably. I’m guessing there will be even more people this year than last.

So while I do have enthusiasm for going to the conference again, I also have some tinges of apprehension. It’s that deep-down stuttering-built-this social anxiety, I guess. For a first timer, it ends up being easier — you have a workshop where you’re forced to meet other first timers! (Well, you don’t know that it’s going to be that easy until you get there) What about second timers, though? Do we get a workshop? Can we just crash the first-timer party?

I remember some people (non-first-timers) randomly coming up to me and introducing themselves. Maybe I should try that approach? That’ll take quite a bit to just go up to someone and ambush them. But I’ve done it before! I saw there was an NSA e-mail about workshop ideas. Maybe I could come up with something and host that? I’m sure I’d meet plenty of people that way.

See, again, this is what the stuttering does — I had a great time at the first conference, I stuttered and didn’t die, I met a lot of cool people, but I’m still stressing about the next conference. I think if I had been going to meetings during this past year, it might be different. It might be easier to meet strangers who stutter. But other than the blog, I haven’t been engaged in stuttering.

I thought about this a little more, and I think I have a plan. Volunteer! I saw it on the side of the NSA registration page. This is perfect! Meet people by force! (No, seriously, I really do need to be eased into these things. Even if it is a years-long process. Also, it doesn’t help that I’m so far away.)

I honestly am not the volunteering type. This has nothing to do with me being a terrible person (no, really). I think it’s more the stuttering isn’t interested. I mean, volunteering usually means talking to strangers, and that usually involves … talking, so … no.

So I’ll start another conference adventure and let you all know how it goes.

If you want to read all my old NSA Conference posts, click here. I’ll dig through them to see if I can expand on anything for 2015.

First day wrap-up and some goals

I’ve been summarizing my time at the NSA Conference that took place over the July Fourth weekend in DC.

Here are links to the three workshops that I attended on the first day at the Annual NSA Conference:

https://helloistutter.com/2014/07/14/first-timers-workshop/

https://helloistutter.com/2014/07/15/stuttering-your-way-to-financial-ruin-and-social-ridicule/

https://helloistutter.com/2014/07/17/this-is-stuttering/

And these are the things I said I’d do at the conference. Let’s see how I did on them:

1. Go up to some hotel staff member and ask them where the bathroom/conference room/gym/elevators are, even if I already know. They’ll probably be hearing a lot of stuttering, so hey, might as well get my own practice in.

Well, I did ask someone where the ATM is. He led me right to it. Of course it was just a few steps away. I hadn’t noticed it there. I didn’t stutter when I asked him.

2. Go up to small groups of people and barge on in. Why not, right?

This is pretty much what the First Timer’s Workshop was all about. I also ended up approaching groups that had one person who I knew in them. Then introduced myself to the others.

3. Call down to the front desk, tell them my name, room number and then ask what time checkout is. And maybe if I’m feeling up for it, what the hours are for the gym.

This didn’t happen. The old covert me hung on to something.

4. Introduce myself to as many strangers as possible.

I probably could have introduced myself to more people, but really, as my first conference, I was really pleased with how many people I did meet.

5. I got invited to a panel discussion on online stuttering communities. So, no prepared talking points. No rehearsing what I want to say.

Well, I did sit up there somewhat nervously while the others were talking, trying to figure out what I wanted to say. And in my mind, it was all going to go very, very smoothly. I was rehearsing! In my head! Yeah, not so much. I stuttered. A lot. But hey, that’s alright. I got the message across about the site and what it’s all about. So a win there.

6. Ask any questions or make any comments during seminars that I might have. Right then and there. Not after the seminar or after a few days when I see the host again. Don’t rely on e-mail.

Yes, I did do this. On the first day I didn’t have any comments or questions because my head was still reeling from the speakers who were stuttering (or not) and how friendly/easy everything was. But it was in the back of my mind for the rest of the conference, and I’ll talk about that later.

7. Above all else — listen. To the new people who I meet, and to the speakers at the conference. I’ve lived in a silo regarding my stuttering since I was 7, so it’s time to get some perspective on it.

Yes, definitely. It was great talking to people, laughing with them, hearing them share similar experiences (especially with the phone). It’s been a while since I’ve laughed that hard, and it felt great. Definitely the right place for me.

