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.