Getting older and stuttering

What I’ve been seeing a lot on Facebook lately is a lot of younger people who stutter worrying a lot about their future.

For the record, I was too naive to realize that stuttering would be a lifelong problem. Being covert for such a long time, I figured I could just keep on doing it, and everything would be fine.

What I’d say to a younger person who stutters is that it can get better with the right attitude change. That’s what takes a long time.

The basis for the change is simple and can be spelled out in three aspects:

1. The people who matter don’t care that you stutter
2. The only way to know if something horrid is going to happen is to open your mouth
3. The horrid consequences that you foresee happening when you stutter don’t happen

I’ve mentioned these things before.

What happens as you age is that you simply have more data. You talk more. You see what happens when you stutter. You see how people react. Over months and months and years and years, you see that at the end of the day, it’s us who need to open our mouths again and again and not be afraid of what happens.

We also get more patient as we age. We listen more. We consider our words carefully, and find out if we stutter on one or two (instead of avoiding them) our message becomes more clear. Our listener becomes better engaged and informed. A trust develops amongst our friends.

Is it an overnight process? Heavens no. Does it require work? Yes. Does that mean sitting in your room by yourself for hours on end reading out loud? Maybe. Does it mean not hesitating to open your mouth when you want to say something? Definitely.

A sporting view of Stuttering

I was watching soccer last night (no, I’m not going to call it football) and inevitably the commentators will focus on a single play (or less than a half dozen) and say the game came down to those plays, those decisions.

Did it really? Isn’t it the sum of the parts?

I understand what they’re doing — they tell us about what made the most noise, what seemed to have the most influence. The penalty in the box, the no-call that everybody but the ref saw. And for days afterward (if it’s a championship game) we’ll all talk about those same few plays.

With stuttering it tends to be the same. Our game is the entire conversation, but we usually only focus on our one big block, our one huge moment that a word just wouldn’t come out. We were having a half-decent speaking day, and then a miserable moment put us down.

But speaking shouldn’t be like that. It should be the sum of the parts. Do some players have a bad day? Yeah, ok. Every time they’re on the field they screw something up. But even with professionals, they occasionally make mistakes. Then what? The best players don’t let it bother them. They move on to the next minute, the next series, the next half of play.

We need to do the same.

Some stuttering bits for today

A few things today:

First:

I wrote a lengthy guest post over at westutterandwedontcare. It’s about the worst stuttering experience I’ve ever had. So if you’re having a lousy day, by all means, compare and contrast!

Here’s a little bit from the story:

The organizer then said he’d introduce the speakers, and started to give a short background on each of them. So this is what they meant by introductions. I leaned back in my chair and took another sip of soda. I had gotten away with one. Just as I started to think about other things, the organizer asked that the finance people at the plants stand up and introduce themselves. A microphone was being passed around.

I started to worry.

You can read the rest of the story here.

Second:

Another thought exercise and/or experiment — what would our speech be like if we were told it’s not that bad? We’re hardest on ourselves, but what if someone recorded us, reviewed it, then told us it’s not as bad compared to someone who’s fluent? (Note — I do mean in a deceptive way). If we didn’t know it, would that boost our confidence and help our speech? Would that help break down negative associations we have with speaking?

A little more — let’s say they recorded us giving a short speech. And they also recorded some fluent people who are maybe not as confident or are afraid of public speaking. Then we sit down with the videos. We are only shown the fluent parts of our speech (maybe a stutter here and there) and for those who are fluent, we are shown only the bad parts. If we are “trained” in this way, would that help us out over the long run?

Third:

There’s this story about writing every day and its benefits. As someone who tries to journal every day, I can certainly attest to having my head organized a little better, and feeling better overall.

Reflective writing, particularly in a journal, has been shown to have health benefits both physical and emotional, like increasing control and creativity, decreasing anxiety, depression, and rage.

I usually scribble down things about work (lists, phone numbers, meeting notes) but also longer thoughts on stuttering, including good experiences and bad ones. I’d be interested to know if others are doing the same thing — what are you focusing on when you write about your stutter in a journal?

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