Stuttering your way to financial ruin and social ridicule

The second workshop that I attended had the subject title and was done by Steve Brown.

For the record, here are all of the descriptions for these workshops — so you can read the description on there of who Steve is and what this was going to be all about.

Alright, so I had just come from the First Timer’s Workshop and was feeling good. I was feeling good about jumping into the deep end and actually going to this conference. But I was mentally taxed a good bit already — I usually have to stutter our my name once a month (or even less) — and I had just done a year’s worth of really rough introductions in less than an hour. Thankfully everybody had name tags, so even if I forgot someone’s name, they happily pointed to it. They also had our hometown on there. Mine was listed as Lancaster. That’s true, but I’m living in Saudi now … I can’t remember if the registration form had that space on there or if they just used the billing address for our credit card. Anyway, at first during the first timer’s I wasn’t saying much about my hometown. But by the end of the conference, people were pretty surprised that I was living and working in Saudi.

I walked from the first workshop to the second — and had to go past hundreds of other conference-goers to do so. Should I have been jumping in again and introducing myself? Yeah, probably. But the old me was still leading the charge. You’ve just stuttered your head off! Look at these people! You stutter still! Avoid at all costs! Go put on more deodorant, too!

Ok, ok. Fine, but we’re going to meet some new people eventually, dammit.

I went into the next workshop room and assessed the situation. Smaller room. The speaker would be standing up front, so he might call on me if I sat in front. Unacceptable. But I can’t sit in the back! No! I didn’t come all the way here to hide in the back. I’ll sit in the middle. Should I slide in next to someone who I know? I don’t know anybody. What about a stranger? I could meet someone here, right? You will! No, let’s just sit down and see what this is all about.

Let me just summarize what Steve ended up talking about — his stutter, how he overcame it through really hard work, and how some of those techniques to avoid and use other ways to communicate made him stand out from his peers. He also talked about the importance of body language and setting ourselves up for success before our mouths are even open — don’t slouch! He told us to focus on the message, not the stutter.

Body language is something I really need to read up on. I find myself slouching or tightening up my shoulders all the time. I’ve been trying to practice more eye contact as well.

I liked Steve’s talk. It was funny, it was upbeat, and I could definitely relate.

But as a first timer, there was something off (for me). Something didn’t add up.

I mean, I’m sitting there, someone who stutters, and this guy says he does too. Yet he’s fluently telling us about his past and present. He’s easily walking back and forth on stage, making eye contact, telling jokes, waving his hands here and there.

But then that was the point.

I started thinking about it more — he’s done this before. He’s told these stories before. He’s confident with his material and being in front of people. That was inspirational for me. That could be me. I want to be up there telling my story some day.

So what did I take away from this? Well, that your stuttering really doesn’t have to stop you from your goals. That you can either stutter openly and fight through it, use alternate communication methods or a combination of the two.

(Also, looking back on it, I should have taken more detailed notes — but hey, I’m learning for next year.)

Just for reference, on the first day of the Conference there were 17 workshops across three timeslots. This is a lot of the reason why I want to go next year (and forever after) — I saw a bunch of stuff on the program that looked/sounded interesting that I wasn’t able to attend.

First Timer’s Workshop

Alright, so I’m finally back home after the visit Stateside and French-countryside. I was trying to think about how to recap all of this, and I think I’ll just do it in chronological order. So, the first workshop that I attended was the First Timer’s workshop.

Just to set the scene — there’s me, the covert stutterer who doesn’t like meeting people (well, having to introduce myself at least). I don’t like conferences because I had what was probably my most embarrassing moment at one (so those chairs, lighting, carpet, large numbers of people sort of make me nervous) and I was still thinking I could just walk out on the whole deal.

Anyway, I slowly made my way into the conference room, and there weren’t a lot of people there. I saw a younger guy sitting down near the door, so I went right up to him (into the deep end!). I said hello, and he introduced himself.

He stuttered.

Since leaving high school, I have never talked to anybody in person who stuttered. Never even met anybody else who stuttered. 17 years.

Alright, so now it’s my turn. I stutter out my own introduction. I then sit down next to this guy, Mark, and we talk. We’re both stuttering. So this is what I sound like to others.

After a few minutes, more people walk in. They fill in the seats. Then I see Pam from Stuttering Rockstar and a few others get up in front of us. Pam talk to us. The others also speak. They’re all stuttering. They don’t seem to mind at all.

They tell us that the point is not for them to talk to us — we’re all here to talk to each other!

Do what now?

Maybe we could go up in front and have them read our name to the crowd? Then I don’t have to? Maybe?

No.

Ok, now they’re done talking, and we’re all standing up, and I’m looking around nervously.

I flew all the way from Saudi for this so … I’m stuttering and introducing myself. I’m forcing myself to make some small talk. I’m trying to remember who I meet. I’m looking and staring at name tags after they introduce themselves.

I’m not going to lie — I’m targeting people who seem to be about my age. I’m interested in talking to them after this and over the next few days. Also, I’m trying to figure out how long to talk to people. I try to make some small talk and then break away to search for others. Oh, social situations. Should I just bust into a group and introduce myself? Look for others who are wandering like me? I slowly move about, bumping into people, introducing myself, saying hello, exchanging where we’re from and what we do.

I’m stuttering a lot, and it’s bothering me somewhat. I know I don’t stutter all that much, but that might be because I’m so comfortable with my current batch of friends/colleagues. But here at the conference I’m really struggling. Maybe it’s because I’m not used to making this kind of small talk? It’s been a while since I’ve answered these kinds of questions. On the one hand, I want to talk and practice, but on the other, I want to listen and find out where other people are from.

Before I know it, this very first workshop is over. What? Already? There are so many people here who I haven’t met!

I really wished it had gone on for maybe another half hour or even hour.

Now that that was done, I was feeling a little better. The uncertainty was gone. I belonged here, and these are my people! I was excited for what the remainder of the conference. And it was easy to meet people. Everybody was patient. Everybody was welcoming.

Link Roundup – Who I Met

Alright, I’m going to do two days of link round up goodness. Today will be a look at the people who I met at the NSA conference. I’ll have to update my Resources pages as well …

Tomorrow I’m flying out from the States to France for 3 days. Going to chase the Tour and meet up with Tom from The Stuttering Brain over in Luxembourg. It’s turning out to be quite the stuttering vacation. I will certainly try to set up some entries to post during my European adventures.

Ok, so first up is Pam from Make Room for the Stuttering. She spoke at the First Timer’s workshop, and I talked to her a little bit there and during the conference. She also spoke at the online panel discussion listed below.

What really got me right off the bat at the conference was that the people doing the workshops mostly stuttered. They were just up there, saying their piece, stuttering, smiling, and carrying on like it’s another normal day at the office.

Here’s a look at some of the leadership who were at the conference.

On I think what was the second day, I met Ben North at the Starbucks in the hotel lobby. He was standing in front of me. The person behind me asked what this conference was all about, and Ben replied. I thought, well, here we go, I’m here to meet people, so let’s keep meeting people. My usual state of sweating and being nervous surfaced, but Ben responded as everybody else did at the conference — with patience and understanding.

I was on a panel discussion hosted by Katie Gore regarding online communities for stuttering. Katie reached out to me through reddit. There’s a few people on reddit who discuss stuttering on a regular basis. Jump over there and join their discussion.

On that panel were:

Daniel Rossi, who wrote a book on stuttering. I bought the book and will start reading and reviewing it soon. He and Sam (below) work on Stutter Social.

Jacquelyn Revere. She’s started a vlog on stuttering.

Samuel was also on the panel. He talked about Stutter Social:

Stutter Social is an organization that connects people who stutter (PWS) through Google+ Hangouts. Participating in a Hangout is a fun, free, and safe way to connect with other PWS. Discussion often revolves around stuttering-related issues, but sometimes we just chat about our day or a good movie. We are a very welcoming and friendly bunch so don’t be shy and come join us whenever is convenient for you.

Not on that panel, but during the conference, I met Dhruv from the Indian Stammering Association. He’s working on setting up an annual conference for the Indian Stammering Association this October. Unfortunately I won’t be able to attend, but will find ways to help them out anyway.

I got to watch a movie about stuttering — not the King’s Speech, mind you. And no, I still haven’t seen that yet, either. Maybe I’ll finally watch it on the plane ride back to the Kingdom.

This Is Stuttering was shown during the conference. Watching Morgan stutter while talking on the phone during the film was just like watching myself. Morgan was also at the conference to talk about the movie and what has happened since releasing it to the public. If your friends don’t know what stuttering is like on a daily basis, by all means, send them the link.

Lastly, some people had mentioned going through therapy with the American Institute for Stuttering. I’m not going to pick one organization over another. I just happened to go to an NSA conference. My opinion is that the larger organizations are all there to help those of us who stutter, our parents, and children and teenagers.

So tomorrow will be a more traditional link roundup with stories from this past week and a half. If you’ve got any stories to share, do pass them along!

Stuttering at the Conference Day 3

Insanely late post today (well, I suppose I missed on the fourth) but of course it can be attributed to the July 4th Holiday as well as having a really good time at the conference. I was up til midnight just now talking and hanging out with newfound friends from the conference.

Again, just a quick roundup, and then I’ll get into these aspects (and others) after a few days/weeks.

1. I went to a workshop where several people talked in detail about being covert stutterers. I could pretty much relate to everything they said. So I’m definitely not alone. And then most of them decided that enough was enough and to be open about their stuttering. I’m coming to terms with that, but this blog (and going to the conference) are certainly steps in the right direction.

2. I did a “speed talking” workshop. Basically about 18 people sit facing 18 other people. Then we talk for 3 minutes. Then one side moves seats. So it’s like speed dating but with just … talking. It was rough having to introduce myself to so many people, but once I got through that, it wasn’t too bad. I really have been struggling with my first name, but hey, that’s always been an issue.

3. It turns out when you go watch Fourth of July fireworks with a bunch of newfound stuttering friends, you end up talking about what topics come to your mind — stuttering related or not. So it was nice to spend some time outside of the conference getting to know so many different people.

4. There were some instances of stuttering discussion that arose in our little group. So it was nice to commiserate about the phone with people who “get it.”

5. Still meeting new people. Overall I’m still very satisfied by the number of people who I’ve met and gotten to know. I think I’ll definitely stay in touch with all of them.

Tomorrow is the last day of the conference. I’ll actually be speaking at an Online Presence workshop … where I suppose I’ll elaborate on what I’m trying to do with this site.

Stuttering at the Conference Day 1

Well, today marks the first day of the NSA conference here in the DC. I’ll write way more about each workshop after I get back to Saudi, but in general, here are my thoughts so far.

1. After picking up my packet and checking into my room, I was still asking myself if this was the best idea. I could still walk out on the whole thing and spend a few aimless days in DC. I mean, for someone who stutters, going to a conference where you have to meet people is pretty intimidating.

1a. For those of you who don’t stutter, this is how things go down in my head:

Me: Let’s go to a conference and meet total strangers who stutter!
Self: No.
Me: Let me say it again: EVERYBODY THERE WILL STUTTER.
Self: Here’s what I heard: MEET TOTAL STRANGERS
Me: But they all stutter!
Self: But they’re strangers! I’ll stutter in front of them!
Me: Exactly!

2. Obviously I’m glad I sucked it up and went to the first workshop — for first timers. Still nervous, but Pam got up in front of all of us and put me at ease. She said she was in our shoes before. And felt nervous. But we’d meet people, we’d talk, and it’ll get better.

3. The main focus of the first timers workshop was to meet other first timers. So the hosts didn’t spend a lot of time talking. They let us mingle. This was scary for the first few minutes, but got way easier. In the end, I wished we had even more time.

4. I did introduce myself to the first person who I saw before the first timers conference. So for the first time in many years, I had a conversation with someone else who stutters.

5. I had a chance today to watch this documentary about stuttering. It was like a film about my own life. Damn. Definitely not alone at all.

Anyway, as I said, I’ll have way more on all the above in the weeks to come. For now I’m slowly taking in this conference. I’m hoping to meet more people … it’s only Wednesday today, so there’s plenty of time. Many of the other workshops also force social interaction which is pretty awesome.

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